Published: Tuesday 30 April 1996

As every available nook and corner on an already burdened earth sells for sky-rocketing prices, the raging issue of crowded cities,with,popu- lation tearing at its seams, once again takes centre stage. What have the cities of today the world over have to offer to its citizens? Squalor, diseases, scarcity of food and water, polluted air and violence to name just a few. "Healthy Cities for Better Life" -the theme chosen by the World Health Organization (WHO) to commemorate the World Health Day on April 7, '96 seeks to address the issues at hand.

WHO's Healthy Cities programme basically covers two mandates -improving urban health and mitigating environmental problems. Intrinsic to its functioning is the idea ofpeoples' participation: what people contribute is what people gain. A healthy city as per WHO's guidelines would be one which could provide a clean and safe environment and meet the basic needs of its citizens, among other things.The current scenario of urban cities is grim. And at the bottom of such day-to-day stress is the health of the city inhabitant which has taken a beating like never before. Said Uton Muchtar Rafei, regional director, WHO's South-east Asia region, on the eve of the World Health Day, "The phenomenal growth of urban populations, particularly in developing countries, caUs for concerted and urgent action to ensure healthyliving conditions."

One can take hope from the fact that now a global network seems to be emerging to make living conditions in cities a more healthier prospect. The UN Centre for Human Settlements, the UN Development Programme, the International Labour Organization and the World Bank are gearing up towards "Habitat II", the second UN conference on Human Settlements to be held in June, where the concept ofWHO's H,ealthy Cities programme will come to the fore.

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