Urban Sprawl

This Bystander had to retire to the peace and quiet of the country to pour over McKinsey’s recently published data dump on global urbanization, Urban World, Mapping the Economic Power of Cities. It is a trove of information and projections that brought out our inner wonk faster than you could say ‘megalopolis’.

Urban World ranges far beyond China, but even restricting ourselves to those parts germane to our immediate interest was mind-boggling. China is on track to become the first nation with an urban population of 1 billion people–sometime between 2025 and 2030, McKinsey reckons. One hundred new Chinese cities will enter the ranks of the world’s 600 largest economic conurbations by 2025. China will increase the number of its megacities–those with a population of at least 10 million–by 13 over the same period. And so it goes on and on.

The strains on land, energy, water and the environment will be immense; as will be the demands of providing adequate urban social services. Megacities or megaslums? More broadly, the shift in the world’s urban axis east and south will have tremendous implications for what we now call the developed world. We shall endeavor to return to these subjects in some detail, but meanwhile, on the grounds that a picture is worth a thousand words, and two twice as many, here is a graphical representation from McKinsey’s report that highlights the sheer scale of the urbanization China is undertaking and the wealth it will create.

First, population and per capita GDP for 2007:

Now, the projections for 2025:

That is quite some transformation. And remember urbanization is a policy priority.

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