Most people today live in towns and settlements, and the numbers are rising every day. Some major cities are on the verge of collapse – they are simply bursting at the seams. It is a major challenge to make cities a healthy and safe environment for all.
In developing countries in particular more and more people are leaving the country and spilling into towns, where they hope to find better opportunities. Towns and settlements are spreading fast, yet in many places housing is in short supply, pushing prices up. More and more people around the world are living in wretched conditions in slums. In many places public transport is inadequate and air pollution is worsening. It is expensive and complex to provide so many people with safe water and electricity, and to dispose of waste correctly. Around the world cities are causing environmental damage on a horrendous scale.
What must be done?
Towns and cities must continue to be centres of innovation, trade, culture, science and progress. This is only possible though, if we manage to make towns and cities inclusive, sustainable places to live. And this presupposes good city planning, national strategies and regional development plans. Towns and cities must find ways of providing people with housing, reliable basic supplies of water, power, sanitation and waste management services, and transport systems, as well as offering safety and security, low pollution levels and natural areas for relaxation and recuperation.
Towns and cities in developing countries in particular must be better protected against flooding and other natural disasters. The international community must provide financial and technical support.
Facts and figures
- Today half of the world’s population live in towns and cities. By 2050 this figure is forecast to rise to 80 per cent.
- About one third of the urban population of developing countries live in slums.
- Towns and cities account for only three per cent of the surface area of our planet, although they generate 75 per cent of global CO2 emissions.
- The air breathed by half of all town and city dwellers contains at least two and a half times the maximum permissible limits of pollutants as set by the WHO.