The Cities This Week: Edition 31

Sunder Nursery. Photos courtesy of Aga Khan Trust.

Plans for Sunder Nursery, New Delhi. Photos courtesy of Aga Khan Trust.


The US has evidence that the chemical nerve agent sarin was used in a deadly attack in Damascus last month, Secretary of State John Kerry says. He said samples from hair and blood gathered after the attack “tested positive for signatures of sarin”. The US blames the Syrian government for the 21 August attack. President Barack Obama has vowed punitive action but wants Congress to vote on it first. Syria dismissed the delay and said it was ready for any strike. UN experts have been in Syria gathering evidence to determine whether chemical weapons attacks have taken place on various occasions. They have now arrived in the Netherlands with samples for analysis. The biggest and deadliest apparent attack took place on 21 August in east Damascus. The US says more than 1,400 people were killed.


A liquid ammonia leak from a refrigeration unit in China’s commercial hub of Shanghai has killed at least 15 people, the official Xinhua news agency said. The leak also sickened at least 26 others, Xinhua said, after updating the death toll from 11. The incident occurred shortly before midday on Saturday in the city’s northern district of Baoshan at a cold storage unit owned by a seafood company, media reports said. The company, Shanghai Weng Pai Cold Storage Industrial Co, is engaged in the import and export, storage, processing and sales of aquatic products, according to its website. Photos on the website of the Xinmin Evening News, a local newspaper, showed fire trucks at the scene with hoses on the ground.


Thousands of Colombian farmers and state workers marched through Bogota on Thursday, banging pots and pans as they converged on the capital after 11 days of increasingly violent protests against agricultural and trade policies they say have left them impoverished. Students wearing balaclavas pelted shop windows with rocks near the capital’s main square and clashed with riot police who fired tear gas to disperse them. Bogota imposed a curfew in three of the more populated areas of the city after violence continued into the night. “Long live the farmers’ strike! Food sovereignty,” protesters chanted as they waved anti-government banners. President Juan Manuel Santos, who has been unable to end the so-called national strike that has united potato growers, milk producers and teachers, acknowledged agriculture is in crisis, but called for peaceful dissent while talks about possible solutions are going on.


Yemeni Prime Minister Mohammed Salem Basindwa escaped an assassination attack Saturday and was unharmed, a government spokesman said. Ali al-Sarari, a senior adviser to the prime minister, said the premiere’s three-car convoy was shot at by unknown gunmen, who escaped. A day earlier, Yemeni Information Minister Ali al-Amrani’s car was shot at as he was passing through a military checkpoint.


About 1,500 civil servants have marched in Athens, police said, to protest job layoffs and transfers that are part of an overhaul of the public sector demanded by Greece’s creditors. “No layoffs, no transfers,” “All together in the battle against layoffs,” read banners carried by protesters, mostly teachers and ministry employees, who marched to parliament despite a scorching sun on Thursday. The education ministry had earlier in the day released a list naming 3,495 secondary school teachers of non-priority subjects, like foreign languages, art and music, who were to be transferred either to primary schools or to administrative posts. Greece has agreed to put 12,500 civil servants on a redeployment scheme by the end of September, as part of a general restructuring of its public sector, in return for the next instalment of its EU-IMF rescue loans.


New Delhi is trying to outdo New York City’s Central Park. Efforts are underway to carve a 1,200-acre green space by adjoining many such smaller spaces in the central part of India’s capital. Quartz asked the Aga Khan Trust for Culture, the folks behind the restoration, for photos and renderings of the grand plan. A restoration of Sunder Nursery, adjacent to tourist attraction Humayun’s Tomb, is at the heart of the plan. The photos below show striking before and after shots. “The idea here is that this is a magical space that takes people away from the humdrum of daily life,” project director Ratish Nanda told the Associated Press.


A creative response to urban transport challenges, Uber has landed in Africa and chosen Johannesburg as its fortieth international city. The service links smartphone users in need of transport with owner-driver cabs with extra capacity. The idea of using technology to enable more effective transportation and reduce environmental impact in cities could provide interesting options for many African cities. The next African city on Uber’s list is Cape Town. BDLive reports: “Uber uses a sophisticated app for Apple and Android, while there is a mobile site for BlackBerry, that pinpoints one’s location and nearby cars. One enters one’s pick-up point and destination, and the system gives an estimated time of arrival and price. The payment is cashless, as one links one’s credit card when setting up the service.