Asia is host to half of world’s urban settlers

Asia is host to half of world’s urban settlers

New Delhi: Half of the world’s urban population now lives in Asia, which also has half of the world’s largest and fastest growing cities, according to the latest report released by the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED).

“The world’s urban map is rapidly being redrawn," said the report’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 will be in low- and middle-income countries."

Asia and Africa have three-quarters of the world’s 100 fastest growing large cities (in terms of population growth rates between 1950 and 2000); China alone has 15 of them, India has eight. The report adds that there is an economic logic to the location of the world’s largest cities as most are concentrated in the largest and most successful economies. India, which didn’t have any major city in 1800, now has 32.

In fact, the pace of urban growth is so high that analysts expect that half the country’s population will reside in urban areas in the next 20 years.

“This is the century of Asian urbanization," said Hemant Joshi, executive director and chief operating officer of ratings firm Crisil Ltd.

The growth is attributed to the promise of jobs in urban areas. “Call it distress migration (from rural areas) or call it better employment opportunities, but cities are the engines of economic growth," Joshi added. “Already, urban areas contribute nearly 55% of the service sector activity."

Between 1950 and 2000, Mumbai, New Delhi and Kolkata were among the top 15 fastest growing cities as per annual population growth, and Faridabad and Durg-Bhilai Nagar in Chhattisgarh were in the top slot when it comes to population growth rate.

Africa now has a larger urban population than North America and has 25 of the world’s fastest growing large cities.

The IIED analysis also dispels some myths and reveals some surprising findings, such as, many of the world’s largest cities now have more people moving out than in. The report reveals that the world’s urban population is not concentrated in large and mega cities but that far more people live in smaller urban centres of under a million inhabitants.

Rahul Chandran contributed to this story.