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A megacity is usually defined as a recognized metropolitan area with a total population in excess of 10 million people.[1] Some definitions also set a minimum level for population density (at least 2,000 persons/square km). Megacities can be distinguished from global cities by their rapid growth, new forms of spatial density of population, formal and informal economics, as well as poverty, crime, and high levels of social fragmentation. A megacity can be a single metropolitan area or two or more metropolitan areas that converge upon one another. The terms conurbation and metroplex are also applied to the latter. The terms megapolis and megalopolis are sometimes used synonymously with megacity. The term metacity is also sometimes used to describe cities with more than 20 million people.

In 1800 only 3% of the world's population lived in cities. By the 20th century's close, 47% did so. In 1950, there were 83 cities with populations exceeding one million; but by 2007, this had risen to 468 agglomerations of more than one million.[2] If the trend continues, the world's urban population will double every 38 years, say researchers. The UN forecasts that today's urban population of 3.2 billion will rise to nearly 5 billion by 2030, when three out of five people will live in cities.[3]

The increase will be most dramatic in the poorest and least-urbanised continents, Asia and Africa. Surveys and projections indicate that all urban growth over the next 25 years will be in developing countries.[4] One billion people, one-sixth of the world's population, now live in shanty towns,[5] which are seen as "breeding grounds" for social problems such as crime, drug addiction, alcoholism, poverty and unemployment. In many poor countries overpopulated slums exhibit high rates of disease due to unsanitary conditions, malnutrition, and lack of basic health care.[6] By 2030, over 2 billion people in the world will be living in slums.[7] Already over 90% of the urban population of Ethiopia, Malawi and Uganda, three of the world's most rural countries, live in slums.

The megacity is where the best and worst of cities come together. Global connectedness and local disconnectedness characterize the regions. The level of slums contrasts the global capital building capabilities. This can be viewed as one of the tensions brought about by the globalization of modern cities.

In 2000, there were 18 megacities – conurbations such as Tokyo, Mexico City, Bombay, Sao Paulo and New York City – that have populations in excess of 10 million inhabitants. Greater Tokyo already has 35 million, more than the entire population of Canada.[8]

By 2025, according to the Far Eastern Economic Review, Asia alone will have at least 10 hypercities, those with 20 million or more, including Jakarta, Indonesia (24.9 million people), Dhaka, Bangladesh (25 million), Karachi, Pakistan (26.5 million), Shanghai (27 million) and Bombay (with a staggering 33 million).[9] Lagos, Nigeria has grown from 300,000 in 1950 to an estimated 15 million today, and the Nigerian government estimates that city will have expanded to 25 million residents by 2015.[10] Chinese experts forecast that Chinese cities will contain 800 million people by 2020.[11]

Megacities around the world

In 1950, New York was the only urban area with a population of over 10 million.[12] Geographers have identified 25 such areas as of October 2005[13], as compared with 19 megacities in 2004 and only nine in 1985. This increase has happened as the world's population moves towards the high (75–85%) urbanization levels of North America and Western Europe. The 1990 census marked the first time the majority of US citizens lived in cities with over 1 million inhabitants.

Today, the largest megacity is the Greater Tokyo Area. The population of this urban agglomeration includes areas such as Yokohama and Kawasaki, and is estimated to be between 30 and 34 million. The variation in estimates can be accounted for by different definitions of what the area encompasses. While the prefectures of Tokyo, Chiba, Kanagawa, and Saitama are commonly included in statistical information, the Japan Statistics Bureau only includes the area within 50 kilometers of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Offices in Shinjuku, thus arriving at a smaller population estimate.[14][15] A characteristic issue of megacities is the difficulty in defining their outer limits and accurately estimating the population.

The ten largest megacities, according to this criterion are, in decreasing order of population:

  1. Tokyo, Japan (35,197,000)
  2. Mexico City, Mexico (25,600,000)
  3. Seoul, South Korea (23,100,000)
  4. New York City, USA (21,800,000)
  5. Mumbai (Bombay), India (21,100,000)
  6. Delhi, India (20,800,000)
  7. São Paulo, Brazil (20,300,000)
  8. Karachi, Pakistan (19,600,000)
  9. Shanghai, China (18,600,000)
  10. Los Angeles, USA (17,900,000)

Source: Th. Brinkhoff: The Principal Agglomerations of the World, 2006-11-22

Other megacities include (in alphabetical order):

Another list defines megacities as urban agglomerations instead of metropolitan areas [1]. As of 2007, there are 22 megacities by this definition.

United Nations projections indicate a slow down of the emergence of new megacities after 2005. However, the expansion and merging of highly-urbanized zones may remain an important trend, as typified by the following:

Emerging megacities in China (in decreasing order of population):

Emerging megacities in India (in decreasing order of population):

Characteristics of Megacities in America

The Greater Los Angeles Metropolitan Region consists of 5 counties making up a population of over 15 million. The city of Los Angeles makes up less than one third of this total population. The cityspace of Orange County consists of municipalities containing no more than 300,000 each, but put together comprise a “county-city” of 2.6 million. This presents difficulties for census gathering. Sometimes it is included in Los Angeles population information but not recognized as a city-region of its own, and other times it is left out of the total figure.

Challenges Associated with Megacities

The world’s population of “slum” dwellers increases by 25 million every year. The majority of these numbers come from the fringes of urban margins, located in legal and illegal settlements with insufficient housing and sanitation. This has been caused by the massive migration, both internal and transnational, into cities. This has caused growth rates of urban populations and spatial concentrations not seen before in history. These issues raise problems in the political, social, and economic arenas. The record-setting populations living in urban slums have little or no access to education, healthcare, or the urban economy.

