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  • 1. The Economist May 5th 2007 A special report on cities 3 The world goes to townAlso in this sectionThe strange allure of the slumsPeople prefer urban squalor to rural hope-lessness. Page 5A cul-de-sac of povertySuccessful cities need economic growth.Page 9Thronged, creaking and lthyBursting cities, bust infrastructure.Page 12Failures at the topLucky the city with a decent government.Page 14In place of GodCulture replaces religion. Page 15 After this year the majority of people will live in cities. Human historyThe reinvention test will ever more emphatically become urban history, says John GrimondA successful city must expect to go throughseveral rebirths over time. Page 17 W HETHER you think the human story begins in a garden in Mesopotamia known as Eden, or more prosaically on the urban one. Cities’ development is synony- mous with human development. The rst villages came with the emergence of agri-Et in suburbia ego? savannahs of present-day east Africa, it is culture and the domestication of animals:With age, cities go centrifugal but maybe clear that Homo sapiens did not start life as people no longer had to wander as theynot for ever. Page 18 an urban creature. Man’s habitat at the out- hunted and gathered but could instead set was dominated by the need to nd draw together in settlements, allowing food, and hunting and foraging were rural some to develop particular skills and all to pursuits. Not until the end of the last ice live in greater safety from predators. After age, around 11,000 years ago, did he start a while the farmers could produce sur- building anything that might be called a pluses, at least in good times, and the va- village, and by that time man had been rious products of the villagers grain, around for about 120,000 years. It took an- meat, cloth, pots could be exchanged. other six millennia, to the days of classical Around 2000BC metal tokens, the forerun- antiquity, for cities of more than 100,000 ners of coins, were produced as receipts for people to develop. Even in 1800 only 3% of quantities of grain placed in granaries. Not the world’s population lived in cities. coincidentally, cities began to take shape Sometime in the next few months, though, at about the same time. that proportion will pass the 50% mark, if it They did so, rst, in the Fertile Crescent, has not done so already. Wisely or not, the sweep of productive land that ran Homo sapiens has become Homo urbanus. through Iraq, Syria, Jordan and Palestine, In terms of human history this may from which Jericho, Ur, Nineveh and seem a welcome development. It would Babylon (pictured above) would emerge. be contentious to say that nothing of con- In time came other cities in other places: sequence has ever come out of the coun- Harappa and Mohenjodaro in the Indus tryside. The wheel was presumably a rural valley, Memphis and Thebes in Egypt, Yin invention. Even city-dwellers need bread and Shang cities in China, Mycenae in as well as circuses. And if Dr Johnson and Greece, Knossos in Crete, Ugarit in SyriaA list of sources is at Shelley were right to say that poets are the and, most spectacularly, Rome, the rst true legislators of mankind, then all those great metropolis, which boasted, at its ze- hills and lakes and other rural delights nith in the third century AD, a population must be given credit for inspiring them. of more than 1m people.An audio interview with the author is at But the rural contribution to human Living together meant security. But progress seems slight compared with the people also drew together for the practical 1
  • 2. 4 A special report on cities The Economist May 5th 20072 advantages of being in a particular place: of course, and they were not all the same. and technology: improvements in medi- by a river or spring, on a defensible hill or As they developed, some were most nota- cine, coupled with new knowledge about peninsula, next to an estuary or other ble for their religious role (latter-day ways to avoid disease, have enabled more source of food. Also important, argue his- Rome), as the hub of an empire (Constan- and more people to live together without torians, was a settlement’s capacity to tinople, Vijayanagara), as centres of ad- succumbing as once they did to diarrhoea, draw people to it as a meeting-place, often ministration (Beijing), political develop- tuberculosis, cholera and other pesti- for sacred or spiritual purposes. Graves, ment (Florence), learning (Bologna, Fez), lences. The same developments, however, groves, even caves might become shrines commerce (Hamburg) or a special product have similarly lengthened lives in the or places for ceremonies and rituals, to (Toledo). Some ourished, some died, countryside, leading to a huge increase in which people would make a pilgrimage. their longevity depending on factors as va- rural population. Human ingenuity has Man did not live by bread alone. ried as conquest, plague, misgovernment not matched this increase with com- But bread, in the broadest sense, was or economic collapse. mensurate growth in rural prosperity. As a important. People came to cities not just to result, ever more villagers have been up- worship but to trade the shrine was often Technology turns even-handed ping sticks to seek a better life in the city. the market, too and the goods they Whatever the particular circumstances of The sheer scale and speed of the cur- bought and sold were not just farm pro- a city, though, its vigour was likely to be af- rent urban expansion make it unlike any ducts but the manufactures of urban arti- fected by technological change. Just as it of the big changes that have punctuated sans and skilled