The well-known marketing gurus, Philip Kotler and Milton Kotler wrote in their book 'Winning Global Markets' that "the growth of nations is intimately tied with the growth of their major cities."... "Top cities have grown faster in GDP (gross domestic product) than the rate of their country's GDP growth. Major cities are the source of a nation's wealth, not the other way around. In the markets of a nation's major cities, investment, trade and consumption take place."
This is especially true now as according to new United Nations data, 55 per cent of the world's population lives in urban areas. This portion is expected to increase to 68 per cent by 2050.
Projections show that urbanisation, the gradual shift in residence of human population from rural to urban areas, combined with overall growth of the world's population could add another 2.50 billion people to urban areas by 2050. Around 90 per cent of the increase would take place in Asia and Africa.
At the moment, Tokyo is the world's largest city, with 37 million inhabitants, followed by New Delhi with 29 million, Shanghai 26 million and Mexico City and Sao Paulo each around 22 million residents. Today, Cairo, Mumbai, Beijing and Dhaka all have close to 20 million inhabitants.
Among all these cities, Dhaka's situation is possibly the worst as it is growing in an unplanned way. Dhaka's citizens are facing the consequences of the unplanned urbanisation as a result. Inadequate road, traffic congestion, water logging, water crisis during summer, and other issues are affecting the productivity of those living here. Also, as Dhaka is the capital with all the headquarters of government, public and private sectors located here. These nagging problems are slowing down the nation's growth.
As the world continues to urbanise, sustainable development depends increasingly on the successful management of urban growth, especially in low-income and lower-middle-income countries where the pace of urbanisation is projected to be the fastest.
Integrated policies to improve the lives of both urban and rural dwellers are needed, while strengthening the linkages between urban and rural areas, building on their existing economic, social and environmental ties.
To get rid of unplanned urbanisation, an urban development policy should be formulated while keeping in mind the geographical situation of the country. A strategy should be adopted to start development activities proportionately in all district towns and upazila headquarters.
Along with these, employment and labour-oriented programmes focussing on youth should be implemented. The growth of villages and towns will help by curbing the migration to urban areas.
Anwar Faruq Talukder is a banker.
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