Challenges of an Urban World

Global Urbanisation Trends

Urbanisation - the movement of people from rural areas to urban areas like towns and cities Urbanisation is happening around the world, and in 2007, for the first time, the number of people living in urban areas was greater than the number of people living in rural areas. However, the number of people living in urban areas is not the same across the world and it varies between places. In the developed world, 78% of the population live in urban areas while in the developing world, only 46% of the population live in urban areas.  

1 of 20

Urbanisation - Developed Countries

  • Towns and cities in the developed world grew in the 19th century during the industrial revolution
  • Rural depopulation has caused an increase in the number of people living in urban towns and cities
  • In 2010, 80% of the total population in the Uk lived in urban areas (CIA World Factbook)
  • There is some counterurbanisation as people move back into the countryside for a better quality of life
  • Many towns and cities continue to grow, e.g. Birmingham where young people are moving to the centre (re-urbanisation)
2 of 20

Urbanisation - Developing Countries

  • People are still moving to towns and cities because of the lack of jobs in the countryside (push factor)
  • There are more jobs in the towns and cities attracting more people to move to them (pull factor)
  • Rate of urbanisation is greater than the rate in developed countries
  • The increase in the population in urban areas is also down to the high fertility rates in towns and cities
  • Improving living conditions in towns and cities is resulting the death rate being lower than the birth rate increasing the population
3 of 20

World Cities and Megacities

World cities...

  • have the world's main stock exchanges and major stock markets
  • are the centres of huge political power
  • have the headquarters of TNCs and large influential firms, e.g. financial services
  • have the centres of the world's media organisations, e.g. BBC, Thomson Reuters
  • are centres of tourism
  • have mass transit systems, e.g. tube, rail
  • have at least one major airport
  • Examples of world cities include London, Paris, New York, Beijing, New Delhi and Singapore


  • cities with more than 10 million people
  • major centres of economic activity
  • unlike world cities, they are not the centre of government
  • they don't have HQs for TNCs
  • Examples of megacities include New York, Los Angeles, Mexico City, Osaka and Shanghai
4 of 20

Spatial Growth

The spatial growth of a megacity is usually different depending on whether it is developed or not.

Developed world:

  • At the centre is the Central Business District (CBD), with its shops and offices
  • Surrounding the CBD, there is the 'inner city' zone consisting of old decaying housing, factories and brand new developments
  • Then, outside the 'inner city' zone is the suburbs mostly consisting of residential houses

Developing world:

  • Compared to the structure of a developed world megacity, the layout of a developing world megacity is a lot more irregular
  • The fast rates of growth and poor planning controls means land use is not defined will and people will often take the opportunity to build homes on any patch of land
  • There is a lot of housing shortages, also leading to people setting up homes on any free piece of land
5 of 20

Population of a Megacity

  • In developing world megacities, the fertility rate is often very high leading to high population growth and a youthful population
  • Developed world megacities are often the opposite to developing world megacities. They will have relatively low fertility rates and as a result will have a population with more elderly people.
  • The lack of housing and poverty contribute to the fact that many people in developing world megacities live in squatter settlements
  • Although developed world megacities don't have the same level of people living in squatter settlements, there is still some areas of poor, slum housing
6 of 20

Problems Facing Developed World Megacities

Food Getting food for the 10 million plus inhabitants is a difficult task and food will often have to be imported from other countries. The transportation from far-fetched countries will inevitably add to the cost of the product to the consumer and also the carbon footprint of the city. People living in these megacities are being encouraged to buy more locally produced food   Energy A large megacity is going to use a lot of electricity and gas for the many homes and businesses and getting all the energy needed for the city is no easy task. The city will have to decide how it is going to generate this energy, especially with fossil fuels running out. They could use coal-fired power-stations, but these release a lot of unwanted pollution into our air. Nuclear power is also an option, but this is very dangerous with the potential of radiation being released. Regardless of how it generates it energy, huge amounts of of resources will be used.  

7 of 20

Problems Facing Developed World Megacities

Transport Any large city will face problems with congestion on roads as the large volumes of people all try to get around the city. All the cars will also be polluting the air so the air quality in a megacity will not be very good despite technology helping more modern cars producing less pollution. The rest of the city's transport infrastructure (rail, tube, buses, etc.) will also be under a lot of stress.   Water Another major challenge for developed world cities is the supply of safe, clean water. A megacity will often have a demand for water greater than the supply. This means that water needs to brought in from other areas or other solutions need to be drawn up, such as a desalination plant.   Waste Every person and business will produce waste, and the rubbish of a city combined is going to be huge. Much of this waste will end up going to landfill which is both expensive and wasteful.