workers. The city became was improvements in farming that urban history. It mostly consists of poor a centre of exchange, both of goods and of brought about the surpluses that made people migrating in unprecedented num- ideas, and so it also became a centre of possible the rst xed settlements, so it bers, and then producing babies on a simi- learning, innovation and sophistication. was improvements in transport that made larly unprecedented scale. It is thus largely This was so not just in the Fertile Cres- possible the development of trade on a phenomenon of poor and middle-in- cent but, over the centuries, in Alexandria which the prosperity of so many cities de- come countries; the rich world has put and Amsterdam, Cambay and Constan- pended. Other technological changes most of its urbanisation behind it. tinople, London and Lisbon, Teotihuacán made it possible to survive in a city. The In poor countries, though, the trend is 1 and Tenochtitlán. It was in the city that Romans, for instance, constructed aque- man was liberated from the tyranny of the ducts to bring fresh water to their towns 2 soil and could develop skills, learn from and sewers to provide sanitation. More city-dominance other people, study, teach and develop the But only the rich bene ted. Most Ro- Urban and rural population by region, bn social arts that made country folk seem mans, and many city-dwellers throughout 2005: 2030: bumpkins. Homo urbanus did not just live history, lived in squalor, and many died of Urban Rural Urban Rural in a town: he was urbane. it. Towns were crowded and insanitary; 0 1 2 3 4 5 Cities were much more than all of this, people were often malnourished; and dis- ease spread fast. Though cities grew in size Europe and number for long periods, they could 1 North America More cities decline and fall, too. Between 1000 and Number of cities by population 1300 Europe’s urban population more Africa 2000 2015 than doubled, to about 70m (thanks partly Africa to a new system of crop rotation, made Asia possible by better tools). Then, with the Latin America 0 20 40 60 80 Black Death, it fell by a quarter. Country & the Caribbean 0.5m-1m people died too, but the city-dwellers were Oceania especially vulnerable. Their health de- 1m-5m pended above all on clean water and sani- Urban population by region, % over 5m tation, which few had, and cheap soap and North America Oceania medicines, which had yet to be invented. Latin America and World Asia Not surprisingly, the next big change in the Caribbean Asia 0 20 40 60 80 the development of the city also turned on Europe Africa 195 a leap in technology: the invention of en- 100 0.5m-1m 241 gines and manufacturing machinery. The 1m-5m 166 244 Industrial Revolution did nothing at rst to 80 make urban life easier, but it did provide over 5m jobs lots of them. With the new factories 60 of the industrial age that began in the late Latin America and the Caribbean 18th century was born an entirely new ur- 0 20 40 60 80 ban era. Peasants left the land in their mul- 40 0.5m-1m titudes to live in new cities, rst in the north of England, then all over Europe and 20 1m-5m North America. By 1900, 13% of the over 5m world’s population had become urban. 0 The latest leap, from 13% to 50% in just 1950 60 70 80 90 2000 10 20 30 Source: UN-Habitat Source: UN World Urbanisation Prospects 2005 revision 107 years, also owes something to science
  • 3. The Economist May 5th 2007 A special report on cities 52 set to continue. The United Nations fore- ity. The cities that now go by that generic world. Security, once one of the main rea- casts that today’s urban population of 3.2 name are far from Arcadian. Successful sons for huddling together, is often now billion will rise to nearly 5 billion by 2030, these places may be, if success is measured more elusive in the druggy streets of the when three out of ve people will live in by growth of population. But most are in metropolis than in the exurbs. And tech- cities. The increase will be most dramatic poor countries and many, if not most, of nology, which has usually favoured urban in the poorest and least-urbanised conti- their inhabitants live in slums. progress, now enables people to work in nents, Asia and Africa. They are the ones In the rich world, though, the city is un- rural bliss on home computers. No won- least able to cope. Already over 90% of the dergoing very di erent changes. Many of der so many cities nd that in order to urban population of Ethiopia, Malawi and the new towns that ourished in the In- ourish they have to reinvent themselves. Uganda, three of the world’s most rural dustrial Revolution and the manufactur- Nearly all rich-country cities, whether countries, live in slums. ing era that followed have been losing prospering or declining, worry about Within ten years the world will have population. Even New York, for so long the transport, pollution, energy, pockets of nearly 500 cities of more than 1m people. epitome of urban sophistication, went poverty and so on. These o er troubles a- Most of the newcomers will be absorbed through a bad patch in the 1970s. Some cit- plenty. But they are of a di erent order to in a metropolis of up to 5m people. But ies retain their role as administrative cen- those faced by poor-country cities, whose some will live in a megacity, de ned as tres, by virtue of their political status. problems are vastly greater and resources home to 10m or more inhabitants. In 1950 Some are still trading hubs, by virtue of vastly smaller. While rich cities fret over a only New York and Tokyo could claim to their geographical position. Some endure relatively modest ebb and ow of popula- be as big, but by 2020, says the UN, nine cit- simply