Urban population explosion threatens to increase poverty, institute warns

January 01, 2001|By COX NEWS SERVICE

WASHINGTON - The rapid growth of cities threatens to increase world poverty and harsh living conditions, especially in developing nations, according to the Population Institute, an independent, nonprofit organization.

Cities occupy 2 percent of the world's land mass but contain 50 percent of its population, consume 75 percent of its resources and produce 75 percent of its waste, according to an Institute report.

"By 2050, an estimated two-thirds of the world's population will live in urban areas, imposing even more pressure on the space, infrastructure, and resources of cities, leading to social disintegration and horrific urban poverty," said Werner Fornos, president of the Population Institute.

The institute advocates a better balance between the world's population and environmental resources.

The population growth of cities in the industrialized world has become fairly stable, the report said, adding that most increases in urban population are occurring in the cities of poor, less developed nations that are ill-equipped to accommodate big growth.

In the early 1900s, the largest cities in the world were in North America and Europe. But today, Tokyo, Los Angeles and New York are the only cities from industrialized nations among the Top 10 in population.

By 2020, the report estimates that nine of the Top 10 cities in population will be in the developing world, with New York and Los Angeles being pushed off the list by such cities as Dacca, Bangladesh; Karachi, Pakistan; and Jakarta, Indonesia.

The report estimates that 25 percent to 30 percent of the world's urban population lives in shantytowns and squatter settlements that lack sanitation, waste disposal and running water.

"More than half of the urban population of Asia, Africa, and Latin America live in poverty," Fornos said.

"Urban areas in developing nations lack access to higher education, family planning programs and the thriving economies that industrialized cities such as Tokyo or Hong Kong provide their citizens."

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