21st Century City: Asia-Pacific Urban Transformation


At the heart of this transformation is the rapid urbanization of the region. Between 1970 and 2017, developing economies in Asia surpassed the rest of the world in both population expansion and growth, with the urban population growing at an annual rate of 3.4%, compared to 2.6% in the rest of the developing world and 1% in developed economies. This momentum will continue in the coming years, with the region adding more than 1 billion new townspeople by 2050.

Today, Auckland, Osaka, Adelaide, Wellington, Tokyo, Perth, Melbourne and the Brisbane Economist Intelligence Unit have made eight of the top 10 performers in the 2021 Global Livelihoods Index an international reputation for Asia-Pacific cities. But in the low-income geographical region of the continent, citizens face the harshest living environment in the world. In the 2021 ranking, 99 of the 100 cities in the world are most at risk due to environmental factors such as pollution, extreme heat stress, declining water supply, natural disasters and climate change risks.

Often the most affected by climate change are urban dwellers from lower socio-economic groups, who may live in low-rise buildings on risky and marginal lands, where there is a lack of anti-flood systems and temperature control. They may also lack access to facilities such as air conditioning and may have less financial buffer to withstand the impact of floods.

As cities grow, they can often become more unequal as increased economic activity pushes up land prices and pollution, hurting low-income citizens who are less able to move to better areas. Even a commendable investment can make the problem worse. For example, mass transit systems that reduce travel time in central urban areas can increase fares along routes, forcing low-income residents to relocate. Homes in Asia have become increasingly unsuitable for many. An analysis of 211 Asian cities found that house prices were too low for middle-income families. Because affordable housing is out of reach, many urban residents settle for inadequate housing with only access to safe water and limited sanitation.

Despite the breadth and diversity of the challenge, the region can take heart from its past and present. Singapore is one of the most livable cities in the world, but it started from scratch, recalls Khu Teng Chie, former executive director of livable cities at the Center for National Development (MND) in Singapore.

“In the early 1960’s, [Singapore was] Rapidly growing and overcrowded, housing shortages, overcrowded slums and poor, inefficient people. The Singapore River was an open sewer and had water rationing. I remember when I was younger, the taps would dry out all day, but in the rainy season we would flood. All the urban problems you can think of were ours! Today, our population has tripled and yet the city has become more livable, attractive and resilient. “

Now, progress is being made across Asia Pacific to make it more sustainable, resilient and inclusive. Cities are exploring innovative responses to environmental challenges across the region, including nature-based resilience such as “Sponge City” to reduce flooding and improve air quality, “Net Zero Carbon” new construction and the restoration of old buildings. , And developing more sustainable transportation solutions.

The use of technology is helping cities address gaps in service delivery and actively assist the vulnerable, including digitization of land rights and geospatial mapping that helps citizens in areas without formal addresses, startup apps that address urban security challenges, and healthcare and adult care. Technology solutions for.

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