because they have reached an equi- tion, poor cities must cope with a tidal ies Delhi, Dhaka, Jakarta, Lagos, Mexico librium. But others struggle. wave of migrants. City, Mumbai, New York, São Paulo and Of the traditional reasons for urban liv- So the history of the city has come to a Tokyo will have more than 20m inhabit- ing, several (the presence of the shrine, the fork. This report will explore the diverging ants. Greater Tokyo already has 35m, more proximity of food) have lost their impor- paths of rich and poor, and the prospects than the entire population of Canada. tance. Some of what the city provided for the city if the developing world can one The Megalopolis of the ancient world (shops, factories) can now be o ered in day clamber out of poverty. First, though, was in Arcadia, a part of Greece cited by suburban malls or industrial parks or in it looks at the urban reality awaiting the Virgil as a model of happy, rural simplic- low-cost urban rivals in the developing Dick Whittingtons of the 21st century. 7 The strange allure of the slums People prefer urban squalor to rural hopelessness N O CONTINENT is urbanising faster than Africa. Why? One answer is partly statistical: Africa has been the slow- Africa’s largest, densest and poorest slum. It probably is not. Luanda, Kinshasa and Lagos, the world’s fastest-growing foot); the dust (in the dry seasons) and the mud (when it rains); the squalor (you often have to pick your way through streams of est to get started. Another is that parts of megacity, may all have slums to match black ooze); the hazards (low eaves of jag- Africa, such as the Sahel, have been af- Kibera, whose population is put at any- ged corrugated iron); and the litter, espe- fected recently by severe climate change, thing from 600,000 to 1.2m, depending cially the plastic (Kibera’s women, lacking making marginal land unfarmable. And in both on the estimator and on the time of sanitation and fearing robbery or rape if countries like Angola and Congo years of year, many of its inhabitants being sea- they risk the unlit pathways to the latrines, ghting have propelled millions to the cit- sonal migrants. What makes Kibera un- resort at night to the ying toilet , a poly- ies. But a fuller explanation is needed. A usual is, rst, that its 256 hectares (630 thene bag to be cast from their doorway, look at Nairobi provides some answers, acres) sit right in the middle of Nairobi much as chamber pots were emptied into and throws up more questions. and, second, that it nds itself on the door- the street below in pre-plumbing Edin- For many years the biggest city in east step of Habitat, the UN’s agency for towns burgh). Most striking of all, to those inured Africa, where human life seems to have and cities, which is based in a campus of to the sight of such places through photog- begun, was not a bad advertisement for bucolic tranquillity not far away. Accord- raphy, is the smell. With piles of human the urban condition. As the capital of Ken- ingly, Kibera gets no end of attention from faeces littering the ground and sewage run- ya, Nairobi had the subdued bustle of an outsiders, whether governments throwing ning freely, the stench is ever-present. administrative centre, some industry, ho- money at it, NGOs engaged in mapping tels for tourists on their way to or from and studying it, or lm stars shooting The Not much, but it’s home wildlife safaris, lots of greenery and even a Constant Gardener . Ban Ki-moon paid it a Striking, too, though, is the apparent con- small forest. The population in 1960 was visit within a month of becoming the UN’s tentment with which the inhabitants ac- about 250,000. Today the forest remains, secretary-general this year. cept their lot. It falls short of cheerfulness: but, with 3m people, Nairobi has lost Most of what makes Kibera interesting, tension is constant in Kibera, and small in- much of its charm. The tra c is awful, as is though, is what it shares with other Afri- cidents can quickly turn nasty. But most the crime, and the superlatives are usually can slums. The density (shacks packed so people are busy getting on with life. reserved for Kibera, which is supposedly tightly that many are accessible only on Churches abound, and schools too. Chil- 1
  • 4. 6 A special report on cities The Economist May 5th 20072 dren play in the dirt or on the railway tary service in the rst world war with the the outskirts, by the airport or somewhere tracks that bisect the slum. Stall-holders right of abode in Kibera. They now jostle out of sight. But the people of Kibera are sell their goods. Men, ragged or smartly with others who have established, suspicious of e orts to improve their hous- dressed in dark suits, clean their teeth through custom, corruption or force, the ing. In the 1980s they saw some of their wherever they can spit. right to put up a unit . These are then land taken for new ats, 400 in all. No one Indoors, things can be more wretched. rented out to tenants, who have no rights in Kibera bene ted, says Raphael Handa, a On the northern slope of the area known of any kind. The cost of erecting a shack is clergyman who heads a community com- as Soweto East, Josephine Kadenyi lives in recouped within a year or two. mittee set up with support from Habitat a shack three metres square (ten feet by ten Daniel arap Moi, who served as presi- and the government; all the tenants were feet). It consists of one room, with a curtain dent of Kenya from 1978 to 2002, has long brought in from outside. dividing it. It has no electricity and no sani- owned a house that abuts Kibera. Like al- tation. Outside is a vast heap of litter and most all other ministers of his as well as Same story in Mumbai plastic bags used by children as a lavatory. the present government, he does his best The people of Kibera are increasingly or- Just below that, 14 thin water pipes emerge to ignore the slum next door. Kenyan poli- ganised, and increasingly determined to from the ground, bound with sticky tape in ticians seldom if ever visit it, or indeed the be involved in any plans to spruce up their a half-successful e ort to stem the leaks. 