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The Cities This Week: Edition 11




Flooding in Buenos Aires, Source: Reuters

Flooding in Buenos Aires, Source: Reuters

MOSCOW

TomTom announced its 2012 Congestion Index this week, a report comparing congestion levels in 2012 versus 2011 in 161 cities and across five continents. The Annual Congestion Index finds Moscow the most congested city. On average, journey times in Moscow are 66% longer during non-congested periods when traffic is flowing freely, and 106% longer during morning rush hour.

BUENOS AIRES 

Heavy thunderstorms thrashed the Argentinian capital on Wednesday morning, causing widespread floods, damaged property, and power loss. Emergency personnel are traversing the city by boat to help those marooned. Clean-up is also underway, though it’s been slow-going in the hardest-hit neighborhoods. The City’s SAME emergency service has said at least six people were killed, and the toll could continue to rise.

CAPE TOWN

The Record of Decision allowing Sanral to go ahead with its controversial R10-billion N1/N2 Winelands toll project may have expired, raising a major question about the validity of the project. All major construction projects require an environmental impact assessment to be carried out. Based on this, the go-ahead is then given or denied by the Minister of Environmental Affairs in a document called a Record of Decision.

NAIROBI

Nairobi is a bustling city of over 3 million people, many of whom are stuck in traffic for hours each day. One effort to mitigate these wasteful jams involves construction of additional motorways. But with little space specifically reserved for these new arteries, their proposed routes involve some delicate tradeoffs. One such road, the proposed Southern Bypass, is planned to run along the eastern boundary of Nairobi National Park. As presently designed, 150 acres of park land would need to be degazetted (i.e., lost) to accommodate the new road. Several nature conservation organizations have joined together to oppose the project, and a pending legal action has provisionally halted all construction.

NEY YORK CITY

They have survived in Brooklyn’s northwestern corner for over a century — handmade and rounded, their shades weathered to a medley of noble grays — rattling the frames of carriages and Chryslers, buses and bicycles beside the waterfront. But amid efforts to make the rickety streets of Dumbo and Vinegar Hill more accessible and bike-friendly, the city has delivered a disquieting message to residents who say they were drawn to the neighborhoods for their historic feel: Many of the old cobblestones on their streets have to go.

PORT LOUIS

At least 11 people have died after sudden rains caused flooding in the Mauritian capital Port Louis on Saturday, officials have said. At least eight of the victims were caught in underground areas as the flood waters rose rapidly. Another died of a heart attack. The island’s metereologists said 152mm (6in) of rain fell in less than an hour, 70mm less than the March average. Prime Minister Navin Rangoolam declared 1 April a day of mourning.

MUMBAI

Rescuers have pulled out alive an injured woman from the wreckage of a Mumbai tower block – 36 hours after it collapsed leaving as many as 72 dead and 70 injured. It came as the search for further survivors was called off after more than 40 hours and the rescue of 126 people in total.

CAPE TOWN

Immigration officers at Cape Town’s asylum office spent Wednesday, Thursday and most of Friday processing the papers of South African refugees landing at Cape Town International Airport. The refugees said they were fleeing persecution, toll gates, philistinism and assorted ills in South Africa. Most arrivants were from Johannesburg, Pretoria and Durban. They are in the Cape Republic for the annual jazz pilgrimage. Anonymous sources in the Cape Republic say an influx of this magnitude hasn’t been seen since Jan van Riebeeck docked on their shores a few centuries ago.

BEIJING

In a country of almost 1.4 billion people, life is an unending struggle for resources — money, property, even spouses. And it doesn’t get easier in death. Prices for graves are skyrocketing, driven by decades of unbridled development and scarce city land. The government’s answer to this conundrum: sea burials. Officials across China are selling hard the option of a watery grave by offering hefty financial incentives and planting stories in state media — with only marginal success. Many local governments, however, have saved their strongest pitches for this week, timing them to the Qingming Festival, when families nationwide take a day off to sweep their ancestors’ graves.

PARIS

Parisians did a funny thing on Wednesday. As spring flowers started to peek above the soil and the sun rode higher in the sky, a number of the city dwellers flocked to greet their newest lawnmowers: a small group of shaggy black sheep. As the latest effort in Paris Mayor Bertrand Delanoë’s grand plan to make the City of Lights a greener place — the local government’s calling the effort “eco-grazing” — four two-foot-tall sheep from the Breton breed will live and, more importantly, eat in a half acre patch of park in the city’s 19th Arrondissement.

ISTANBUL

Economic and social factors such as poverty, unemployment, bad housing and urban sprawl have been important factors that have fed terrorism year after year, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said in Istanbul today.  Speaking during an event in Gazioşmanpaşa district to preside over the demolition of hundreds of homes – ostensibly for the purposes of constructing modern housing in their place – Erdoğan made a connection between terrorism and bad urbanization

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Melissa Meyer

Future Cape Town London-based correspondent

Urbanist-in-training from Cape Town, currently working in London. MSc City Design & Social Science.

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