Urban Development

ADB supports cities in Asia and the Pacific to become more livable.

ADB's Work in the Urban Development Sector

Asia and the Pacific is fast urbanizing which is both a challenge and an opportunity for cities in the region. Cities in Asia and the Pacific have unprecedented opportunities to transform the well-being of their citizens and to catalyze economic development through increased urbanization by 2030. More than half of the four billion residents in the region live in urban areas and about a billion are likely to join them over the next 30 years. The regional urbanization percentage is currently 54%, rising to 64% by 2050. The region includes the most populated and densest cities in the world as well as fragile urban areas such as those in the small island developing states of the Pacific. Seventeen of the 33 global megacities with more than 10 million people are in the region. By 2050, an estimated one in four people in the region, or about 1.3 billion people, will be over 60 years old, with many living with disabilities.

While urbanization has driven economic growth, it has also created major challenges. Rapid and often haphazard urbanization has caused a growing infrastructure deficit, increasing risks of climate change and disasters, and environmental stress. In addition, the region’s urban areas have to grapple with aging societies, inequitable development, and poor public transport.

ADB’s Priorities

ADB’s Strategy 2030 Operational Priority 4: Making Cities More Livable, will guide ADB’s urban development work to prioritize investments that:

  • Improve coverage, quality, efficiency, and reliability of services in urban areas to make them inclusive and sustainable, gender-responsive, and resource- and energy-efficient. ADB will support integrated development, building capacity, and technology.

  • Strengthen integrated urban and regional planning and the financial sustainability of cities by promoting inclusive participation.
Sha Tin Park, formerly known as Sha Tin Central Park is situated along the Shing Mun River in Hong Kong, China
Sha Tin Park, formerly known as Sha Tin Central Park is situated along the Shing Mun River in Hong Kong, China. Photo: Ariel Javellana/ADB
  • Improve the urban environment, low-carbon development, climate-resilience, and disaster management. ADB will promote nature-based solutions, enhancing ecosystems and natural resources and building capacity in cities and communities.

Integrated and Emerging Solutions

ADB’s urban sector operations have strong links with other sectors, thematic areas, and other Strategy 2030 Operational Priorities. Similarly, the urban sector generates operationally relevant knowledge from its projects, as well as knowledge solutions in the livable cities sector.

ADB focuses on the core sectors of urban water supply, wastewater management, urban drainage and flood management, and solid waste management. The bank also prioritizes gender, climate change, private sector, and digital solutions. Additionally, ADB focuses on social inclusion and people-centric urban development, such as affordable housing, air quality management, the circular economy and ocean health.

Roads in Dhaka, Bangladesh
Roads in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Photo: Abir Abdullah/ADB

Other areas of support include citywide inclusive sanitation, economic corridor development, healthy and age-friendly cities, technology and digital solutions, nature-based solutions, and sustainable tourism. Its work will also include urban transport, energy, education, and health.

Financing Urban Infrastructure Needs

ADB has long recognized that cities need large scale investment to develop and maintain infrastructure and services. An ADB report in 2017 estimated that Asia and the Pacific would need to invest $26.2 trillion during 2016–2030 (or $1.7 trillion per year) for infrastructure (excluding health and education) to maintain growth, eradicate poverty, and respond to climate change. About 70% of that investment would be in cities. Ensuring sustainable local financing and expanded access to finance will be key to helping cities achieve targets outlined in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). ADB is developing innovative financing, such as new forms of public-private partnerships, municipal bonds and capital market instruments.

Aerial view of the business district in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea.
Aerial view of the business district in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea. Photo: Gerhard Joren/ADB

The bank also works to strengthen blue, green, and climate bonds. Strengthening institutional frameworks and the capacity to apply value-capture mechanisms are also important ways in which ADB is supporting improvements in Asia and the Pacific’s cities.

Operational Priorities

Strategy 2030 sets seven operational priorities, each having its own operational plan. The operational plans contribute to ADB’s vision to achieve prosperity, inclusion, resilience, and sustainability, and are closely aligned with Strategy 2030 principles and approaches.

Urban Sector Directional Guide

Strategy 2030 Urban Sector Directional Guide

This Urban Sector Directional Guide provides the context and rationale for the strategic direction of the Asian Development Bank in the urban sector.

Portfolio Performance

ADB’s urban sector operations, including urban transport, have made significant progress with annual commitments increasing from $1.76 billion in 2016, to about $2.77 billion in 2021. The commitments in 2021 consist of 29% for urban transport, 17% for urban sanitation and wastewater, 13% for urban water supply, 11% for urban flood protection, 7% for urban housing, and 15% for urban policy and capacity development.