200 or so smaller informal settlements slum. In this they are typical of their coun- Sewage runs alongside. Mrs Kadenyi in Nairobi, even though 60% of the capi- terparts elsewhere. But in other respects, makes her living by selling uncontami- tal’s population live in these slums. Several do Africa’s new cities, slums and slum- nated water and looking after the disabled politicians are, however, reputed to be dwellers resemble those in other conti- child of a neighbour. landlords, as are many civil servants and nents? An ocean away, Mumbai o ers In NGO-speak, Kibera is an informal other local worthies. plenty of parallels. settlement. That means it does not o - Why does the government not bull- Between 14m and 18m people live in cially exist. The government provides doze Kibera and rehouse everyone in Mumbai, according to where you draw the nothing. If there are schools or latrines or multi-storey ats on the same site? Oh, that city limits, maybe half of them in slums. washrooms, they are privately run (it costs would be very complicated, the ques- That is about the same proportion as in three shillings, about four American cents, tioner is told. The di culties abound, ap- Nairobi. But as you drive in from the air- to use the latrine). The government pro- parently, and they are not all nancial. The port or along P. D’Mello Road by the port, vides no basic services, no schools, no hos- real reason is that lots of people make lots you quickly see that these slums are classy. pital, no clinics, no running water, no lava- of money from the slums, providing the Many of the shacks on the pavements are tories. It does, however, own nearly all the services the state does not provide and ex- double-decked, and beds, chairs, goats and 1 land, so if you want to put up a shack, you tracting the bribes that anyone living in an must go to the chief, a civil servant in the illegal city has to pay just to survive. More- provincial government, and get his per- over, the slums provide the cheap labour mission. For a consideration, perhaps that enables the city to operate. The status 5,000 shillings (about $70), this can be ob- quo suits the authorities quite nicely. tained, but you receive no piece of paper, And what about the people who live in merely an oral consent. Kibera? Strangely, it suits them too, up to a Most shacks are in fact owned by land- point anyway. Asked whether she lords , some of them descended from Nu- wouldn’t prefer to go back to the village in bians rewarded by the British for their mili- western Kenya that she left six years ago, Mrs Kadenyi says, Yes, of course. But what would I do back home? What in- 3 Squashed in squalor deed? Kenya’s average rate of population Urban population living in slums growth for the past 30 years has been over % of total, 2005 3% a year, putting enormous pressure on Slum annual growth rate, % the land. With mouths to feed and no pros- 0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 pect of a job in the countryside, the rural poor head for the cities. There at least they Sub-Saharan Africa 4.53 have some hope of employment. South Asia 2.20 Hope is all it is for most of them, at least East Asia 2.28 in the formal economy. But hope is what Latin America & 1.28 keeps them in places like Kibera. It may be the Caribbean Ex-Soviet Asia 0.11 a dump, but it is central. This means that anyone lucky enough to have a job, either West Asia 2.71 in the o ces or houses of the city, or in the East Asia exl. China 1.76 industrial area nearby, can walk to work. North Africa –0.15 Those who have to peddle goods or search South-East Asia 1.34 for casual labour are equally well placed. Oceania 3.24 Being able to avoid a time-consuming and Ex-Soviet Europe –0.33 expensive commute is a great bene t. Still, centrality does not have to mean Source: UN-Habitat squalor. In many cities the slums are on
  • 5. 8 A special report on cities The Economist May 5th 20072 children spill on to the street, where head- were to have any in uence. Plain con- carriers porters with straight backs frontation is much less successful, says Ce- wash themselves from buckets. line d’Cruz, who works with Mumbai’s The peninsula of modern Mumbai pavement-dwellers, than informed argu- was, 350 years ago, seven islands, which ment, backed by statistics, surveys and the have gradually been joined and expanded involvement of lots of potential victims. by land lls to make up 65 square kilo- Thanks to the e orts of such groups metres of land shaped a bit like a chilli pep- and consequent changes in the law, there per. The city is hot in every sense but, more are fewer evictions nowadays. The con- seriously, it is crowded, and room for ex- troversies, instead, surround e orts to im- pansion is limited. Until 60 years ago new- prove the slums. The idea now in vogue is comers to Mumbai tended to settle just to bring in a developer, let him put up outside, at Dharavi, where no rules ap- multi-storey buildings, use some of the plied and so sheep could be slaughtered ats to rehouse those living on the site and and hides tanned. Over the years ever sell others at a pro t. Slum-dwellers often more people came and squatted, and the have enough money to pay rent, and such city, India’s nancial and commercial cap- deals remove a