Feb 8, 2011 • While urban expansion in Europe and America has been stymied by the recent economic slowdown, the developing world’s cities have been gobbling up land. In cities with more than 100,000 people, urban land cover expansion is outpacing population growth. In a policy report released by the non-partisan Lincoln Institute of Land Policy in January, researcher Shlomo Angel and colleagues used Landsat data to look at the urban expansion of 120 international cities during the decade spanning from 1990 to 2000. They found that urban expansion (“built-up” area) was growing twice as fast as population.
In 43 years the world’s urban population is expected to double, but urban land cover will double in less than half that time (19 years). In the cities of developing countries population is expected to double between 2000 and 2030 and urban land cover (predicted by trends in this report) will triple.
Based on the growth metrics gathered, the report recommends that in many developing cities a “make room” paradigm of urban planning should be used in place of a “smart growth” or “containment” policy. The report may spark keen debate on the subject.