A. Srivathsan

Mumbai, Delhi will be most populated cities after Tokyo by 2025: UN-HABITAT

CHENNAI: Indian cities are undergoing an inequality trend as a result of economic liberalisation and globalisation, says the State of the World’s Cities Report 2008/9: Harmonious Cities. In 2002, the income gain of the richest 10 per cent of the population in India was about four times higher than that of the poorest 10 per cent, adds the report, released on Thursday by UN-HABITAT. This, the United Nations Human Settlements Programme, is the U.N. agency for human settlements.

The study finds that the most egalitarian cities in the world are in Western Europe. Apart from economic performance, the regulatory and distributive capacity of the European welfare states are cited as reasons for this.

In comparison, cities in the United Sates do not fare well. Race continues to be an important factor in determining levels of inequality. Sub-Saharan Africa has 62 per cent of its population living in slums in urban areas, the highest level in the world. In the developing world, one out of three people living in cities is in a slum. Dhaka emerges as the fastest growing mega-city, with an annual growth rate of 4.4 per cent. Mumbai, followed by Delhi, will become the most populated cities after Tokyo in 2025. Chennai will be the 26th largest city in the world by that point. In the last two decades, an average of three million people a week has been added to the urban population of the developing world. By 2050, the study estimates, 70 per cent of the population in the developing world and 55 per cent of that in India will be urban.

The report puts the current ecological footprint of humanity as 2.2 hectares per person, while the earth’s biocapacity remains at 1.8 ha. China and India have ecological footprints that are twice their biocapacity. In other words, what the population consumes in a year, their area of earth will take two years to produce. Other challenges facing cities are mobility, waste management and environment. The report says a number of cities in Asia have a high rate of car ownership. In this context, it cites the World Health Organisation’s estimates that more than a billion people in Asia are exposed to air pollution levels that exceed its guidelines.

This is considered to be a reason for the premature death of half a million people annually. Cities in the U.S., Australia and New Zealand lead the world in the number of passenger cars per 1,000 persons.

In western European cities, non-motorised modes of transport account for 50 per cent of all urban trips. The report urges cities to minimise wastage, reduce fossil fuel use and maximise reuse of energy, water and materials.

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