nancial burden from the ital, expanded. Today about 600,000 peo- local authority or landlord. ple live in Dharavi’s 210 hectares, which But the scheme is controversial. Some now lie in the heart of Mumbai. Dharavi’s slum-dwellers are too poor to pay even a boast is that it is the biggest slum in Asia. service charge, which will be levied in re- Conditions here are similar to Kibera’s: Even Diogenes would despair turn for water and the use of a lift, even if miserable housing, no security of tenure, the ats are rent-free. Others complain that contaminated water for the 40% lucky tion of shack- and slum-dwellers. only those who were resident before 1995 enough to have it piped, mud for four People in Dharavi look cheerful. Every- will be eligible for rehousing, leaving months out of 12, bribes needed for a blind one is busy and many are reasonably well newer arrivals with nowhere to go. Mr Ar- eye to be turned to an illegal electricity o . Some live in ats and own television putham, who is not against development, connection, one lavatory for 800 people, sets and other electronic gadgets. Among says the chosen developer has no plans for the stink of sewage, and so on. slum-dwellers they are fortunate, for, like a sewer and will undoubtedly make People come here for familiar reasons, Kibera, Dharavi is central, close not just to 25,000 families homeless. too. Life is grindingly hard for many rural the diamond market and the nancial cen- Others worry that such schemes will Indians. Agriculture has recently been tre but also the airport, beyond which allow corrupt o cials and corrupt de- growing at only 2% a year, while the econ- most Mumbaikars live. Many therefore velopers to make huge fortunes at the ex- omy as a whole booms at over 8%. Crops spend hours getting to and from work. pense of the poor. Under the headline fail, and many farmers are so deeply in About 7m commuters make their journey Mumbai’s great slum robbery , the Hin- debt that they are little more than bonded to and from the bottom of the peninsula dustan Times recently published details of labourers. Suicide is common: in just one each day. The roads are jammed and the a police investigation involving, it was region of Maharashtra, the state of which trains over owing: 700 passengers are claimed, pay-o s to o cials to free the Mumbai is the capital, 1,450 farmers killed crammed into (or clinging onto) carriages builders’ hands. Shirish Patel, a civil engi- themselves last year. In particular, many meant for 120. About 3,000 people are neer with a long-standing concern for dalits, members of the lowest Hindu caste, killed on the tracks each year. planning the city, believes that there are see no hope of betterment amid the harsh Some people from the slums have been simply too many people in Dharavi to al- conservatism of rural India. Their only happily resettled farther out but close to a low a developer to rehouse everyone and hope is to move to the cities. It is an echo of railway, which gives them ready access to at the same time make an honest pro t. what happened in medieval Europe, when their work. Others are bene ting from the More generally, he believes that both moving to a city was for many an escape citizens’ groups that have taken root. Mr government and developers have a strong from serfdom. Stadtluft macht frei (City air Arputham’s National Slum-Dwellers interest in keeping property prices high sets you free), said the Germans. Association, for instance, is allied to a co- and Mumbai’s rank among the highest in operative through which some 250,000 the world. Vijay Mahajan, of Bombay First, Beats commuting, too people, nearly all of them women, regu- a businessmen’s group formed to promote Life may indeed be a bit easier in a city. larly put money aside for their common and improve the city, agrees. The higher Jockin Arputham, who has lived in Mum- good. And governments, donors and inter- the prices, the more builders can charge. bai’s slums since 1963, when he was 16, national agencies nd the two organisa- As for the politicians, they pro t from an makes Dharavi sound almost romantic. tions to be reliable partners if they want to invisible line that runs directly from slum- You don’t have to work very hard to make improve slum life. lord to local politician to state minister to a living, he says. You can collect and sell Mr Arputham got involved in commu- his boss. Money runs up along this line, garbage. You can always ask people for nity action in 1975, when the authorities and so do votes. In return, the government food, and to sleep somewhere. He made decided to clear the slum in which he lived lets the slums remain undemolished. It is a his bed on someone’s verandah for 12 to make way for the Atomic Energy De- pay-and-stay arrangement. years. Then he founded an organisation partment. He failed to stop the evictions, Nairobi and Mumbai certainly have for the inhabitants of India’s slums. Now but learnt that people a ected by such lots in common. Luckily, other places have he is also head of the international federa- clearance schemes had to organise if they fared better. The outlook is not all bleak. 7
