The rise of megacities

Kalibaru and Penjaringan, once remote farming villages without even a traffic light, have in less than twenty-five years grown into squatter Kampungs of Indonesia’s capital Jakarta. Today these Kampungs have 30 million inhabitants, congested motorways, and cheaply constructed skyscrapers.

Cities are getting bigger and bigger and transforming into megacities (cities with more than 10 million people). After Tokyo (37.8m), Jakarta (30.1m) is the world’s largest city; with almost twice as many people as the densely populated Netherlands. Delhi (25m) and Manila (24m) are number three and four. Most of these megacities – there are currently 24 worldwide – are located in rapidly developing countries. Cities are expected to absorb almost all future population growth, accommodating 3.5 billion new urban dwellers by 2050.

Rapid, unplanned urbanisation poses great challenges

Urbanisation is vital to improve the lives of hundreds of millions of people during the coming decades, but the rapid transformation of these cities has to be managed well or the poorest communities will suffer even more.

Megacities are an important driver of economic growth, but the pressure on their critical infrastructures (roads, sewage, waterways and electricity) and resources (water and power) is bringing them to the breaking point. Levels of pollution are already untenable. Poor sanitation, slum housing, bad traffic and increased flooding due to climate change are making these cities unliveable for many of their inhabitants. Inequality, crime and violence are on the rise, increasing the risk of social instability and more international migration.

The urban poor pay the highest price. They live in informal settlements, better known as slums, shantytowns or favelas. Their homes are self-built, overcrowded and often illegal; they lack proper sanitation, power and clean drinking water. 

Many urban dwellers face health problems caused by their squalid living conditions and often worsened further by increased flooding if their city is located in a river delta. The potential for a devastating spread of disease is considerable.

The Human Cities Coalition was founded in 2016 to contribute to the United Nation’s New Urban Agenda, which will shape the future development of cities to make them inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable (the 11th Sustainable Development Goal). We want to channel the energy of the metropolis into a force for economic and social development that benefits everyone. At its core the Human Cities Coalition believes that we are stronger when everyone collaborates and that we can succeed in making the world’s megacities liveable and prosperous places for all.

The Global Goals & New Urban Agenda