Towards Attainment of Sustainable Cities and Communities.

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The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were born at the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro in 2012. The objective was to produce a set of universal goals that meet the urgent environmental, political and economic challenges facing our world.
The SDGs replace the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which started a global effort in 2000 to tackle the indignity of poverty. The MDGs established measurable, universally-agreed objectives for tackling extreme poverty and hunger, preventing deadly diseases, and expanding primary education to all children, among other development priorities. 
The Sustainable Development Goals set out to achieve 17 goals  of  which  the 11th goal  (SDG11) is toward attainment of  Sustainable Cities and Communities.  Millennium Development Goal 7 (MDG7)  is  likened to SDG11 as they have the same theme. Sekeena  (2012), during the African Local Summit held in Kumasi, Ghana,  observed that environmental degradation in communities all over the world continued unabated even as the dire consequences  from  it stare us in the face. The impact of course is worse in underdeveloped and developing countries due to high levels of  poverty, sheer  apathy and  ignorance due to illiteracy.  This is in contrast to the yesteryears when the levels of degradation  was slowed down by the active team work involvement of the community members in environmental protection through compliance with the various rules and regulations pertaining in the community. There were strict environmental rules and regulations which every member of the community is compelled to obey or face ostracisation.
Sekeena (2012), in a  paper  presented  at  the  African  Local Summit in Ghana  used an Ghana as a case study. Invariably, this is what obtains in most African  countries and  beyond.  Traditionally, in these  countries , environmental protection  was everybody’s business. Consciously or unconsciously, community members observed “taboos” pertaining to the protection of the environment such as forests, rivers, streams, lakes, rocks, hills, mountains, caves and valleys.  These environments designated as sacred grooves were untouchable, revered and seen as objects  of  deity habitation and  traditional religion worship. For example, some rivers could  not  be visited for any purpose on any particular time or day of the week, fishes  were forbidden from being killed in certain rivers, while farming activities were strictly prohibited around  river  bodies. Also certain household utensils such as iron buckets were not allowed to be used for fetching water in some sacred streams for fear of disturbing the tranquility of wild animals and fish within. Some wild animals such as crocodiles were not killed.

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While the reasons for these taboos were shrouded in secrecy, the overwhelming evidence from the state of the environment suggest that many of the taboos  were  instituted to ensure environmental sustainability.
With the advent of colonialism, modern religion, science and  technology,  many of  these taboos have given way to new forms of institutional management of the environment.  One may ask how effective are the new institutional arrangements in ensuring  compliance for sustainability of the environment.
In  most of  the countries, especially  West African countries,  a foreign or local businessman can be given official permit to go to a rural  community to prospect for mineral resources such as gold, diamond, lead,  limestone and so on.  With the collaboration of some community members, usually the youth, and the overt or covert support of a chief and elders of the community,  severe damages are caused  the natural  and built environment, including the destruction of natural forests, rivers, mountains and bridges through illegal mining. Such  private businesses are encouraged  by  the community  members  because they promise  to  bring  employment  and income  to  them. One may ask again, have these communities  been  able  to eliminate  poverty  or  even  raise  income  levels  in  the  midst  of  environmental  degradation?  The answer is in the negative because what is being witnessed is a vicious cycle of poverty and deprivation in these  communities.
The transition from the use of paper and non- plastic  materials  to  the  use  of plastic  was  a  welcoming  innovation because the latter presented  a  neater  appearance  and  was  more  convenient  to  use.  However, with time, plastics such as water sachets,  are  becoming  a  serious  menace  to both  rural  and urban  communities.  Littered  all  over  the  place, they choke  the drainage  causing  floods,   displacing  and  killing  people  during torrential rains. This problem  is  likely  to  degenerate  overtime  unless  portable  water  delivery  to  rural  areas  improves,  waste  management in urban areas improves,  waste  management  by  local  government  is  modernized and  intensified  and  individual  attitudes  change  with  regard  to  littering. Meanwhile,  the  plastic  industries  keep expanding  as  demand  for  the  products  continue  to  grow.
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From  the foregoing ,  there  seems  to  be  conflict  between  the  immediate  needs  of  communities,  economic activities  and  environmental / cities sustainability.  There is therefore the  need  to  find  ways of  bridging  gaps  by  raising the following vital  issues:
-         How do we  raise  the  value  of  the river above  the  mineral resources  they  are  prospecting?
-         Are there any other options for livelihood during and after COVID19 pandemic? and
-         What  have been  some  of  the  past  initiatives used for sustaining cities and communities  which  have  worked or  not  worked  for  the  people?
Working within policies and institutional frameworks, there is need  to:
-          revisit  the  wisdom  of  the  past  and  bring  the  relevant  information  to  bear  on  modern  ways  of  sustaining cities  and communities;
-         identify  and  support  programs  that  reflect  the  practical  version  of   environmental  sustainability in the post- COVID19 era; and
-         have tangible and timely awareness  programs for the youths on sustainability of cities and communities.
The latter is very important especially where the youth is concerned  because of the  cultural changes they are experiencing. Finally,  it cannot be overemphasized  that  effective  collaboration between institutions and communities, working towards a common goal,  through  advocacy, synergy  and  participation  will eliminate or at  least reduce  the  endangering of cities and communities  for the attainment  of  sustainable cities and communities.
Cited  Works:  
Sekeena, K.. B. ( 2012).  Towards the attainment of  MDG7-  The need for public education  and  community  participation.  A paper  presented  at  the  First  African  Local  Summit “ Empowering Africa To Achieve the MDGs”  held at  Kwame  Nkrumah  University  of  Science and  Technology- Kumasi, Ghana, West Africa.



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Towards Attainment of Sustainable Cities and Communities.
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