Cities Seek Role in Upgrading Environment World Mayors Share Ideas on Garbarge, Too Little Housing, and Too Many Cars

By Lucia Mouat, writer of The Christian Science Monitor | The Christian Science Monitor, October 17, 1991 | Go to article overview

Cities Seek Role in Upgrading Environment World Mayors Share Ideas on Garbarge, Too Little Housing, and Too Many Cars


Lucia Mouat, writer of The Christian Science Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor


THE world's major cities are sending an advance message to the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), scheduled to be held in Rio de Janeiro next June. The message is that the conference needs their input and cooperation to succeed and that they are ready to give it.

Leading officials of 22 major cities - from Beijing to New Delhi and Mexico City to New York - are expected to sign a declaration to that effect this afternoon here at a Montreal hotel. They have been attending the Third Summit of the World's Major Cities, an idea launched by Tokyo's top official in 1985. This is the first meeting to focus on one topic: the environment.

Seated along two sides of a long table appropriately covered by a green table cloth, the city leaders commiserated over many of their common problems - from traffic to garbage - and agreed that these are at the root of many of the world's worst pollution problems. That fact makes their response all the more important to the rest of the world. Few leaders present had any quarrel with UNCED Secretary-General Maurice Strong's assertion at the conference that "the battle for the survival of the planet will be won or lost in the cities."

By the year 2000 more than 50 percent of the world's population will be city dwellers. Most will live in the developing world.

Though the cities represented at the summit are at vastly different stages of development, they agreed that development strategy in all cities must change.

Mayor Jean Dore of Montreal, chairman of the summit, said environment must be at the heart of the new approach. "It is urgent for us ... to put an end to the daily aggression on the environment," he said.

UNCED chief Strong said that lifestyles of the well-to-do must also change. Existing patterns of production and consumption of resources, he said, have put the whole human community "at risk." Noting that many cities are taking strong steps to restrict private car use, he said he would not be surprised if small vehicles someday are made available on a pay-as-you-use basis in congested urban areas.

Tokyo Gov. (mayor) Shunichi Suzuki, particularly commended by Strong for his vigorous efforts against air and water pollution in recent years, spoke of his city's promotion of recycling and use of waste to produce heat and electricity. Tokyo also wants to make use of waste heat from its subway system. "The time has come to think of city management globally, to pool our wisdom," said Governor Suzuki. …

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