FutureWire - futurism and emerging technology

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Challenge of the Megacities

Mention the phrase "city of the future" to fans of classic science fiction, and they'll likely conjure up mental images of ultra-clean, ultra-high-tech, ultra-planned environments that cater to their residents' every whim. Perhaps even with flying cars!

The reality, though, is markedly different. The world's cities of the future are megacities that are homes to huge, very poor populations. As cities in the developed world shrink, cities in the developing world are overcrowded, polluted and unsanitary.

By 2015, the world will have 33 megacities, 27 of which will be in the developing world. “By 2050, an estimated two-thirds of the world’s population will live in urban areas, imposing even more pressure on the space infrastructure and resources of cities, leading to social disintegration and horrific urban poverty,” says Werner Fornos, president of the Washington-based Population Institute.

EMagazine profiles several such cities: Jakarta, Indonesia; Dhaka, Bangladesh; Mexico City; Lagos, Nigeria; Mumbai, India; and Tokyo (the only one in the developed world). Although each of these cities has unique characteristics and problem, common threads run throughout. Transportation is a universal challenge; to that end, many of these cities are working to develop more efficient, sustainable public transportation systems to alleviate traffic jams and pollution. Governments are partnering with private business to improve housing. Physicians are volunteering to provide free health care.

The fact that these cities are searching for solutions to their problems is encouraging. However, the best long-term solution may be for governments to encourage more evenly distributed growth. Just as this has happened organically in the developed world in the form of suburbs and "edge cities," megacities can dilute and spread out their growth. Yet that poses environmental challenges of its own.

Source: Futurismic