8 of 20

New York

Food The food supply of New York takes 6 million hectares of farmland. The large majority of it is transported by lorries.   Energy Each year, New York uses 50,000 gigawatts of electricity, mostly produced by oil, gas and nuclear-fuelled power stations.   Transport Like lots of other cities, New York suffers from congested roads and poor air quality..   Water New York's water supply is 4.1 million m3 of drinking water per day.   Waste New York produces 12,000 tonnes of household waste every day, 17% of which is recycled, as well as 13,000 tonnes of waste from businesses: 90% is taken to landfill on river barges.

9 of 20

Problems Facing Developing World Megacities


The level of housing simply cannot keep up with the rate at which the population is increasing. This leads to people resorting to building their own homes on any vacant land using scrap materials like cardboard, corrugated iron and plastic. Using theses scrap materials presents serious risks such as fire, flooding and landslides. Also, because these houses aren't built by professionals and because they're built on any empty land, there is also no clean water, electricity, rubbish collection or organised sewage disposal. All these conditions make it a perfect breeding ground for disease. Around 1 billion people or 35% of people in the developing world live in slums and it estimated that by 2030 this number will double to 2 billion people. Transport Roads in developing cities were never originally built to handle such large volumes of traffic they do today, because of this, the roads will often be very congested. The ownership of cars has also increased significantly adding to the problem of road congestion and air pollution. Serious levels of air pollution can cause various health problems as well such as asthma and bronchitis.

10 of 20

Problems Facing Developing World Megacities

Water supply & pollution

The UN estimates that 1 billion people do not have access to adequate supplies of water and 2 billion do not have adequate access to sanitation facilities. The lack of supply of safe water means that people have to find alternative sources which may mean for some people having to drink from pools of water on the ground. Drinking water like this which is most likely polluted accounts for 2 million deaths worldwide each year. The Informal Economy Unemployment and underemployment are both major problems in the developing world. Most people are unable to get permanent, full-time jobs so they often find themselves working on a street corner doing some informal work like shining shoes, giving haircuts, selling water or carrying luggage.

Pollution Air pollution is a serious problem for the people living in developing world megacities. The use of old cars emitting dirty and harmful fumes and factory pollution not being regulated are just two of the main reasons why pollution is so high.

11 of 20


Housing 54% of people live in slums. The largest slum, Dharavi, has 800,000 people living in it. On average, people in Mumbai only have 4.5m2 of living space. Transport Mumbai is a fairly compact city, with only 2% of people owning a car and 55% of people walk to work. Despite this, Mumbai is still one of the most congested cities on earth. 3,000 people die crossing railway tracks or falling off packed commuter trains each year. Water supply & pollution Mumbai suffers from severe water shortages. Due to the old, leaking pipes, 650 million litres of water is lost each day. Some slum dwellers spend up to 20% of their money on water.

12 of 20


The Informal Economy The informal sector in Mumbai employs 68% of Mumbai's workforce, the large majority of these workers coming from the slums across the city. Pollution The World Health Organisation's recommended limit for PM10 (a particulate matter which can cause asthma, bronchitis and even cancer) is 20 micrograms per m3 however in Mumbai, levels of PM10 are around 132 micrograms per m3 which dangerously high.

13 of 20

Reducing Eco-Footprint (London)

Reducing cities' eco-footprint London is one example of a city in the developed world making efforts to reduce its eco-footprint. Some ways they have done this is through:

  • Sustainable Transport - The large majority of London's buses are hybrid buses reducing CO2 emissions.
  • Low emission zones - encourages the most polluting vehicles to become cleaner
  • Increase recycling - Many councils around London offer recycling services for their residents making it easy for them to recycle
14 of 20


