Each year, Jamaica joins other countries around the world in observing the first Monday in October as World Habitat Day.
The theme for this year’s observation, which highlights the state of towns and cities, is Planning our Urban Future. It highlights the need for decision makers and their partners to place more emphasis on urban planning in order to meet the housing needs of growing urban populations.
Cities are magnets to economic and cultural centres. All over the world and here in Jamaica they attract thousands of persons annually who hope to find jobs, obtain educational opportunities, access better health care, better infrastructure and to attain better standards of living.
This rapid migration puts pressure on towns and cities, which can lead to similar or worse conditions than those that prompted rural dwellers to migrate in the first place. Some of these conditions include dilapidated or poorly constructed dwellings, high building density, noise pollution, anti-social behaviour and high unemployment.
According to figures from the United Nations, the world’s urban population is set to increase from one half to two thirds of the total population in the near future. Urban planning will therefore have to take centre stage if countries are to avoid the overcrowding, urban decay and environmental degradation.
Here in Jamaica, population figures for 2007 show that 53 percent of the nation’s over 2.6 million citizens live in urban areas. Providing adequate shelter and proper infrastructure for the growing numbers of urban dwellers in Jamaica has proved to be quite challenging and so far, success in this area has been limited.
However, during this financial year, the Ministry of Water and Housing will continue upgrading works in some informal settlements.
I am very pleased with the progress that we have made on our two urban renewal pilot projects.
Eleven (11) units have been constructed and delivered to the families in Olympic Gardens in St. Andrew while work at Albion in Montego Bay is far advanced.
We are presently collaborating with the National Housing Trust and the Housing Agency of Jamaica to build 10,000 housing solutions by the end of this financial year. Interventions such as these signify the Ministry’s real thrust to ‘build communities and improve lives’.
But resources are limited, and so intervention programmes such as UN Habitat’s Participatory Slum Upgrading Programme is helpful.
Through our Minister of State, Hon. C. Everald Warmington who is presently President of the Governing Council for the United Nations Human Settlements Programme, we have commenced the first stage of a Rapid Urban Profiling Study on the three urban centres. These are Old Harbour/Old Harbour Bay in St Catherine, May Pen in Clarendon, and Montego Bay in St James.
A training session was held in Jamaica for focal points of the programme which has brought us one step closer to implementing the goals of UN-HABITAT in promoting socially and environmentally sustainable towns and cities.
Jamaica is pleased to join the rest of the world in celebrating World Habitat Day under the theme “Planning Our Urban Future”, while remaining mindful of our ultimate goal which is to build communities and improve the lives of all Jamaicans.

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