  • 6. The Economist May 5th 2007 A special report on cities 9 A cul-de-sac of poverty Successful cities need economic growthT HE English men and women who ed their farms and villages in the late 18thcentury to seek a better life in the factories an interest in cities, and ideas are now cir- culating about upgrading slums and at- tacking urban poverty. Some of these con- Mexico City’s equalled that of Thailand. This is not to say that all cities will prosper in step with each other, or with theof burgeoning Manchester, Leeds and cern the problems of illegal squatting, nation as a whole. In both rich and poorBradford found no streets paved with gold. which are now well known. With no title countries, some cities may ourish as oth-Rather, they encountered disease, malnu- to your shack you have no incentive to im- ers decline. Several metropolitan areas intrition and often brutality. In his book prove it, no way to insure it, no collateral America’s Great Lakes region never mind The City , Joel Kotkin cites the West In- with which to secure a loan, no address the cities at their heart, such as Bu alo,dian slave-holder who, on a visit to Brad- with which to become an o cial citizen, Cleveland and Pittsburgh have long beenford, could not believe that anyone could let alone to open a bank account: you are losing inhabitants, their population is age- be so cruel as to require a child of nine to locked in poverty. Yet there is money in ing and income growth has lagged behindwork 12½ hours a day. Yet by 1850, says Mr slums, and enterprise and numbers. rivals in other parts of the country.Kotkin, this time quoting Alexis de Tocque- Even Mumbai’s economy, successfulville, there was in Britain at every step Getting it together though it seems, has been growing less fastsomething to make the tourist’s heart Many ideas to unlock the enterprise turn than the economies of such places as Ben-leap. Social activists and enlightened pro- on using the numbers. This can be done, galooru (Bangalore), Chennai and Hyder-fessionals had brought about legislative say, by encouraging a majority of the local abad. Indeed, in 2003 Mumbai’s growthreforms; and the bene ts of mechanisa- residents to form a savings group or a co- rate was behind Maharashtra’s, which wastion, plus wages pushed up by trade un- operative and ask the municipality to behind India’s. Sanjay Ubale, the state o -ions, had enabled the poor to start buying grant collective development rights, some cial in charge of co-ordinating all the plansthe sort of cheap goods they were helping of which may be used in the slum and to develop the city, says that $10 billion ofto make. Cities now seemed almost heroic. some sold o . Other community groups, public and private money is being spentCan today’s urban poor expect to see a under a suitable leader, may be able to ne- on infrastructure projects. That will besimilar transformation? gotiate with a commercial lender and then welcome, but surely not enough if Mum- In many places, such as India, says hire a project manager to oversee the re- bai is to realise its ambition to overtakeEduardo Lopez-Moreno, head of the UN’s housing of several people. Or a group of Hong Kong and Singapore as a nancialGlobal Urban Observatory, new migrants co-ops may hire a nancial intermediary. centre, and to become a world-class city .to the towns are no better o than they A more top-down approach is to ask In some respects cities compete withwere in the country. And in poorer nations governments to issue land certi cates indi- each other, even across borders. Fiercegenerally the proportion of urban poor is cating a range of personal rights rather competition now takes place within Indiaactually increasing faster than the rate of than strict title deeds. This has worked to win, say, a new BMW plant or a Nokiaurbanisation. But the hope that keeps poor well on a small scale in a dozen African special economic zone. Similarly, Hongpeople in cities is not always vain. Asia countries. Vietnam has successfully Kong and Shanghai vie to call themselvesshows that even a region in which 40% of brought in the concept of private lease- China’s nancial capital, just as New Yorkthe inhabitants already live in cities, and hold. Other schemes involve a donor ac- and London vie for the world title. Thewhich is urbanising almost as fast as Af- cepting the responsibility of upgrading a busiest stock exchange may mean therica, is not condemned to misery for ever. slum in return for a sovereign debt. lion’s share of the market in nancial ser- In the early 1970s over half of Asians All these ideas have their merits and vices, and the jobs that go with it.were poor; they could expect to live, on av- should be copied more widely. But the In general, though, one city’s successerage, to an age of only 48 years; and two- main conclusion to be drawn from the suc- does not mean another’s failure. Only fths of adults were illiterate. Today the cess stories is that few poor people in cities when they are competing for nite re-proportion of poor people is about a quar- will grow richer if their local economy is sources or a speci c prize, an investmentter, life expectancy has risen to 69 years, not growing, and few local economies will or the Olympic games, say, does one cityand about 70% can read and write. That prosper if the national economy is not also stand to gain at another’s expense. Mostdoes not mean that everyone has bene- prospering. Cities often play a dispropor- cities must therefore hope that they can ted. Far from it: Asia still accounts for two- tionate role in the national economy. bene t from a sound national economicthirds of the world’s poor, of whom 250m Mumbai accounts for 40% of India’s tax policy. Even in an expanding economy,are in cities. But even the urban poor of revenues, for example; Tokyo accounts for the bene ts of growth do not alwaysSouth Asia, who have been largely by- a third of Japan’s GDP; and over three- trickle down to the slums very fast. That ispassed by the growth that has lifted East quarters of Senegal’s industrial produc- why other policies are needed, too. But inAsia, have reason to hope for better times. tion comes from around Dakar. In abso- places where growth has been negative, Not much of it is coming the way it did lute terms, too, cities can be huge wealth notably Africa, it is well nigh impossible toin the 19th century, though. It is true that creators. Seoul’s economy equalled the eradicate slums. Even so, life for the urbanactivists and donors are beginning to take whole of Argentina’s in the late 1990s, and poor can be improved. 7
