Full Draft at Davos 2013
Whether we like them or not, megacities will increasingly become the future of our planet, writes the World Economic Forum’s Carl Björkman.
For the first time in history, more people live in cities than in rural areas. By 2050, the world’s cities will absorb 3 billion people, at which point 70% of the planet will live in urban areas. This represents the biggest shift in human civilization since humankind moved from a lifestyle of hunting and gathering to one of agriculture and settlement.
Yet, some cities are more than cities. Some are megacities. These giant sprawling urban conurbations pack people, communities and businesses across vast spaces. There are now over 20 megacities or metropolises (population centres with more than 10 million people) scattered around the world – from New York, which still captures our imagination with its skyscrapers crammed like dominos onto the finite Manhattan grid, to the bustling, colourful and crime-plagued Mexico City, and from the self-assured Beijing, the meticulously organized technological hive of Tokyo, the melting pot of Istanbul, the booming vibrant Seoul, to the grand old lady of cities, London.
More megacities are sprouting up, although few in the West may have heard of the new emerging metropolises that will play an increasingly dominant global role: Chengdu and Beihei on the north-eastern Chinese coast; Palembang in Indonesia; Ghaziabad, Surat and Faridabad in India; Chittagong in Bangladesh; and Toluca in Mexico. Their cumulative growth is set to usher in a new era of city living, changing the lives of those who move to them – and the face of the planet.