Urbanization brings both growth and poverty to Asia-Pacific region – UN

Urbanization brings both growth and poverty to Asia-Pacific region – UN

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The pace of urbanization in Asia and the Pacific – unparalleled by any other area in the world – has resulted in growth but has also driven up poverty within cities, the United Nations commission covering the region said today.

The urban population of the Asia-Pacific region has been growing at the fastest rate in the world over the past 15 years, according to the “Statistical Yearbook for Asia and the Pacific” released today by the UN Economic and Social Commission for the area, known as ESCAP.

“This growth is having a knock-on effect,” said Pietro Gennari, chief of ESCAP’s Statistics Division. “We’re seeing more and more people living in slums and also a negative effect on people’s ability to access clean water and sanitation in urban areas.”

Two out of every five people in urban areas reside in slums, and countries such as China, Indonesia and the Philippines have all noted a drop in the proportion of the urban population with access to clean water.

The region’s rapid economic growth is putting a considerable burden on the environment, partly as a result of the increase in energy consumption. Asia-Pacific’s carbon dioxide emissions surged from 1.9 tons per capita in 1990 to3.2 tons per capita in 2004.

Mr. Gennari observed that if emissions are calculated per unit of gross domestic product, then the Asia-Pacific region has one of the highest carbon dioxide intensities in the world.

The dramatic increase in the number of cars used in the area, while contributing to economic growth, has the downside of boosting pollution levels. The Yearbook also notes that although the region boasts some of the highest rates of railway density in the developing world, less than half of the Asia-Pacific countries have a sizeable rail system.