  • 7. 12 A special report on cities The Economist May 5th 2007 Thronged, creaking and lthy Bursting cities, bust infrastructure I T IS hard to say exactly what makes for a successful city. Some can be polluted and alive, others spotless and sterile. Still, that some crucial element of the scheme was missing. Yet in Quito, the capital of Ec- uador, and Bogotá, that of Colombia, the long-buried river seen by the locals as a source of spiritual life. That, and his im- provements to the public-transport sys- no one wants to live in a city that is impos- Curitiba bus system has worked well, and tem, have done wonders for his popular- sibly congested, su ers constant blackouts it has been copied successfully from Ja- ity. He now hopes to become president. and frequent oods, chops down its trees, karta to Brisbane and Ottawa to Rouen. concretes over its parks, has awful schools In most other places, though, people Dirty water, fetid air and hospitals, is devoid of any buildings who can a ord cars seem to prefer them. Cities can be great levellers: congested of charm or character and is governed by Public transport is often slow, unreliable streets and immobile trains hit rich and corrupt politicians and incompetent civil and unpleasant. Edward Glaeser, of Har- poor alike. Similarly, when Hurricane Ka- servants. Yet many people have to. vard University, reckons that the average trina swept across America’s Gulf coast on Transport can sometimes de ne the American commuter’s journey takes 48 August 29th 2005, deluging New Orleans form of a city, as river tra c helped shape minutes by public transport but only 24 and making more than 1m people home- Tudor London’s Thames-side expansion, minutes by car. No wonder so many less, the world realised that nature could and the freeways that replaced the old light Americans drive to work. In Tehran petrol smite a rich country as easily as a poor one. railways of Los Angeles are both the arter- is heavily subsidised, so taxis are cheap, An equally sobering lesson, though, ies and the bone structure of the modern and the new metro is still far from com- had come just a month earlier, on July city. Transport, too, is often the most obvi- plete. Karachi is probably the biggest city 26th, when 994mm (over three feet) of rain ous of a city’s shortcomings. From Beijing in the world without a rail network of any had fallen in 24 hours on Mumbai. A third to Tehran to São Paulo, streets are choked kind, and the buses are overloaded. Those of the city was submerged, hundreds of with tra c and pedestrians are choking who have the option mostly drive. people lost their lives and thousands of with fumes. Probably the only way to get people out homes were destroyed. The two events The solution to this is clear: good public of their cars is to hit their pockets. Singa- should give pause for thought, for the new transport. In some places that is recog- pore was the rst city to introduce road urge to urbanise has been matched not just nised. In southern Brazil, Curitiba, the cap- charges, in 1975. London and Oslo have fol- by global warming but by another mass ital of Paraná state, has been trying to keep lowed suit (Stockholm will join them), movement: a dash for the coast. 1 its transport system abreast of an expand- with some success in reducing tra c. But ing city’s needs since the 1940s, when the punitive charges will work only if the dis- town got its rst urban plan. In the 1970s a placed drivers can switch to a decent pub- busy commercial street was pedestrian- lic transport system. Often they cannot. ised a rst for Brazil and elsewhere Some cities are trying to build rail sys- buses and local tra c were made to run tems, but many seem, even so, to be down the centre of broad roads while doomed to reliance on buses. Manila’s faster tra c whizzed one way down either new railway carries only 8% of the tra c; side. In the 1980s the city went increas- Bangkok’s smart new sky train and metro ingly green, creating parks, extending the only 3%; and Kolkata’s metro even less. transport system and bringing in multi- Happy the people of Copenhagen, two- carriage buses. The transport authority fths of whom bicycle to work. collected the fares and paid the bus oper- A half-way house for many is a scooter ator. Curitiba’s buses achieved average or motorbike. Yet even these are under speeds above 20kph, carrying 12,000 pas- threat. Guangzhou, the richest city in sengers at peak hours. Rail transport gener- mainland China and therefore a magnet ally does better, but the buses were popu- for migrants, has recently banned mopeds lar and cheap (though they have recently and motorbikes, supposedly to reduce been losing market share). congestion and crime but in reality to dis- Other Brazilian cities have copied Curi- courage job-seeking incomers. Neither ob- tiba, but without much success. Their fail- jective is likely to be achieved. ure is blamed on the imperfections of de- A greater folly, however, can be seen in mocracy: the Curitiban reforms were those Chinese cities that are responding to pushed through with military backing clogged roads by building carriageways during a dictatorship that ended in 1985, one above the other. Such places would do since when other cities’ e orts have been better to emulate Seoul, whose last mayor stymied by the lobbying of the a ected tore down an elevated freeway in the mid- bus companies. This has always ensured dle of the city and thus restored to view a Green exercise machines
