Unplanned urban settlements in Port Vila, Vanuatu are up for a reform with the World Bank pumping in AU$24 million for a first of its kind project in the Pacific.
The money will cover unplanned urban settlements, particularly 23 settlements identified by Vanuatu authorities and there will be work to turn these settlements into proper housing areas with all basic amenities such as water and electricity.
Vanuatu’s Ministry of Lands director-general Henry Vira said Vanuatu was exposed to multiple natural hazards and coupled with rapid urban growth rates and increasing demand for housing, the problem is big.
“Serviced land provision is slow, costly, and limited to high income groups, and low-and middle-income earners move into unplanned settlements in high hazard risk land with limited land registration and services leading to low quality of living environments high incidences of preventable diseases, and low-quality housing stock and increasing disaster risk in the settlements,” Mr Vira said in a statement.
Port Vila’s squatter settlements has presented the nation with a housing problem which the Vanuatu Government had relayed to the World Bank in 2016.
Mr Vira said Port Vila was the government’s and the country’s main economic hub, accounting for an estimated 65 per cent of GDP.
“The city has an estimated population of 66,000 people living within the municipal boundaries. The municipal area plus surrounding peri-urban settlements with strong economic and social connectivity to the city center is home to closer to 114,000 people, almost 40 percent of the nation’s population,” he said.
“In-migration from other islands accounts for most of the urban growth of 60 percent, with the remaining 40 per cent from natural growth of the working age urban population.
“Urban-rural income differentials and rural underemployment are key drivers for people moving to Port Vila and smaller towns such as Luganville, in search of employment, better wages, health services, and education opportunities.”
Mr Vira said the pace of urbanisation limited institutional capacity, and resource constraints had impacted the quality and resilience of urban settlements in greater Port Vila.
This had led to development which had largely been unplanned and unregulated, resulting in the emergence of 23 informal settlements.
The project embraces two priority approaches: retrofitting existing settlements through upgrading to improved services and resilience, and developing new models for planned and serviced urban expansion.
Resident Representative of the World Bank for Vanuatu and Solomon Islands, Annette Leith, said Vanuatu was one of the most highly prone and vulnerable countries in the world to natural disasters.
“The rapid pace of urbanisation and the growth of unplanned settlements adds a new dimension to this challenge,” Ms Leith said.
“I applaud the government and the people of Vanuatu for the many steps taken to build resilience through policies, investments, strengthening of institutions and building capacity at the national, provincial and community levels.
“I am pleased that the project will provide financial and technical resource to help implement some of these policies and provide resilient investments. This is an exciting project being led by the Vanuatu Government in partnership and with support from the World Bank.”