Asia’s future is urban. More than half of the 4 billion residents of developing Asia lived in urban areas in 2019. About 1 billion may join them in the next 30 years, pushing the regional urbanization rate above 64% by 2050. The region has some of the largest and densest cities in the world. Seventeen of the 33 global megacities with more than 10 million population are in Asia. Developing Asia has outpaced the rest of the world not only in absolute growth in urban population, but also by growth rate. Urban populations in the region increased at an average of 3.4% per annum from 1970 to 2017, well above the rates of 2.6% in the rest of the developing world and 1.0% in developed economies (UN DESA 2018).
Cities are booming in Asia because they are hubs of economic and social opportunities. By concentrating labor and capital, they enable gains in productivity. The economies of scale they create have allowed the effective and efficient provision of infrastructure. While urbanization has driven regional productivity growth, it has also created major challenges (ADB 2019a). Increasing urbanization does not necessarily translate to increasing opportunities for all city residents. Asia’s cities will continue to grow, but may not fulfill their potential as engines of growth and job creation due to unsynchronized spatial and economic planning, lack of affordable housing, marginalization of the poor and vulnerable, significant air and water pollution, failure to mitigate the effects of climate change, and deficits in urban infrastructure (ADB 2018).
This book makes the case for five priorities to create livable cities and realize a sustainable urban future in Asia. Pursuing smart and inclusive planning, sustainable transport, sustainable energy, sustainable finance, and resilience and rejuvenation will create more livable cities in the future. Getting these essentials right in cities today is vital to adapt to the demands of tomorrow