Unprecedented urbanisation in East-Southeast Asia

New research shows that urban population growth outpaced urban land expansion in East-Southeast Asia, leading to increased population density in some of the world’s already most populated – and vulnerable – regions.

The research was conducted by an international team of researchers who collaborated with The World Bank’s East Asia and Pacific Team. They mapped for the very first time the rapid and unprecedented urban expansion that has occurred across East-Southeast Asia in the last decade.

Their study, which was published in the journal Environmental Research Letters, shows that urban populations have grown more rapidly than the expansion of urban areas, explains an Institute of Physics news release, the publisher of Environmental Research Letters.

Between 2000 and 2010, the total population of East-Southeast Asia increased by around 31 per cent or 231 million people. If this were the population of a single country, it would be the fifth most populous country in the world.

During the same time period, urban land area increased by only around 22 per cent or 34,000 square kilometres, an area the size of Taiwan.

The study overturns assumption from past research that cities of all sizes will eventually decline in density due to greater amounts of urban expansion than population growth. By finding the opposite to be true, the study could change how officials plan and adapt to urbanisation in the future, says lead author of the study, Professor Annemarie Schneider, from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

The study analysed urban growth patterns in 17 countries across the whole of East-Southeast Asia. In the time period studied, the Pearl River Delta area in China surpassed Tokyo to become the largest urban agglomeration on Earth with over 41 million people inhabiting 6,970 square kilometres of urban land.

The researchers are now working towards expanding the study to cover all agglomerations, cities and human settlements on Earth to assess urban trends within and across nations.


Photo credit: Spreng Ben, flickr/Creative Commons

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