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Cities and Urbanization in Asia: 12 Things to Know

Article | 29 March 2012

Asia is moving into an era of unprecedented urbanization, a change bringing prosperity and problems. Here are 12 facts and figures about the rise of the city.

  1. Asian cities are growing rapidly. Another 1.1 billion people will live in the region's cities in the next 20 years.
    Source: ADB. 2008. Managing Asian Cities
  2. By 2030, more than 55% of the population of Asia will be urban.
    Source: ADB. 2011. Competitive Cities in the 21st Century: Cluster-Based Local Economic Development
  3. In many places, cities will merge together to create urban settlements on a scale never seen before. These new configurations will take the form of mega-regions, urban corridors and city-regions. For example, it is estimated that Japan's Tokyo Nagoya-Osaka-Kyoto-Kobe mega-region will have a population of 60 million by 2015. The city region of Bangkok in Thailand will expand another 200 kilometers from its current centre by 2020.
    Source: UN Habitat. 2010.  Hidden Cities: Unmasking and Overcoming Health Inequities In Urban Settings
  4. 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.
    Source: UN Habitat. 2010. Cities for All: Bridging the Urban Divide
  5. ADB's Strategy 2020 states that "livable cities" will be fostered through support for infrastructure, with programs that focus on water supply, sanitation, waste management, and urban transport; and urban shelter programs of slum upgrading, land development, housing, and housing finance.
    Source: ADB. 2008. Strategy 2020: Working for an Asia and Pacific Free of Poverty
  6. Climate change may threaten the sustainability of water use in urban centers by reducing water availability and quality from surface and groundwater sources, while water demand for household and industrial use may simultaneously increase as temperatures rise.
    Source: ADB. 2012. Sector Briefing on Climate Change Impacts and Adaptation: Urban Development
  7. Between the years 2000 and 2010, Asia showed the greatest gains in moving people out of slum conditions, with the PRC and India together lifting around 125 million people. However, the absolute number of slum dwellers has actually increased from about 777 to 827 million in 2010 due to rapid urbanization.
    Source: UN Habitat. 2010. Cities for All: Bridging the Urban Divide
  8. Ha Noi's population is expected to balloon from six to eight million people by 2025. The city's Urban Transport Master Plan aims to get half the city using public transport by 2020.
    Source: ADB. 2011. ADB Metro Rail Loan to Ease Congestion in Ha Noi
  9. In the PRC, migration has created an urban sprawl and made it more difficult for people to rely on biking and walking for transport. As per capita incomes have risen, there has been a continuing shift toward using private vehicles for urban transport. The number of registered vehicles increased from about one million in the early 1990s to nearly 61 million in 2010.
    Source: ADB. 2012. Urban Transport Strategy to Combat Climate change in the People's Republic of China.
  10. The Gaobei Dian Wastewater Treatment Plan in Beijing is one of the biggest sewage treatment plants in the PRC, taking care of about 40% of the city's daily untreated wastewater.
    Source: ADB. 2008. Country Water Action: Beijing Beefs Up Sewage treatment
  11. There is an inequitable distribution of health threats within urban areas. Families with the lowest incomes are most at risk of their children being malnourished and dying early, have less access to health services such as skilled birth attendance, and are also disadvantaged in terms of their living conditions, such as access to piped water. Importantly, these inequities exist along a social gradient, also affecting middle-class city dwellers to at least some extent.
    Source: UN Habitat. 2010. Hidden Cities: Unmasking and Overcoming Health Inequities In Urban Settings
  12. Cities offer young people with higher levels of education greater opportunities to integrate into urban life than they do for the less educated. Education, especially for females, is a key driver in accessing the opportunities that come with urban life.
    Source: UN Habitat. 2010. State of the Urban Youth 2010/1011: Leveling the Playing Field