World cities need to address challenges amid rapid urbanization

Catherine Talavera (The Philippine Star) - October 21, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Cities around the world are urged to address challenges in infrastructure, pollution and urban planning amid rapid urbanization, according to a joint report by four regional development banks.

“Rapid urbanization has provided most cities in the world with opportunities to provide more sustainable, vibrant, and prosperous centers for their citizens. But they must first address challenges such as inadequate infrastructure investments, pollution and congestion, and poor urban planning,” the Asian Development Bank (ADB) said citing the Creating Livable Cities: Regional Perspectives report.

The report looks at urbanization trends across emerging and developing economies in Africa; Asia and the Pacific; emerging Europe, Central Asia, and the Southern and Eastern Mediterranean; and Latin America and the Caribbean.

It is a joint publication by four regional development banks (RDBs) operating in these regions – African Development Bank (AfDB), ADB, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), and Inter-American Development Bank (IDB).

 “Cities offer access to key infrastructure, institutions, and services for a good quality of life,” ADB president Takehiko Nakao said.

 “They can be centers of innovation for a more livable future for all. But realizing that potential requires forward thinking and flexible planning, adequate capacity at the municipal level, and good governance,” he said.

The world’s urban population has grown from just 750 million in 1950 (or 31 percent of the total population) to 4.2 billion in 2018 (55 percent of the total population) – a number that is estimated to reach 5.2 billion in 2030 (60 percent of the total population).

The report emphasized that while the majority of leading economic hubs are still in advanced economies, the center of economic activity is moving toward the developing and emerging markets.

“Asia and Africa will account for 90 percent of urban population growth between 2018 and 2050, with more than a third of this growth to happen in just three countries – the People’s Republic of China (PRC), India, and Nigeria,” the report said.

Despite being large and still dominant, megacities of more than 10 million people and national capitals are not the fastest-growing urban areas. Urban areas with fewer than one million residents account for 59 percent of the world’s urban population and are experiencing a faster growth rate across the regions, according to the report.
“Cities need large scale investments to develop and maintain infrastructure and services such as urban transport, water supply, sanitation, and solid waste management. In the face of rapid growth, overstretched services, skills shortages, and increased vulnerabilities to disasters are adding to cities’ environmental stress,” the ADB said.

The publication examines the types of policy interventions and approaches needed to promote competitive, inclusive, equitable, and environmentally sustainable and climate-resilient cities – four factors that taken together make cities “livable.”

“RDBs play an important role in identifying, distilling, and diffusing knowledge and actions that can accelerate progress toward creating more livable cities,” the report said.
The ADB emphasized that making cities more livable is one of the seven operational priorities of its Strategy 2030.

“ADB’s Livable Cities approach puts people and communities at the center of urban development, and promotes strengthening urban institutions through holistic and participatory urban planning and sustainable financing, and use of data and digital technologies to improve urban services to the residents,” the development bank said.


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