  • It encourages people to travel around by public transport, cycling and walking rather than taking the car.
  • Only using energy from renewable resources generated on site
  • All of its houses are energy efficient. The houses face south to maximise solar gain, windows are triple glazed and have high thermal insulation
  • Rainwater is collected and reused on site. Appliances are water efficient and the taps are low flow taps reducing water use.
  • All building materials used to build the site were selected from renewable or recycled sources with 35 miles of the site, reducing transportation pollution and energy usage.
  • Water, gas and electricity meters are all at eye-level so the residents can keep track of how much they are using and keep their use to a minimum.
  • As a result of all these efforts, BedZED's eco-footprint is considerably less than the average UK resident. For example, their hot water consumption was 57% less and their electricity use was 25% less than the UK average.
15 of 20

Sustainable Urban Transport (London)

  • Congestion Charging
  • By charging people who enter the zone £10, it aims to discourage people from driving into Central London which will reduce congestion and pollution
  • There are fines of up to £180 for people who don't pay, while electric cars don't need to pay the congestion charge at all.
  • Cleaner Buses
  • London has begun introducing diesel-electric hybrid buses onto its bus network.
  • They currently have 500 of these buses which reduce CO2 emissions by at least 30% compared to a diesel bus
  • London expects to have 1,700 of these buses by 2016 making up 20% of their bus fleet
  • Encouraging Bicycles
  • In 2010, London Mayor, Boris Johnson, introduced a bike hire scheme which quickly became known as the 'Boris Bikes'.
  • The aim of the project was to increase the number of people cycling which would reduce pollution.
  • Bike lanes and four 'Cycle Superhighways' have been built to encourage people to cycle.
16 of 20

Quality of Life - Brazil

  • Curitiba is a city of 2.2 million people
  • Its urban plan was based around 5 main axes crossing the city composing of one-way, three-lane roads, with the central lane reserved for express buses.
  • Curitiba has an 'Integrated Transport System'
  • The system allows people to move both quickly and cheaply in and out of the city
  • The express routes in and out of the city are fed by several other buses from outlying settlements and suburbs outside the city centre
  • Bus-stops are cylindrical clear-walled stops with turnstiles. People pay their fares at the stop before boarding the bus meaning bus drivers don't have to waste time with fares.
  • Buses have extra-wide doors and ramps which extend to the bus stop platform when the doors open
  • These features allow result in a typical boarding time of only 15 to 19 seconds
  • The system is fast, efficient and cheap and transports 2.6 million people everyday
  • Curitiba's buses are use alternative fuels which reduce air pollution, and because so many people use public transport, the city uses 30% less fuel per person than the eight other Brazilian cities of the same size and has one of the lowest rates of air pollution in Brazil.
  • Curitiba's above ground transport system now carries as many people and at the same speed as a subway but is 500 times cheaper.
17 of 20

Self-Help Schemes

  • Rocinha is the largest favella or shanty town in Brazil
  • It has no roads and only paths creating a maze between the houses
  • This means access is poor, conditions are cramped, its hard to police and there is a high crime rate.
  • 70,000 people live packed close together in houses built on a steep slope
  • Many of the homes used to be simply wooden shacks, but the local authority is now helping people help themselves.
  • Local people have begun rebuilding their homes with bricks and concrete and even have electricity and water.
  • In some cases, these building materials have been provided by the city government and NGOs.
18 of 20

Mexico City - Air Pollution

Measures Advantages  Disadvantages  Providing funds for spare parts to maintain the city's buses - Reduced air pollution
- Bus services are more reliable
- Parts are expensive
- Buses are already old and will eventually need to be replaced
Changing the legal formula of petrol and diesel - Reduced the amount of pollutants released into the air - Expensive
- Money could be spent on less polluting engines which
Banning drivers from using their cars on one day per week - Reduced traffic
- Reduced air pollution
- Drivers avoid it by buying two cars

19 of 20

Mexico City - Waste Disposal

Measures Advantages  Disadvantages  More recycling - Reduces waste that goes to landfill - Many people will be slow to adopt recycling Build a new plant to burn waste - Reduces waste that goes to landfill
- Reduces water and air pollution
- Will generate electricity
- Potentially could add to air pollution
- There are better uses for the waste material
Encourage more composting - Reduces waste that goes to landfill
- Reduces air and water pollution
- Limit to how much can be composted Burying it in new landfill - Improve the problem in the short term - Potentially could add to air and water pollution
- Not a viable long term solution

20 of 20


No comments have yet been made

Similar Geography resources:

See all Geography resources »See all Urban environments resources »