More Urban Dwellers by 2008

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The United Nations Population Fund has released their report entitled “State of the World Population 2007″:

In 2008, the world reaches an invisible but momentous milestone: For the first time in history, more than half its human population, 3.3 billion people, will be living in urban areas. By 2030, this is expected to swell to almost 5 billion. Many of the new urbanites will be poor. Their future, the future of cities in developing countries, the future of humanity itself, all depend very much on decisions made now in preparation for this growth.

The report concludes that the majority of the change to urban dwelling will occur in Asia and Africa with 81 percent of all of the world’s population living in urban areas by 2030.

Unleashing the Potential of Urban Growth

In 2008, for the first time in history, more than half of world population, 3.3 billion people, will be living in urban areas. This number is expected to swell to almost 5 billion by 2030. In Africa and Asia, the urban population will double between 2000 and 2030. Many of these new urbanites will be poor. Their future, the future of cities in developing countries, the future of humanity itself, all depend very much on decisions made now.

Peering Into the Dawn of the Urban Millennium Urbanization—the increase in the urban share of total population—is inevitable, but it can also be positive. No country in the industrial age has ever achieved significant economic growth without urbanization. Cities concentrate poverty, but they also represent poor people’s best hope of escaping it. Cities create environmental problems, but they can also create solutions. Concentrating population in cities can contribute to long-term sustainability. The potential benefits of urbanization far outweigh the disadvantages. The challenge is learning how to exploit its possibilities. Cities have pressing immediate concerns including poverty, housing, environment, governance and administration; but these problems pale in comparison with those raised by future growth. Reacting to challenges as they arise is no longer enough: cities need pre-emptive policies. This Report looks beyond current problems: It is a call to action. It examines the implications of impending urban growth and discusses what needs to be done, with specific attention to poverty reduction and sustainability. Although attention has been focused on mega-cities, most urban growth will be in smaller towns and cities. Their capacities will need considerable strengthening to meet the future challenge. Action now by governments, civil society and the international community can make a huge difference to social, environmental and living conditions. The Report makes two observations: Poor people will make up a large part of urban growth, and most urban growth comes from natural increase rather than migration. Once this is understood, three initiatives stand out: • Accept the right of poor people to the city, abandoning attempts to discourage migration and prevent urban growth. • Adopt a broad and long-term vision of the use of urban space. This means, among other things, providing minimally serviced land for housing and planning in advance to promote sustainable land use, looking beyond the cities’ borders to minimize their “ecological footprint”. • Begin a concerted international effort to support strategies for the urban future.



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