The global population is estimated to double between 1990 and 2100, and much of this increase is likely to occur by 2030. The population of low-income countries is expected to increase by 235 percent; in contrast, the corresponding increase in high-income countries is likely to be less than 10 percent.
Continuing urbanization and the formation of megacities are not new phenomena: cities like London, New York or Paris started to grow in the nineteenth century. However, two major factors should be noted which have made overall water management in the megacities of the developing world fundamentally very different from their counterparts in developed countries nearly one century earlier.
The first factor is the rate of growth. The development of megacities in the developed world was a gradual process. For example, most of the population growth in cities such as London or New York was spread over nearly a century. This gradual growth rates enabled these cities to develop their water-related infrastructures and management capacities progressively efficiently.
In contrast, most of the urbanization in the cities of the developing world, like Cairo, Karachi or Delhi, occurred from about 1960. They simply could not cope with the explosive urbanizations over short period of time.
The second major factor is that as the urban centres of the industrialized countries expanded, their economies and per capita incomes were growing concomitantly. Accordingly, these cities were economically able to harness the resources necessary to provide their citizens with appropriate water supply and sewerage services.
In stark contrast, as the megacities of the developing world have witnessed explosive population growths during the 1960-2000 period, their economies have not performed as well. Issues like high public debts, inadequate availability of investment funds, poor management practices, political interferences, corruption and improper governance have aggravated the urban water management processes.
Because of such increasing complexities, the Centre has initiated a programme on water management for urban areas, especially for the developing world. The Centre’s first book Water for Urban Areas: Challenges and Perspectives, was published by the United Nations University Press. A Japanese translation of this book is currently available. A special edition of this book for the ASEAN countries has also been published from Malaysia.
The Centre organised a special session on water management in the megacities of the developing world at the XI World Water Congress in Madrid, 2003. Furthermore, a special seminar on this issue was also organised at the Stockholm Water Symposium, 2004.
As a result of this project the book Water Management for Large Cities was published by Routledge. More information in our Publications section.
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