Rapidly Urbanizing World and Overview on Seoul Urban Planning Experience
<Urban Planning Module 1> Descriptions
Hello, everyone. Welcome to the course. My name is Myeonggu Kang, the professor of urban and regional planning at the University of Seoul.
Today the world is experiencing a very rapid and massive urbanization. Interestingly, Seoul also experienced very rapid urbanization through the last half century and Seoul has successfully overcome the challenges it faced. I’d like to share Seoul’s experiences of urbanization with you so that at the end of the course you will have learned some basics of urban planning and also some practical knowledge that can help make your city a better place. I hope you enjoy this course. In this course I will talk about the smart and sustainable urban development of Seoul. Seoul’s development experience will be presented especially for rapidly expanding cities in the developing world. This week, I will introduce the basics of urban planning and brief history of Seoul’s development. This week I will show you the world urbanization pattern and why we need sustainable urban planning and development.
<Urbanizing world and the challenges.>
Global urbanization is surging. The world is experiencing a very massive and rapid urbanization. According to the UN statistics the world population would increase by about 2.7 billion people by 2050. Most of the population increase will happen in the developing world, specifically in Asia and Africa. And even further, most of the population increase will happen in urban areas mainly because of the economic development, better sanitation and nutrition.
On the other hand, there’s lots of migration from rural to urban areas so we will see urban population increased even further in the coming decades. Urbanization definitely leads to development. History has shown that urbanization leads to development. Cities present real opportunities for unleashing enormous economic potential, increasing energy efficiency, reducing inequities, and creating sustainable livelihoods for all.
Urbanization is a source rather than simply a by-product of development. In this graph you can see the strong relationship between urbanization rate and economic development. So if a city or a country is under-urbanized, it has more potential for development. Also there are some countries that are highly urbanized but the potential is not yet fully unleashed. So if we take the right course of urbanization, we will create better and more affluent cities in the future.
But there are also many issues. Urbanization raises lots of challenges especially for rapidly growing cities. These problems include things like high percentage of people living in slums, in other words poverty, expansion and dominance of informal sectors, inadequate urban basic services such as water, sanitation and energy. These low quality services lead to the low quality of life. Unplanned peri-urban expansion. It is a problem of sprawl, which is the encroachment of the natural area.
A potential risk of social and political conflict over the land resources. And it also makes the land highly vulnerability to natural disasters such as flood, drought, landslide and earthquake. And also the issue of poor mobility which also needs to be solved. So these challenges have to be addressed and that’s why we need urban planning and good governance. I will talk more about this later. These are some pictures that show the urban challenges. The picture on the right shows the urban problems Seoul had in the 1970’s and 80’s. And the picture on the left depicts the issues of pollution and water degradation in Seoul. Urbanization has issues of land consumption, congestion, pollution, water pollution, waste and garbage, all of which should be addressed.
Also there are global challenges. Climate change is a global challenge. Cities cover only 2 percent of the world. However the cities hold more than 50 percent of the population and are responsible for up to 70 percent of greenhouse-gas emission. So it is easy to simply think of the cities as the problem. But as Joan Clos, the executive director of UN-HABITAT has said, “Cities are responsible for the majority of our harmful greenhouse gasses.”
This is true. “But they are also places where the greatest efficiencies can be made. This makes it imperative that we understand the form and content of urbanization so that we can reduce our footprint.” This graph shows strong relationship between the rate of urbanization and carbon emission. This study shows that the carbon emission per capita of China, India, Thailand, Malaysia, etc. decreases over the history as the countries grow urbanized. So urbanization definitely helps to reduce the carbon emission. Another issue is that of land consumption. Previously, human settlement, especially the urban areas, were small relative to the natural areas and the environmental impact was small.
But as the cities expanded and more people came to live in the city, human settlement expanded to encroach further into the natural areas. This meant that pressure increased on the natural environmental setting. This is Accra, Ghana from 1985 to 2000. The population increased from 1.8 million in 1985 to 2.7 million in 2000, so the population increased by 50%. But the urban land cover increased from 13,000. in 1985 to 33,000 ha in 2000, so the land cover increased by 153%. Urban land cover grew far more rapidly than its population. So if we overlap the population increase forecast with the land consumption, we will see the huge increase in urban population that leads to a lot of land consumption.
This is a picture of the suburban area in Brasilia, Brazil. This kind of low density single use urban development is happening all over the world, especially in the developing world. So we need a measure to harness or limit this kind of development, or even further, we need to reverse this kind of pattern of development. But unfortunately we observed a decline in built-up area densities over the last two hundred years. So almost all the cities and countries showing people using more land per capita.
It’s mainly because of economic growth. As people become more affluent, they want more space, privacy and freedom so they have to consume more and more land. It is very difficult to harness such kind of a sprawl development. So the summary is that urbanization definitely leads to economic and social development. And that urbanization may reduce climate change and helps to develop a sustainable environment. But we also need to solve the issues involved in urbanization such as land consumption, sprawl, pollution and congestion. And we will talk about how Seoul has overcome these issues over the course of history throughout this course.