BY the year 2010, half the world's people will live in cities,
many of which will find it difficult to cope with the fast influx of
population from rural areas, particularly in developing nations.
That is the prediction in "Cities, Life in the World's 100
Largest Metropolitan Areas," the study just issued by the Population
Crisis Committee, a Washington-based public policy group concerned
with international family planning and population issues.
This urbanization trend is "a real crisis," says Joseph Speidel,
president of the committee. "When we looked at 57 metropolitan areas
in developing countries, and 53 of the 57 scored `fair' or `poor,'
that means the average citizen living in those areas is experiencing
a standard of living which we would consider intolerable."
The study, which took two years to complete, provides a detailed
breakdown of living conditions in 100 cities, ranging from the
largest - Tokyo-Yokohama, with 28,700,000 people - down to the
smallest, Pune, India, with 2,350,000 inhabitants. Large cities in
developing countries are growing much faster than cities in the
For instance, it took London 130 years to expand from 1 million
in 1860 to 8 million today. By contrast, Mexico City's population
was 1 million just 50 years ago, and today has swollen to 20
"By the end of this century, the urban population of the
developing world will be almost double the size of that of the
industrialized world," the study says. By the year 2025, it will be
four times larger. Africa's population alone will be three times
that of North America's.
Equally dramatic is the rapid spread of slums and shantytowns in
the developing world. These areas, largely devoid of minimal
sanitary facilities, municipal water, sewerage, energy,
communications, and transportation, are growing at twice the rate of
the cities as a whole, the study finds.
Arcot Ramachandran, under-secretary of the United Nations and
executive director of HABITAT, the UN agency that seeks to carry out
the world body's program, Global Strategy for Shelter in the Year
2000, says prospects for jobs in the cities and a shortage of arable
land are behind the dramatic movement of families from the country
to the towns.
"Immense populations now live in shantytowns and squatter
settlements," Dr. Ramachandran notes. "The first necessity is for
urban local authorities to strengthen their management capacity and
to involve the people from the very beginning, so that any
facilities provided are properly maintained. Our whole settlement
strategy for the year 2000 is based on this enabling concept -
involving the community in the planning management and the
development of their settlements."
The urgency of the situation in many of the large cities is
underscored by the extent of slums and squatter settlements. "In
some cases the bulk of the city's population lives in slums," the
study finds, citing 1987 figures: 70 percent for Casablanca,
Morocco; 67 percent for Calcutta; 60 percent for Bogota, Colombia,
and Kinshasa, Zaire; and 42 percent for Mexico City. …