What is the biggest Limit on City Growth (Article)
The population structure of this planet is rapidly changing, as more individuals and communities move to urban areas, abandoning rural areas. One consequence of this change is the increased economies of scale, occurring as a result of the increased populations of these cities, increasing their productivity levels. This has already resulted in significant drops in poverty, in such nations as China, and will potentially lead to drops in poverty in other developing nations. However, many large cities are showing weaker growth rates, as well as difficulties in the provision of basic services (such as utilities and public transport), and an increase in slums. This is due to the increasing complexity of large urban areas, leading to more inefficient management, on the part of Municipal officials. While (theoretically) there is no limit on the size of a city, or its rate of expansion, this expansion must be accompanied by proper management, from within the public and private sectors.Recently, a milestone was reached, whereby more people, around the world, are living in urban areas, than in rural areas. By 2025, there will be an additional 1.2 billion individuals on this planet (the vast majority of whom will inhabit developing nations). One of the reasons for the rapid growth in urban areas is the connection between rapid urbanization and economic growth (for example, between 1960 to the present, South Korea’s GDP per person increased over ten fold, while the percentage of the population living in urban areas increased from one quarter to 80%, though the question of whether urbanization is a cause, or a consequence, of economic growth is still debated).However, it is clear that urbanization frequently results in increasingly productive employment and industries, as well as decreasing the delivery costs of goods and services (due to the increased proximity between producer, consumer and intermediaries, as well as more advanced transportation infrastructure). One example of this is the fact that clean water can be delivered to urban areas in India at costs one third to a half less, than water delivered to rural areas. Also, as more people exit rural areas, the individuals remaining in rural areas will be obliged to improve productivity, thus increasing the incomes of the average individual in these areas.While, in the realm of theory, there is no limit to how large cities can grow, in reality, there are significant impediments to their growth, including but not limited to the ability of Municipalities to manage this growth in a manner that increases opportunities, while reducing costs. Urban growth, if it is to be sustainable and equitable (that is, spread the benefits of such growth to all segments of society) necessitates sufficient management skills, as well as significant long term planning. As is currently apparent, in many parts of Sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America and the MENA region, many urban areas do not have the managerial capacity, human resources or industrial resources needed to ensure proper urban planning. This results in such problems as urban dilapidation, excessive crime, slums and environmental neglect. Such factors lead to lower living standards, as well as diseconomies of scale (possibly outweighing economies of scale).Such problems are most evident in cities with over 10 million individuals (the number of such cities will increase from 23, presently, to 36 by 2025). Large cities such as Shanghai may very well have GDP levels reaching 500 billion USD by 2025.Large cities (with over 10 million individuals) in Latin America (such as Mexico City) are already facing impediments to urban growth. Frequently, when urban areas expand, they assimilate neighboring urban settlements (of smaller size), though these settlements may remain separate legal entities. This creates ambiguous legal boundaries, leading to confusion as to which entity is managing which section of the city. This, coupled with insufficient public funding, creates a situation whereby infrastructure is not attended to (frequently decaying) and slums expand.Although, there are many steps large urban areas can take, to prevent such occurrences, or if they are already prevalent, to reverse them. Municipal governments can repair dilapidated infrastructure, as well as generate high value added employment, by: · Ensuring enough public funding for basic costs (such as utilities) and maintaining infrastructure (as well as developing new infrastructure). Such funds could be ascertained from the sale of land, the establishment of property taxes, and other means.· Ensuring that local governments are held accountable to the citizenry (many large urban areas, such as London and New York, have mayors for long periods of time, who are also accountable to the public). · Ensuring long term planning (anywhere from one year to 40 years).· Ensuring that all sectors of society are included, in development (for example, establish an affordable housing program).
If the aforementioned steps are unfeasible, the next possible step a government can take is to direct the flow of urbanization, away from the largest cities in the nation, to more medium sized cities. It is predicted that the growth in large cities (over the next 20 years) will generate one tenth of global GDP, while the medium sized cities (those with less than 10 million individuals, which are expanding rapidly) will generate half of global GDP.