BBC has an interactive feature showing the rapid urbanization that the world has experienced over the last 50 years -and what it will experience in the next decade. By 2015, more than 50% of the world will be living in cities. (See the accompanying article here.)
It is this context of rapid urbanization we must understand to better cope with the issues that face Metro Manila. Understanding how that rapid growth affects our urban conditions - housing, services, schools, water, sewer and the environment - will lead us beyond just griping about the sorry state of our cities to sensible policy, regulations and market-based approaches to improving the quality of life in our cities.
Metro Manila's own rapid growth began in the late 70's when we officially hit megacity status and crossed the 5M population mark. Within 3 decades we doubled that population, essentially adding close to 180,000 people each year to the metropolis.
To have sensibly coped with that influx, we needed to build over 3,300 new housing units every month for the last 30 years. (That's building more than 1 house a day -for over 10,000 days.) Coping with that growth meant our public transportation system needed to accomodate at least 90,000 new passengers each year -requiring 1,500 new buses each year. It is no wonder then that we face such daunting issues now.
And we are set to add another 3 million more to Metro Manila by the middle of the next decade.
The good news is, we are not alone in this problem. There is a wellspring of innovation that we can harvest from the experience of other megacities - from Mexico, to Sao Paolo, to Cairo, to Jakarta. We need to get ahead of the curve -ahead of the growth, by looking at what has worked and what has failed in other cities. Perhaps we can even contribute some of our own innovations to the global discussion.
(I wonder if our cities are sending representatives to the 3rd World Urban Forum next week?)
I hope to explore some of those solutions in this blog.