RMIT urban health experts will help Bangkok city planners tackle liveability challenges facing their city.
RMIT University through a knowledge sharing partnership with the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA), Victorian Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), United Nations Global Compact – Cities Programme (UNGCCP), and industry partner AECOM will: 1) conceptualise ‘liveability’ from a low-to-middle income country (LMIC) perspective; 2) identify resources available and/or required to measure and monitor liveability in a LMIC city case study (Bangkok, Thailand); and 3) create a ‘Liveability City Framework’ based on a social determinants of health approach, suitable for use in Bangkok, and of relevance for LMIC cities.
This international collaboration will help make LMIC cities inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable (SDG Goal 11), with attention to the impact of megatrends of ‘Forever young’ and ‘Planetary pushback’, and substantial learnings for Australia and LMICs. Through building more liveable cities, the project supports better health outcomes and pursues VicHealth’s strategic imperatives.
By 2050, 66% of the world’s population is estimated to be living in urban settlements. This puts enormous pressure on urban planning to create cities that are resilient, sustainable, inclusive, reduce inequity, support economic activity, and promote health and wellbeing . SDGs provide an overarching framework for enabling sustainable urban development and there is interest in creating more ‘liveable’ cities. Our team has defined liveable neighbourhoods as ‘safe, attractive, socially cohesive and inclusive, and environmentally sustainable, with affordable and diverse housing linked to employment, education, public open space, local shops, health and community services, and leisure and cultural opportunities, via convenient public transport, walking, and cycling infrastructure’
However, this definition has been conceptualised and tested in Australia only, and it is likely that LMICs have different ‘liveability’ considerations (e.g. sanitation, pest control).
Rates of urbanisation are swiftest for cities in LMICs, and globally, Asia is urbanising most rapidly, currently accounting for 53% of the world’s population . Welldesigned cities are essential to provide infrastructure that supports economic activity, governance, commerce and trade, while providing access to health and social services, education, and civic opportunities. However, rapidly urbanising cities with inadequate infrastructure and resources face a number of challenges. Poorer residents often live in substandard housing, health and social services struggle to meet demand, and employment may be limited and/or located far from home. Urban sprawl, environmental degradation, waste production and management, and noise, air and water pollution are major concerns for such cities and their residents . Consequently, there is an urgency to understanding and developing strategies for enhancing the liveability in LMIC cities.
This study leverages from three ongoing work programs by the Healthy Liveable Cities group at RMIT University and our partners. Each is discussed briefly.
As part of the NHMRC Centre of Research Excellence in Healthy Liveable Communities we have conceptualised and created a suite of spatial indicators to measure the liveability of the Australian urban environment. Validated spatial indicators exist for: employment, food access, housing, public open space, social infrastructure, transport, and walkability. Alongside this, GilesCorti and Badland are working with Brazilian colleagues to conceptualise liveability within the South American context.
The Global Compact CityScan (CityScan) is a diagnostic and reporting tool administered by survey at the municipal government level to assess a region’s challenges in city development, sustainability, and governance, so as to provide a starting point for local governments to direct policies and practices. It has been trialled in 20 member cities, and is being revised to align with the SDGs to best support action that aids their implementation.
BMA is Bangkok’s local government agency responsible for the development and implementation of policy related to urban planning, health, and the environment. The BMA Urban Liveability and Resilience program is a capacity development training program for selected Bangkok municipal employees held in Melbourne, MayJune 2017. The focus is on best practice and experience from the UNGCCP team of Urban Scholars and knowledge from industry partner (AECOM) and local government. Urban Scholars (including Badland (RMIT), Beza (AECOM), Butterworth (DHHS)) will lead workshops to interrogate liveability from a Bangkok perspective.
The project will be conducted in three phases, detailed below.
Findings generated through the BMA program will be the starting point. Liveability in the Bangkok context (as conceptualised through the BMA program and ongoing Bangkok Resilience Strategy) will be compared in terms of alignment to or divergence from the CityScan and liveability indicators currently available. From this desktop activity, a suite of relevant, and likely some new, liveability measures will be identified for Bangkok.
In order to measure and monitor progress towards more liveable cities, data must be collected and interrogated. We will develop a template to identify data sources and research capabilities required to measure and monitor ‘liveability’ within Bangkok (identified Phase 1). BMA will populate the template to ascertain which measures of liveability can be readily assessed, and those which may need further resourcing.
A ‘Liveable City Framework’ for Bangkok will be developed. It will draw together relevant liveability measures identified from Phase 1. The prioritisation of measures will be guided by data availability and capabilities required (Phase 2). Together, this will provide an implementation framework in readiness for trialling the Liveability City Framework as part of a full study (if funded).