UN study warns of failure to plan for rapid urbanization

13:48, August 07, 2010      

Email | Print | Subscribe | Comments | Forum 

Governmental policies aimed at retarding urban growth and depriving the poor of benefits and services increase poverty and environmental degradation, creating serious long-term problems that could be avoided by enlightened planning, a new United Nations study said on Friday.

The study, published here Friday by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the International Institute for Environment and Development, examined Brazil, whose urban growth has been considerably more rapid than the countries in Europe and North America.

At present, Brazil's urban centers represent 80 percent of the country's population -- up from 36 percent in 1950. But while cities now provide 90 percent of the country's wealth, more than a quarter of its urban citizens are below the poverty line, and one in 15 lives in extreme poverty.

Rather than addressing social inequalities and planning for urban growth, Brazil had adopted policies that discriminated against urban settlement by poor people, according to the study.

As a result, millions of people are excluded from key services and other benefits of urban life, while facing immense social, economic and environmental challenges -- such as crime, pollution, unsafe housing and preventable diseases.

The co-authors of the study was George Martine, a former UNFPA staff member and past president of the Brazilian Association of Population Studies, and Gordon McGranahan, of the International Institute for Environment and Development. He said it has lessons for other developing nations.

"The story of Brazil's urban growth shows how deep-rooted inequalities have combined with negative policy stances to generate many of the social and environmental problems that still plague Brazilian society," Martine said.

"Policymakers in Africa and Asia should embrace and plan for urban growth, so they can take full advantage of its potential to contribute to development, rather than vainly attempting to prevent it as Brazil did," he added.

"A 'business-as-usual' approach that simply reacts to urban growth will be utterly inadequate," said McGranahan. "To minimize the negative impacts of rapid urban growth, developing countries can learn from Brazil's experiences and, especially, its mistakes. "

According to the latest projections, Africa's urban population is expected to grow by 936 million in the first half of this century while Asian cities will grow by more than 2 billion.

The critical first step, the study concluded, is for policymakers to recognize the rights of poor people to live in cities and share in the benefits of urban life. The next is to plan ahead for their land and housing needs within a constantly updated vision of sustainable land use. This not only improves the lives of the poor, but enables the city to become prosperous and habitable for all.

"Urbanization and massive urban growth in developing countries loom as some of the most critical determinants of economic, social and ecological well-being in the 21st century," said Martine. " Policymakers can learn much from the experience of Latin American countries -- and especially Brazil -- that have already gone through an early urban transition."

Source: Xinhua


  • Do you have anything to say?


Special Coverage
  • Premier Wen Jiabao visits Hungary, Britain, Germany
  • From drought to floods
Major headlines
Editor's Pick
  • Staff members watch a screen showing the blast-off of the Long March-2FT1 carrier rocket loaded with Tiangong-1 unmanned space lab module at Beijing Aerospace Control Center, Sept. 29, 2011. Commander-in-chief of China's manned space program Chang Wanquan announced Thursday night that the launch of Tiangong-1 space lab module was successful. (Xinhua/Wang Shen)
  • Chinese President Hu Jintao watches the launch of Tiangong-1 space lab module at Beijing Aerospace Control Center in Beijing, capital of China, Sept. 29, 2011. Other members of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, including Wu Bangguo, Jia Qinglin, Li Changchun, Xi Jinping, Li Keqiang and Zhou Yongkang, are also present. (Xinhua/Rao Aimin)
  • The graphics shows the launch procedures of the carrier rocket of Tiangong-1 space lab module, Long March-2FT1 on Sept. 29, 2011. (Xinhua/Lu Zhe)
  • Image taken from Beijing Aerospace Control Center shows a Long March-2FT1 carrier rocket loaded with Tiangong-1 unmanned space lab module blasting off from the launch pad at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China's Gansu Province, Sept. 29, 2011. (Xinhua)
  • On Sept. 28, tourists travel around the Mingshashan Scenic Area in Dunhuang, Gansu province by camel. With the National Day vacation right around the corner, more and more tourists from home and abroad are going to Dunhuang. Riding on a camel, they travel in the desert to enjoy the cities rare form of natural scenery. (Xinhua/Zhang Weixian)
  • Chinese forest armed forces work together with forest firefighters on Sept. 28. (Xinhua/Chai Liren)
Hot Forum Discussion