The most important urban planning decisions in the history of mankind will be made over the next 20 years. These decisions will be made on how to efficiently and sustainably plan for the rapid urbanization of Asia. As the region grows and becomes more progressive, so too will its urban population. From 2010-2050 the region’s urban population is expected to grow by 21%, adding an additional 1.1 billion new urban residents in the next 20 years alone. Asia will account for over half of the world’s city dwellers by 2025. Ensuring proper strategies for these urban areas will prove absolutely vital not only for the new Asian urban population, but also for the world at large. The outstanding growth of Asia is bound to create great international tension as these cities compete for resources needed to support them. Effective and sustainable urban planning is greatly needed to mitigate many of the mounting challenges and ensure a higher quality of life for Asian urbanites. Failure to adequately plan for and continuing current development trends will cause monumental implications for this massive population.
Urbanization and economic progress have always been strongly related. As countries become more developed and economically advanced, its population begins clustering in metropolitan hubs. Economic and social benefits are the draw factors that bring in many rural Asian workers to the city. Increased job opportunities, availability of services, and the opportunity to escape limiting social or cultural traditions all contribute to rural to urban migration. However, the ideals of this “better life” are often lost in the reality of many Asian cities. Most newly urban workers find themselves living in poor urban slums completely separated from rich communities. Inadequate infrastructure to support this growing populations causes an increase in the separation between the poor and the rich, as the issues associated with slums are magnified with increase pressures from the growing populations. Approximately one third of Asia’s urban population currently live in slums. Drastic urban planning and social services strategies are needed to reduce this figure as the urban population skyrockets. It would be absolutely unacceptable to allow current development patterns to continue and have one sixth of the world’s urban population living in these conditions by 2025.
Asia’s urbanization will create some of the largest human settlements in history. Continued urbanization will evolve many of Asia’s large cities into megacities (urban population over 10 million). From 2010-2025 Asia will add nine new megacities, accounting for over half of the world’s total megacities by 2025. This amount of will nearly be the worldwide total of all megacities today. The new megacities will have huge challenges dealing with congestion and infrastructure, not to mention the added strains this degree of concentration will have on the environment.
Problems stemming from climate change and Asia’s increased carbon emissions is going to have a devastating effect on many Asian cities. These cities are far and away the most susceptible to rising sea levels as 15 of the world’s 20 most exposed coastal cities are in Asia. As urban populations grow and these cities expand, the before-mentioned slums will be pushed to the exterior of the cities to areas prone to dangerous natural hazards. These populations left without adequate infrastructure and facilities will pay the most severe prices from global warming.
Planning must come to the rescue for these distressed communities. It can ill afford to allow the future of world’s most populous region to continue to grow by such measly means. Individual developing countries in the region will have to address the needs of their cities for “the prosperity of nations is intimately linked to the prosperity of their cities. No country has ever achieved sustained economic growth or rapid social development without urbanizing.” Sustainable urban planning for Asia’s cities will ensure a more sustainable Asia. As the region grows and continues to dominate our world’s population this will prove an absolute necessity for the health and future of our planet.