I believe that sustainable habitat planning is one of the biggest opportunities we have to protect and maintain our world’s water systems and alleviate the greater impacts of the climate crisis.

The communities we serve at AKAH are at the front line of climate change. They are directly threatened by glacial melts and flood outbursts, landslides and soil degradation due to deforestation.

They need systems that are not just built for a crisis but for a generation. Being safe in the short term after a disaster is not enough; they need infrastructure that can help them live and flourish for decades. That’s why AKAH builds systems not just for a crisis but for a generation.

Our sustainable forest management and tree plantation efforts prevent land degradation and landslides and can reverse the adverse impacts of climate change. The water and sanitation systems we have built for more than 600,000 individuals have enabled sustainable water consumption, management, and access to those without running water.

We are currently working with the Swedish social enterprise Better Shelter to test and create locally adapted and upgradable emergency Structure shelters that can be rapidly deployed, upgraded, and repurposed during environmental disasters and in other times of need. And through partnerships with MIT, Harvard University, and the UN-Habitat, we are now scaling up our work to redesign both small villages and rapidly growing secondary cities.

The power of such long-term sustainable spatial habitat planning and design is often hidden. It is taken for granted as the way things are.

But in reality, it’s the difference between turning on the tap and seeing water rush out and hearing a choked, dry gurgle instead. It’s the difference between filling your lungs with sweet air as you run by a crystal-clear river or coughing up black phlegm into a tissue after each run. It’s the difference between knowing the bus will show up to take you to the nearest hospital or waiting for hours, unsure if it will ever appear.

Good planning can promise not only resilient and high-quality water and sanitation systems but also walkable neighborhoods, access to health care, and exposure to clean air. Sustainable land and water management planning is not only critical to long-term sustainability of the environment. It’s at the crux of sustainable health and well-being for us all.