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Asia has become home to the
world’s fastest growing cities

A report by the International Institute for Environment and Development

24 October 2007: Africa now has a larger urban population than North America and has 25 of the world's fastest growing large cities. Half of the world's urban population now lives in Asia, which also has half of the world's largest cities and fastest growing large cities. Europe's share of the world's 100 largest cities has fallen from more than half to under ten per cent in the past century. It now has none of the world's 100 fastest growing cities and most of its declining ones.

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These are among the findings published by the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) in the 2007 edition of its analysis of urban change.The research highlights the gap between rapid urban growth and government capacity to plan and manage it in most of Africa, Asia and Latin America, particularly in light of climate change.

"The world's urban map is rapidly being redrawn," says the paper's author David Satterthwaite, a senior fellow in IIED’s human settlements group. "Most of Europe's great centres of industry are no longer among the world's largest cities and most of the future growth in urban areas globally will be in low and middle income countries."

"How these centres grow will have huge implications for efforts to reduce poverty," he adds. "This will also influence whether disasters linked to climate change can be avoided and greenhouse gas emissions can be reduced."

The analysis dispels some myths and reveals some surprising findings:

• Many of the world's largest cities now have more people moving out than in.
• The world's urban population is not concentrated in large and 'mega-cities' (far more people live in smaller urban centres of under a million inhabitants).
• The speed of urban growth has been exaggerated in low and middle income countries, particularly African ones.

"Urbanisation is often attributed to an urban bias in government and aid agency policies, but there is little evidence to support these claims," says Satterthwaite. "In fact, these policies leave much to be desired as they tend to neglect the urban poor, leading to high levels of urban poverty, overcrowding in slums and serious health problems."

"Governments should see urbanisation as an important part of a stronger economy and their expanding urban population as an asset, not as a problem," he says.

Worldwide, a billion people live in low-quality tenements or squatter settlements with inadequate water and sanitation.

Economic growth is the dominant driver of urbanisation in most nations. The largest cities and much of the world’s urban population are concentrated in the world’s largest economies, and there is a strong association between a nation’s wealth and level of urbanisation.

Satterthwaite warns however against broad generalisations: "Despite the underlying economic foundation to urban growth, the form it takes is shaped by political and social factors at a local or national level."

"Most of the ten-fold increase in the world's urban population over the past century was in low and middle income countries," he says. "Most of these nations lack the institutional, legal and financial systems needed to manage rapid urban change over the next 15 years in a way that addresses urban poverty and the risks associated with climate change."

"Many governments still see urban growth as something they should try and stop. But urban growth does not have to mean urban problems," says Satterthwaite.

"Many of the world's fastest growing cities are among the best managed. Cities create opportunities for improving quality of life without increasing resource use and environmental problems. How they are governed and planned will becoming increasingly important in the 21st century."

Statistics by City Mayors
LARGEST URBAN AREAS:
Introduction
In 2006: Urban areas ranked 1 to 100 | Urban areas ranked 101 to 200 | Urban areas ranked 201 to 300 | Urban areas ranked 301 to 400 |
In 2020: Urban areas ranked 1 to 100 | Urban areas ranked 101 to 200 | Urban areas ranked 201 to 300 | Urban areas ranked 301 to 400 |

FASTEST GROWING URBAN AREAS:
Urban areas ranked 1 to 100 | Urban areas ranked 101 to 200 | Urban areas ranked 201 to 300 |

ALPHABETICAL INDEX:
Urban areas A to D | Urban areas E to L | Urban areas M to R | Urban areas S to Z |

RICHEST CITIES BY GDP
Introduction | 150 richest cities in 2005 | 150 richest cities in 2020 | Europe's richest cities |

RICHEST CITIES BY PERSONAL EARNINGS
70 richest cities




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Beihai, in southern China, is forecast be be the fastest growing urban area in the world


On other pages
The largest cities in the world by land area, population and density
With the merger of core cities, suburbs and satellite towns into large metropolitan areas, the very largest cities in the world have in fact become megacities, i.e. cities with more than 10 million people. The area comprising Tokyo and Yokohama is, with a population of between 33 and 35 million, the world’s largest megacity. Other cities among the world’s top five megacities are Mexico City, New York Metro, Sao Paulo and Mumbai.

The list of the world’s largest cities, by land area, is headed by New York Metro, with a total area of 8,700 square kilometres. Tokyo/Yokohama is in second place with almost 7,000 square kilometres, followed by ten cities from the US. Mumbai, with a population density of almost 30,000 people per square kilometre, is the world’s most crowded city. Kolkata (Calcutta), Karachi and Lagos follow behind. More