via Nat’l Geographic: The Growth of Megacities

Geography in the News: The Growth of Megacities

Posted by Neal Lineback of Geography in the NewsTM on February 17, 2014
By Neal Lineback and Mandy Lineback Gritzner,  Geography in the NewsTM

Megacities’ Expansive Growth

For the first time in human history, more of the world’s 6.8 billion people live in cities than in rural areas. That is an incredible demographic and geographic shift since 1950 when only 30 percent of the world’s 2.5 billion inhabitants lived in urban environments.

The world’s largest cities, particularly in developing countries, are growing at phenomenal rates. As a growing landless class is attracted by urban opportunities, meager as they might be, these cities’ populations are ballooning to incredible numbers.

A May 2010 Christian Science Monitor article on “megacities” predicted that by 2050, almost 70 percent of the world’s estimated 10 billion people—more than the number of people living today—will reside in urban areas. The social, economic and environmental problems associated with a predominantly urbanized population are considerably different from those of the mostly rural world population of the past.

A megacity is an urban agglomeration (accumulation) with more than 10 million inhabitants. Sixty years ago in 1950, there were only two megacities—New York-Newark and Tokyo. In 1995, 14 megacities existed. Today, there are 22, mostly in the developing countries of Asia, Africa and Latin America. By 2025, there will probably be 30 or more.

gitn_1049_Megacities

Urbanization has been occurring in the developed countries of the West for 200 years. Since the Industrial Revolution, a period from the 18th to 19th century in which machine-based manufacturing grew tremendously, cities have grown rapidly. As technological innovations flourished, economies previously dependent on manual labor and draft-animals began to change. People moved into the cities to find work and relatively quickly, cities began to grow exponentially.

Today, the most rapid megacity growth is occurring in the world’s least developed and poorest countries—those least able to handle the political, social, economic and environmental problems associated with rapid urbanization.

In the most modern industrialized countries, on average, three out of four people already live within an urban area. In contrast, in the least-developed regions of the world, more than two out of three people still reside in a rural area. But that statistic is changing rapidly.

For people in developing countries, even the slums of cities like Mumbai, India, can offer more opportunities than their poor subsistence-based villages can. People gravitate to the cities because the potential for making money is greater there. While most of the economies in rural areas are agriculture-based with little cash flow, in the cities, people may be able to earn cash for work or retail sales.

The 10 largest cities in the world in 2010 and their projected populations by year 2025 are Tokyo, Japan  (37.1 million), Delhi, India (28.6), São Paulo, Brazil (21.7), Mumbai, India (25.8), Mexico City (20.7), New York-Newark (20.6), Shanghai, China (20.0), Calcutta, India (20.1), Dhaka, Bangladesh (20.9) and Karachi, Pakistan (18.7).

According to the Christian Science Monitor, along with the masses come problems associated with providing necessary services like clean water, sanitation systems to remove the megatons of garbage and human waste and transportation systems to ferry workers. In addition, many cities have difficult times providing electrical networks, health care facilities and police protection.

Urbanization is not all bad news. According to the Christian Science Monitor, some see great promise in the trend, especially those companies that build roads and buildings.  If a city is efficient, energy consumption can decrease by 20 percent. Transportation costs for goods and labor can fall considerably in cities because markets and workers are all close together. In essence, cities are where cash flows—they are where economic growth takes place.

As the world’s population increases at the rate of 134 million per year, the urbanization process is pushing more and more people into the cities. Such frenetic rates of urbanization and intense poverty of large urban populations strain resources. Nonetheless, to poverty-stricken, landless people, cities offer visions of opportunity. The resulting massive urban underclass, particularly in developing countries, represents one of the world’s greatest social and economic challenges.

The real question is, “What are the limits to urban growth?”

And that is Geography in the News.

Sources: GITN #1049, “Growing Megacities,” June 28, 2010; GITN #844, “Megacities: 10 Million or More People,” Aug. 4, 2006; and Bruinius, Harry, “March of the Megacities,” The Christian Science Monitor, May 10, 2010.

Co-authors are Neal Lineback, Appalachian State University Professor Emeritus of Geography, and Geographer Mandy Lineback Gritzner. University News Director Jane Nicholson serves as technical editor. Geography in the NewsTM  is solely owned and operated by Neal Lineback for the purpose of providing geographic education to readers worldwide.

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UN: 6.6 Million Children Under 5 Died Last Year – ABC News

UN: 6.6 Million Children Under 5 Died Last Year

LAGOS, Nigeria September 13, 2013 (AP)

By CARLEY PETESCH Associated Press

Childhood death rates around the world have halved since 1990 but an estimated 6.6 million children under the age of 5 still died last year, the U.N. children’s agency said Friday.

Nearly half of all children who die are in five countries: Nigeria, Congo, India, Pakistan and China, it said in a report.

“Progress can and must be made,” said Anthony Lake, UNICEF’s executive director. “When concerted action, sound strategies, adequate resources and strong political will are harnessed in support of child and maternal survival, dramatic reductions in child mortality aren’t just feasible, they are morally imperative.”

The top killers are malaria, pneumonia and diarrhea, the report said, taking the lives of about 6,000 children under age 5 daily. A lack of nutrition contributes to almost half of these deaths, the U.N. said.

