Urban Overload

By Gale, Sarah Fister | PM Network, August 2010 | Go to article overview

Urban Overload


Gale, Sarah Fister, PM Network


THE ALREADY precarious global urban infrastructure is about to get hit with another massive influx of" residents.

Half of humanity now lives in cities. And the United Nations (U.N.) predicts that by 2050 more than 70 percent of the world's anticipated 10 billion inhabitants will be urban dwellers.

The emergence of the so-called "megacities" is changing the landscape of urban development. With huge swaths of the global population pouring in, the new megacities are scrambling to launch megaprojects addressing the reigning infrastructure triumvirate of water, power and transportation.

A megacity is typically defined as a metropolitan area with a population of more than IO million people. Sixty years ago there were only two: Tokyo, Japan and the combined metro region of New York, New York/Newark, New Jersey, USA. These days, there are 21 megacities, and as many as 29 may exist by 2025, according to the U.N.

Most of tiiem are in emerging markets, where cities gain a combined average of 5 million residents every month. Yet many of the developing boomtowns can'r afford ro upgrade - on in many instances, creare - infrastructure to keep up with urban sprawl.

"A lot of these cities have no money for development," says Fariborz Ghadar, PhD, director of the Center for Global Business Studies at Penn State University, University Park, Pennsylvania, USA. "When the population flows in and there is no infrastructure to support it, you end up with sprawling slums."

According to the U. N., one out of every three people in cities of rhe developing world live in a slum, lacking access to basic needs such as water, sanitation and durable housing.

"This creates many problems for the people in these cities around security, stability, poverry, crime and disease," Dr. Ghadar says.

LIFE IN THE BIG CITY

In many cases, megacities have simply grown too fast.

In the last 40 years, the population of the Sao Paulo, Brazil metropolitan area has jumped more than 200 percent. And now it's one of die many cities playing catch-up.

"We have a lor of reorganization urban renewal projects underway right now, especially in the center of the city," says Farhad Abdollahyan, PMP, a project management consultant and associate professor at Fundação Getúlio Vargas and Funditção Dom Cabrai in São Paulo.

Looking to ease congestion on its overcrowded streets, the city is adding bus lanes, extending che subway metro and rail system sevenfold, and plans to build a fourth airport, it's also expanding a crumbling drainage system originally designed to support a fraction of the current population - all as it prepares to host the 2014 World Cup.

"We've learned a lot of lessons from other cities," says Mr. Abdollahyan. "Sao Paulo grew without any planning ar rhe beginning, but now we have institutionalized city planning to protect the city and control its growth. …

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