Report is Guide to Explosive Growth in Developing World's Largest Cities

Jan 27, 2011, 00:01 ET from Lincoln Institute of Land Policy

"Making Room for a Planet of Cities" documents urban expansion worldwide

WASHINGTON, Jan. 27, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Cities in the developing world must prepare for explosive growth with realistic projections of urban land needs, generous metropolitan limits, selective protection of open space, and well-planned street grids, according to a new report published by the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy.

Making Room for a Planet of Cities, the Lincoln Institute's latest Policy Focus Report, is an analysis of the quantitative dimensions of past, present, and future global urban land cover and suggests a new paradigm for accommodating rapid growth in cities, where over half the population of the world now resides.

The world's urban population is expected to double in 43 years, while urban land cover will double in only 19 years. The urban population in developing countries is expected to double between 2000 and 2030 while the built-up area of their cities is expected to triple.

Lead author Shlomo Angel, a visiting fellow at the Lincoln Institute, is presenting the findings at an event hosted by Cities Alliance and the World Bank.

The data, images, and methodology of the research are available for free downloading at the Lincoln Institute's Web site, in the new Atlas of Urban Expansion. The site is part of the Lincoln Institute's ongoing effort to make research data freely available online.

"This research will be indispensable to prepare for the surge of population growth expected in the developing world's major cities," said Gregory K. Ingram, president of the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy.

The report is based on a five-year statistical analysis of GIS-based maps from four new data sets:

  • The built-up areas of a global sample of 120 cities with 100,000 people or more, 1990 and 2000, based on satellite images;
  • Historic population density data in digital images for 20 U.S. cities, 1910-2000, based on census tracts;
  • Built-up areas of a representative global sample of 30 cities, 1800-2000, from the set of 120 cities based on historic maps; and
  • Urban land cover areas of the universe of 3,646 cities that had populations of 100,000 or more in 2000, based on satellite images.

The key findings show that on average, population densities in the urban built up areas of developing countries are double those in Europe and Japan, and densities in Europe and Japan are double those of the United States, Canada, and Australia; and that on average, the annual growth rate of urban land cover was twice that of the urban population between 1990 and 2000. Most of the cities studied expanded their built-up area more than 16-fold in the twentieth century.

The research suggests that preparation for the sustainable growth of cities in rapidly urbanizing countries should be grounded in four key components: the realistic projections of urban land needs; generous metropolitan limits; selective protection of open space; and an arterial grid of roads spaced one kilometer apart that can support transit.

Making Room for a Planet of Cities, by Shlomo Angel, with Jason Parent, Daniel L. Civco, and Alejandro M. Blei provides both the conceptual framework and, for the first time, the basic empirical data and quantitative dimensions of past, present, and future urban expansion in cities around the world that are necessary for making minimal preparations for the massive urban growth expected in the coming decades.

"Urbanization is the defining phenomenon of this century. The impact of rapid urbanization will be felt most acutely in developing countries," said Abha Joshi-Ghani, manager of the Urban Development and Local Government unit at the World Bank. "For this rapid and inevitable urban expansion to lead to equitable, inclusive and green growth - we need to respond in innovative ways, embracing new paradigms."

"This research goes to the core of one of the world's most pressing developmental challenges: how to plan for the doubling of the world's urban population," said William Cobbett, manager of Cities Alliance, a global coalition of cities and their development partners housed at the World Bank. "The dominant current model is to marginalize and exclude the urban poor, and then spend two or three decades trying to fix the problem, at vast financial and human cost. The authors make a compelling case for a new paradigm that is both affordable and practical: anticipating, planning and making preparations for future urban growth. If applied in the secondary and primary cities of Africa and Asia, such an approach could transform the future of developing world cities."

Research for Making Room for a Planet of Cities, by Shlomo Angel, with Alejandro M. Blei, Daniel L. Civco, and Jason Parent, began with a five-year study of global urban expansion, initiated in 2005 with a grant from the World Bank that resulted in the report, The Dynamics of Global Urban Expansion. That initial phase of the study focused on analyzing and comparing satellite images and urban populations in a the global sample of 120 cities circa 1990 and 2000. A second phase of the study, with support from the National Science Foundation, involved a survey of housing conditions and the regulatory regimes governing urban expansion in the same sample of 120 cities. The survey was conducted by local consultants in 2006-2007. A third phase, with support from NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) and the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, involved the additional steps of historical research on urban expansion in 20 U.S. cities from 1910 to 2000, historical analysis of a global subsample of 30 cities from 1800 to 2000, and the analysis of a new global urban land cover map of all 3,6469 named large cities with 100,000 people or more in the year 2000.

Further detail is available in three working papers available on the Lincoln Institute Web site for downloading: The Persistent Decline in Urban Densities, The Fragmentation of Urban Footprints, and A Planet of Cities: Country Estimates and Projections of Urban Land Cover, 2000-2050. A forthcoming book, titled The Expansion of Cities, bringing together the analysis of the maps in the Atlas of Urban Expansion within a broader discussion of urban expansion in a global and historical perspective, will be published by the Lincoln Institute in 2012.

About the author: Shlomo Angel is a visiting fellow at the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy. He is also adjunct professor of urban planning at the Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service of New York University, and a lecturer in public and international affairs at the Woodrow Wilson School of Princeton University. The author and co-author of 10 books on housing, urban planning, and cities, he was Senior Housing Policy Advisor, Urban Development Division, at the World Bank in Washington D.C., and senior Housing Policy Advisor, the Inter-American Development Bank. He has a Bachelor of Architecture degree from the Depart­ment of Architecture, College of Environmental Design, University of California, Berkeley, and a Ph.D. in City and Regional Planning, Department of City and Regional Planning, Col­lege of Environmental Design, University of California, Berkeley.

About the Lincoln Institute: The Lincoln Institute of Land Policy is a leading resource for key issues concerning the use, regulation, and taxation of land. Providing high quality education and research, the Institute strives to improve public dialogue and decisions about land policy.

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