Eastern and Southern Africa have reduced their death rates for children under 5 by more than 50 percent since 1990. West and Central Africa are the only regions not to have at least halved the number of children under 5 dying over the past 22 years, the U.N. said.

Nigeria bears more than 30 percent of early childhood deaths for malaria and 20 percent of the deaths associated with HIV. Globally, the country accounts for one in every eight child deaths, the U.N. said.

While these numbers are grim, the rate of improvement globally seems to have plateaued at about 4 percent improvement per year since 2005, the report said. The estimated numbers are based on solid data from about half the world’s countries. And for regions with the biggest problems, they had to rely on modeling techniques.

Countries like Bangladesh, Ethiopia and Brazil showed tremendous progress, due in part to increased community health care. Affordable and increased interventions — like treated mosquito nets, medicines, rehydration treatments and improved access to safe water — helped improve the early childhood death rate in other countries as well.

But improvements were not as bold in countries like Nigeria, Congo, Sierra Leone and Pakistan, the report showed.

Lake said a new sense of urgency was needed to improve the figures.

“Yes, we should celebrate the progress,” he said. “But how can we celebrate when there is so much more to do?”

via UN: 6.6 Million Children Under 5 Died Last Year – ABC News.

The real solution to South Africa’s food problem – Opinion – Al Jazeera English

The real solution to South Africa's food problem - Opinion - Al Jazeera English

As South Africa has grown more urban, so have poverty and hunger migrated to its cities. While the government of South Africa sees increasing penetration of supermarkets into poorer neighbourhoods as a way to encourage economic development and increase access to food, this strategy is inherently limited.

In South Africa, urbanisation has contributed to a rapid increase in poverty and a rising population of urbanites who are undernourished. Sixty percent of South Africa’s population is now urbanised, and this figure is projected to reach 80 percent by 2050. In Cape Town, a 2011 survey found that over 80 percent of households were either moderately or severely food insecure in sampled low income neighbourhoods. In addition to overall caloric food insecurity, households were found to have limited dietary diversity.

There is a deep rift in the international food policy community about the role of supermarkets in addressing urban hunger. One group sees “food deserts,” or the lack of food retailers in poorer neighbourhoods, as the primary driver of hunger and malnutrition in urban areas. Another group views the growing spread of large supermarkets in cities of the Global South with suspicion. Their primary concern is that large food retailers will displace smaller, traditional shops that better cater to the needs of the poor.

There is a parallel set of arguments in the South African policy realm which are couched in terms of economics rather than food security. Here the government implicitly assumes that the establishment of shopping malls, and associated supermarkets, in low income areas will help facilitate economic development. While food access is not explicitly considered, it is believed that supermarkets bring more efficient, cost effective and safer food to poor areas. This argument contrasts with that of those (mostly outside of government) who are concerned that the spread of big stores, including supermarkets, may lead to loss of livelihoods among small traders.

The real solution to South Africa’s urban food insecurity problem is poverty alleviation.

Our research revealed that neither perspective is entirely right nor wrong. In 2012-2013, we compiled one of the first, and the most complete, spatial databases of supermarket locations relative to population distribution in the Cape Town metropolitan area of South Africa.

We found that supermarket density is 16 times higher in upper middle income neighbourhoods than in the poorest areas – and that the difference was even more startling if one compares the ratio of households per supermarket in a given area. That said, supermarket penetration into Cape Town’s poorest townships has deepened, and one retailer has even developed a specific brand and format (Shoprite’s Usave) to reach poorer customers.

The problem is that the supermarket model, even if it is further modified, may never really be able to reach the poorest of the poor. Such households often have irregular cash flows, meaning that they must purchase food in small quantities or buy items on credit when there is no money to be had. While small shops can meet such demands, supermarkets cannot. Furthermore, and somewhat surprisingly, we found that small shops were not charging more for the food they sold than the big retailers (even though the items they sold came in much smaller quantities).

Our research also suggests that those concerned about supermarket expansion should temper their fire. The township customers we interviewed prefer shopping in supermarkets when it is an option because they perceive the quality of goods sold there to be higher.

The small shops and meat stands located in adjacent areas also do not perceive the supermarket as competition. In fact, they see themselves as offering complementary services, almost working in tandem with supermarkets to meet a broad range of consumer needs. To be fair, however, these are the perceptions of those small traders who have survived and adapted. Other studies suggest that there has been an attrition of such small shops and stalls after big stores arrive.

The take-home message is that supermarket expansion is neither a solution to, nor a curse on, hunger alleviation efforts in urban South Africa and the region more broadly. This market-oriented solution to improving urban food access is inherently limited because it just cannot meet the needs of the poorest of the poor.

The real problems are structural in nature and are a legacy of the Apartheid era. Black South Africans continue to face significantly higher levels of unemployment than their white counterparts, and the geography of urban poverty has remained amazingly rigid. The real solution to South Africa’s urban food insecurity problem is poverty alleviation.

Poverty alleviation, however, must not solely be conceived in monetary terms. It must also be considered in terms of greater spatial equity and access to affordable healthy food. Urban food security must become an explicit policy objective of its own, rather than one embedded in an economic growth agenda.

William G. Moseley is Professor, Chair of Geography, and Director of African Studies at Macalester College in Saint Paul, Minnesota, US. His latest book is An Introduction to Human-Environment Geography: Local Dynamics and Global Processes.

via The real solution to South Africa’s food problem – Opinion – Al Jazeera English.