A look at world urban population

Published: Thursday 15 March 2007

Homo sapien as an urban, undeveloped species

>> From 1950 to 2000, the urban population of the world quadrupled--from 732 million to 2.8 billion. In 2006, the number of people living in urban areas was about 3.2 billion. In 2008, it is estimated that more than half the world's population will live in urban areas

>> In 1950, only 40 per cent of the world's urban population lived in the poorer countries. By 2010, this is likely to increase to 75 per cent (that is 2.63 billion out of 3.5 billion urban dwellers), due to rapid urban growth in Asia, Africa and Latin America

>> Between 2000 and 2030, 88 per cent of net population additions will be in urban areas of low- and middle-income countries

>> Developing countries spend an estimated US $150 billion on infrastructure each year. Yet the rural poor get most of the (badly delivered) development aid, on the assumption that urban poverty is transitory.Since more than half of urban growth is not due to migration from villages, urban slums will not perk up any time soon

>> The most visible aspect of urbanisation is the rise of 'megacities' (with more than 10 million people). But such cities have only 9 per cent of the world's urban population. More than half of the world's city dwellers live in settlements with fewer than 500,000 individuals

>> Increasing urbanisation in poorer countries increases vulnerability to disasters. More than 85 per cent of the urban population in developing countries was vulnerable to earthquakes in 2000 . In 1950 this was 50 per cent

>> Urban sprawls in the poorer countries lack infrastructure due to haphazard growth and poor regulation. Half the urban population in Africa and Asia lacks adequate water and sanitation; more than a quarter lack the same in Latin America and the Caribbean

>> Heavily built-up cities like Tokyo or New York use less energy per capita than rural residents. But in developing countries, the opposite is often true. One-third of India living in cities consumes 87 per cent of the nation's total electricity. In China, urban dwellers use 40 per cent more commercial energy than their rural counterparts

>> 40 per cent of the world's energy use goes into construction. Yet, each month, China adds infrastructure in proportion to that existing in Houston, Texas, to keep up with its burgeoning urban population.

>> More roads mean more cars. Cities of western Europe lay little emphasis on freeways. Cities in Middle East have the maximum length of freeway per city wealth. Likewise, urban agglomerations in poor countries of Asia have created six times more freeways than in rich countries, which have invested in public transit systems

Down to Earth >> Urban car travel consumes nearly twice as energy on average as average urban bus travel; 3.7 times more than the typical light rail or tram; 6.6 times more than the average urban electric train

>> The biggest economic impact of cars on cities is the sheer space they take for roads and parking. Freeway traffic carries 2,500 people per hour; a bus lane carries 5,000-8,000; a light rail or bus rapid transit can carry 10,000-20,000; while a heavy rail system carries 50,000 people per hour--20 times as many as a freeway

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