Sample of world cities shows risky lack of planning: UN experts

Fri Jun 10, 2016 12:28pm EDT
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By Ellen Wulfhorst

NEW YORK (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Dangerously weak planning is leading to unchecked urban sprawl, leaving new city dwellers far from transportation and services, United Nations experts said.

A lack of solid urban planning affects two-thirds of the world population that will live in cities by 2050, said the head of UN-Habitat and other experts introducing a U.N. Sample of Cities, a study of 200 cities with populations of more than 100,000.

The sample is intended as a research tool tracking trends from air and water quality to commuting times, housing affordability and access to public space, they said.

So far, the sample shows an increase in average land use per capita over the last 25 years, said Joan Clos, executive director of UN-Habitat, a U.N. agency. The most recent figure is 277 square meters per capita compared with 203 meters in 1990, he said.

"What is happening ... is an increase of sprawling urbanization," Clos said on Thursday. "Informality is gaining share in the growth of cities."

A lack of urban planning carries political, social and economic risks that are "very dangerous and very imminent," he said.

"The fact that urban growth is less and less planned is a very, very worrisome situation," Clos said.

Decreasing over time, according to the sample, has been the amount of built-up areas within walking distance of a main road, meaning less accessibility to public transportation, he said.   Continued...