Global Megacities

Some features of the new urban age resemble those of the industrial urbanization of the North during the 19th and early 20th centuries, but to replicate policies that were successful for Europe and North America would not be an efficient path for the increasingly Global South and West.

Megacities defined as agglomerations

Another list also defines megacities as urban agglomerations (continuous urbanization). Currently (2007), the agglomerations of more than 10,000,000 inhabitants are as follows :

Rank Agglomeration name Country Population
1 Tokyo Japan 34,450,000
2 New York USA 20,420,000
3 Seoul Korea 20,090,000
4 São Paulo Brazil 19,700,000
5 Mumbai India 19,380,000
6 Jakarta (Jabotabek) Indonesia 19,300,000
7 Delhi India 18,560,000
8 Mexico City Mexico 18,410,000
9 Manila Philippines 17,320,000
10 Osaka-Kobe-Kyoto Japan 17,280,000
11 Cairo Egypt 16,000,000
12 Los Angeles USA 15,350,000
13 Kolkata India 14,580,000
14 Shanghai China 14,530,000
15 Moscow Russia 14,100,000
16 Buenos Aires Argentina 13,460,000
17 Beijing China 12,160,000
18 Shenzhen China 11,820,000
19 Rio de Janeiro Brazil 11,080,000
20 Istanbul Turkey 11,000,000
21 Paris France 10,570,000

(The above information is modeled for 2007 from population growth rates and is from [2] and [3]. The Manila figure is considerably higher than most lists, which limit their data to the administrative boundaries of Metro Manila. However, the continuous urbanization extends into Cavite, Laguna, Rizal and Bulacan provinces and is reflected in the higher figure in this list.)

Canadian usage of Megacity

In Canada, the 1990s saw the forced amalgamation of several municipal entities in the provinces of Nova Scotia, Ontario and Quebec into larger new municipalities. The process created what was labelled a megacity by the media, although none of the created municipalities fit in the definition of a megacity in the international sense.

Examples of megacities in Canada include:

  • Halifax - the cities of Halifax and Dartmouth and surrounding municipalities were merged in 1996 into the Halifax Regional Municipality, often called a "megacity," with a total population under 400,000.
  • Toronto - the municipalities that constituted the Municipality of Metropolitan Toronto were merged into a new City of Toronto in 1998.
  • Kawartha Lakes, Ontario - the primarily rural Victoria County had its townships, towns and villages merged into a "megacity" in 2000. The area has a population of only 70,000 (several thousand less than nearby city of Peterborough) yet takes up an area of 3,059.22 km² giving it a density of only a mere 22.6 persons per km².
  • Ottawa - the municipalities that constituted the Regional Municipality of Ottawa-Carleton were merged into a new City of Ottawa in 2001.
  • Gatineau - five municipalities in southwestern Quebec (Gatineau, Hull, Aylmer, Buckingham, and Masson-Angers) were merged into a new City of Gatineau in 2002.
  • Montreal - all of the municipalities on the island of Montreal were merged into a new City of Montreal for a short period of time until January 1st, 2006, when a partial demerger occurred.
  • Greater Sudbury - resulted from the merger of the former Regional Municipality of Sudbury in 2001.

For more information on Ontario "megacities," see the article on the Common Sense Revolution.

Megacities in fiction

Fictional megacities feature in much dystopian science fiction, with examples such as the Sprawl, featured in William Gibson's Neuromancer, and Mega-City One, a megalopolis of over 400 million people across the east coast of the United States, features in the Judge Dredd comic, serialised in 2000 AD.

Demolition Man (1993) features a megacity called "San Angeles", formed from the joining of Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, San Diego, and the surrounding metropolitan regions following a massive earthquake.

Planet-wide megacities (ecumenopoleis) have been depicted, including Trantor in Isaac Asimov's Foundation series of books, Coruscant in the Star Wars universe, 'City Europe' in David Wingrove's Chung Kuo series of books, Holy Terra and the hive cities of Necromunda in Warhammer 40,000, and Ravnica in the eponymous Magic: The Gathering expansion. In Stargate Atlantis, the Asurans appear to have an extremely large city that may or may not be an ecumenopolis, named Asuras.

Many of these fictional depictions were inspired by Fritz Lang's 1927 film, Metropolis. Ridley Scott's 1982 film, Blade Runner, features an influential depiction of Los Angeles in 2019.

The MMORPG game "Guild Wars" has a massive, fictional megacity on its southern continent, Cantha, called Kaineng City which is very run down, corrupted, and in colossal slums and poverty. The city is a daily struggle for survival infested with crime, plagues, starvation, and a massive sewer system called the "undercity".

Another MMORPG game City of Heroes is set in the fictional megacity known as Paragon City, which contains two other cities: Galaxy City and Skyway City. In the two novels based on the game as well as the official timeline for the game, Paragon City has existed at least as far back as the early to mid-1800s. Paragon is depicted as being one of if not the single largest city on Earth in its world setting.

The sprawling metropolis featured in The Matrix series of films can be considered a megacity. While the city is never referenced by name in the films, in the MMORPG The Matrix Online, the city itself is simply called the Mega City.

Naming scheme for megalopoleis

A number of megalopoleis use portmanteau words as their names (e.g. ChiPitts, BosWash, and SanSan).


Szablon:Sourcesstart Szablon:Reflist Szablon:Sourcesend Soja, Edward W.. "Postmetropolis, Critical Studies of Cities and Regions". Blackwell Publishing Ltd., 2000 (alk. paper, ISBN 1-55718-000-3; paperback, ISBN 1-55718-001-1)

See also

External links

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