We are undergoing the largest wave of urban growth in history. At the turn of the 20th century, just 15 per cent of the world’s population lived in cities. Now it’s over 50 per cent – and by 2050, it’s expected that 68 per cent of the world’s 9 billion people will be city-dwellers.
This ongoing rapid urbanization presents a unique set of challenges and opportunities for towns and cities, and their inhabitants. With more than 80 per cent of global GDP generated in cities, increasing urban populations provide the potential for significant economic growth, innovation and development.
However, these benefits are not guaranteed. To harness the positive effects of a city’s growing population, there are many challenges, including resource depletion, rising pollution and overpopulation, that must be addressed. Here, authorities should look to standards to help cities meet their future potential.
The rapid flow of populations into urban areas puts pressure on local infrastructure, with governments being unable to provide services for everyone. Demand for housing increases, leading to overcrowding which puts a strain on already-stretched resources, such as energy and water.
Sanitation issues, including a lack of proper waste disposal methods, create multiple health hazards for citizens – as does air pollution caused by traffic congestion. The risk of environmental hazards, like flash flooding, also increases due to exposure to climate change, to which cities are inextricably linked: cities consume close to two- thirds of the world’s energy and emit more than 70 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions.