CDIA’s Work Continues, Even in the Face of A Global Emergency

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CDIA has taken measures to adapt and keep its projects on track during the COVID-19 pandemic. The CDIA team is headquartered in Manila, but since 12 March they have been working from their respective homes in the cities of Newbury, UK; Shanghai, PRC; Adelaide, Australia; Tbilisi, Georgia; and Metro Manila in the Philippines.

Though in-field visits are on pause, CDIA has been able to build on the work they had in progress before the COVID-19 lockdown by keeping in contact with their development partners and coordinating tasks remotely.

Project management continues

CDIA has an active project in Tbilisi, Georgia, where the city is making smart, sustainable upgrades to its public transport system. Urban Development Specialist Fabienne Perucca is currently based there, where she works with the consulting team to advise the Tbilisi City Hall Transport Department as they implement bus lanes to optimize the city’s bus system. With traffic at a low point during the lockdown, this is an ideal time to implement the project.

CDIA is also supporting the Asian Development Bank’s (ADB) Integrated Urban Development Project in the Uzbekistan cities of Djizzak, Khiva and Yaniyer/Havas. Neil Chadder, CDIA Program Manager, led the team in completing the inception stage of the project preparation study (PPS), which will recommend measures to address water supply and sanitation, solid waste management and infrastructure challenges in those cities.

Meanwhile, Urban Development Specialist Chee Anne Roño and a CDIA consulting team have continued developing livability solutions for the cities of Kaysone Phomvihane, Pakse and Luang Prabang. They are supporting the Lao PDR government in preparing a PPS that will identify potential solid waste, wastewater management and streetscape improvements for the cities. The ADB will then incorporate these inputs in its Livable Cities Investment Program in Lao PDR programmed for 2021.

CDIA’s Senior Project Development Specialist for China, Zhang Yu, is preparing knowledge products (KPs) that will guide the implementation of an ADB-supported water pollution management project in Huangshan, People’s Republic of China. The KPs will be available in both English and Mandarin and are on track for publication by mid-August.

The CDIA team is working to lay the groundwork for upcoming projects now so they will be able to quickly resume field work as travel restrictions are eased. Urban Development Specialist Brian Capati is working with the Agence Française de Développement (AFD) to set up a consulting team for an upcoming water supply project in Yangon, Myanmar with support from AFD and the European Union (EU). CDIA will help the Yangon City Development Committee construct a new water treatment plant, clear water transmission main and service reservoir, together with improvements to the existing distribution system. These developments will help reduce the city’s non-revenue water and improve the water system’s efficiency and reliability.

Pursuing new development opportunities

CDIA has used the time during the COVID-19 lockdown to coordinate with its counterparts on a range of potential new projects.

The CDIA team is holding discussions with city officials from Yerevan, Armenia and Butuan, Philippines on potential projects in those cities. The team will soon begin the preparation study for a climate change adaptation, urban drainage and flood management project for the Vietnamese cities of Bắc Kạn and Phủ Lý. Ultimately, CDIA intends to link the Vietnamese cities to downstream financing from the AFD.

Professional Development, Communications and M&E

During social distancing, the CDIA team has still had opportunities to collaborate with their consultants and optimize their operations. CDIA continued its activities with the climate change consultancy Acclimatise, and within the last month CDIA team members completed a set of intensive webinars with Acclimatise to determine concrete steps to further integrate climate change into their work.

CDIA has also been able to focus on implementing its long-term communications roadmap with assistance from the Hanoi-based communications firm Clickable Vietnam. With support from AFD and the EU, CDIA and Clickable Vietnam have collaborated on a communications strategy to raise awareness of climate and urban development, and to share experiences of CDIA’s partner cities in preparing climate-compatible and resilient investments.

During their partnership, CDIA and Clickable Vietnam will create videos, feature stories, and an interactive website to showcase CDIA’s climate and urban infrastructure projects. An Rubenecia, CDIA’s Communications and Outreach Specialist, has been in regular contact with Clickable Vietnam’s associates to move these deliverables forward.

Meanwhile, CDIA Monitoring & Evaluation (M&E) Specialist Rudini Baoy has spent time during the lockdown collaborating with Acclimatise to review and update CDIA’s climate change-related indicators. He then revised CDIA’s tracer study manual and several of the organization’s M&E tools to bring them in line with the enhanced climate change indicators. Mr. Baoy has also been working to find “better options for aggregating, analyzing and reporting the results of CDIA’s work.”

What comes next

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted lingering development and infrastructure gaps in cities around the world.

Ms. Perucca says “this kind of crisis reveals how resilient your city is” and how capable cities are in terms of protecting low-income residents from disruptions like COVID-19.

Many developing cities do not currently have the necessary resilience to combat inevitable healthcare and climate crises. However, Urban Development Specialist Brian Capati, who is working from home in Valenzuela City, Philippines, believes that cities can respond proactively in situations such as this one. “Steps to mitigate disruption of income, health services, utilities and basic daily necessities should be enumerated and highlighted,” Mr. Capati says.

Acclimatise Senior Advisor Jennifer Steeves, based in Delhi, India, echoes this by saying “There needs to be efforts to ensure the pandemic doesn’t cause a hunger and poverty crisis, with so many daily wage earners out of work. Planning for physical, social and economic resilience across all communities is critical.”

“The way we plan cities today will change the cities of tomorrow,” says Ms. Perucca, “and make them safe and resilient to future crises.” This mindset gives the CDIA team a new sense of urgency as they pursue sustainable urban development projects.

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