  • 8. The Economist May 5th 2007 A special report on cities 132 Two- fths of the world’s cities of to reduce air pollution. Fifteen years ago it 1m-10m people, and 15 of the world’s 20 was a byword for foul air, a city where the megacities, lie on or near a coast, where tra c stood still and anyone tempted to re- many are at risk from ooding. Their vul- sort to a tuk-tuk, the local version of the In- nerability is likely to increase. London dian open-sided auto-rickshaw, risked as- built a barrier in the 1980s to save it from phyxiation. It was much like Beijing, São the oods that occasionally saturated parts Paulo or Mexico City, where views are usu- of the city when high tides and storms co- ally seen only in pictures and the atmo- incided. The barrier was raised only 27 sphere can be cut with a knife. times between 1986 and 1996. In the next In Bangkok, though, a group of city o - ten years it went up 66 times. Forecasters cials, with notably little support from a say that, thanks to the rising sea level, it succession of ephemeral governments, will go up and down ever more frequently, has reduced the air-pollution levels by and may be overwhelmed by 2030. 20-50%, depending on the measure, de- In most cities, rich or poor, it is the less spite an increase in vehicles of 40% in the well o who are most at risk from oods past ten years alone. They have done so by and natural disasters. It was the poor of imposing ercer pollution controls on cars, New Orleans, nearly a third of the popula- raising taxes on two-stroke motorbikes tion, who lived in the lowest-lying parts of and making all taxis run on (subsidised) the city and su ered most from Katrina’s lique ed natural gas. wrath. Similarly, it was the urban poor of Natural gas has also bene ted Delhi, Honduras and its neighbours who were whose air has become signi cantly fresher smitten hardest by Hurricane Mitch in since 2002, when the Supreme Court or- 1998. And it is the people of the slums dered its buses to convert to gas. Delhi’s air more widely in Latin America who are is today half as polluted as it was in 1994, most vulnerable: oods often sweep An ever-more-regular event and recent gures suggest that Beijing’s is through the favelas of São Paulo, half of now dirtier. China as a whole has 16 of the which stand on river banks. into which the city dumps quantities of world’s 20 most polluted cities. But the In some places too little water, not too sewage, almost all of it untreated, to join a country is starting, with varying degrees of much, is the problem. China’s thirst for in- cocktail of farm chemicals and industrial urgency, to realise that green investment dustry and irrigation has combined with e uents, including arsenic. often makes sense. First, it is coming to see climate change to drain the aquifers, some Human ingenuity allows some people that the costs of inaction are huge: the UN of which hold fossil water that has lain un- to make use of pollution. Waves of glean- believes environmental degradation robs disturbed for millennia. Droughts seem to ers sift the sweepings of Hanoi’s streets, the country of 12% of potential GDP. Sec- be ever more frequent in northern China, just as children pick over the rubbish of ond, it is increasingly persuaded that and southern cities such as Guangzhou are Maputo’s main tip. Every city in Asia and spending may pay o . The World Bank es- also a ected. Rivers are drying up: the Yel- Latin America has an industry based on timates, for example, that the $3.15 billion low river now ows to the sea for only a gathering up old cardboard boxes. Recy- spent in China on ood control since the few weeks a year. And the rain, when it cling in Mumbai is so sophisticated that 1960s has averted losses of $12 billion. comes, is intensely acid. To make matters the guts of dead animals are said to be col- In any event, China now proudly worse, the glaciers on which both China lected and turned into medical sutures. points to developments like Dongtan, just and India partly depend are melting. Any But most pollution has a cost. Dirty air, north of Shanghai, which is designed to be bene ts from extra water supplies will be says the UN, causes the premature death of the world’s rst sustainable city. The 1 short-term, and vitiated by oods. 400,000 Chinese each year. The diseases No wonder water is expensive, espe- caused or carried by contaminated water Hold your breath 4 cially for the poor. Those slum-dwellers kill children the world over in huge num- who buy their water by the litre, whether bers. Solid rubbish is also bad for you Particulate matter they live in Kibera, Dharavi or a Brazilian when you literally live on top of it, as do Microgrammes per cubic metre, 2002 favela, will pay more for it than their neigh- the people of Korogocho, a Nairobi slum. 0 50 100 150 200 bours in richer districts who get it from a And even recycling can be lethal. In China tap. And the water that ushes sewers is lit- and India the destitute dismantlers of Delhi erally beyond them (in Dharavi it is actu- computers and electronic goods, many of Cairo ally below them: a sewer lies under the which are shipped from rich countries, are Calcutta slum, but no one can a ord a connection). often exposed to toxins. Beijing Only three- fths of the people of With people pouring into the cities and Mexico City Shanghai live in buildings connected to a cars pouring on to the roads only 1% of sewer, and barely 3% of the inhabitants of Chinese own a car as yet and with richer Tokyo Jakarta have access to the main drains. countries exporting many of their most Los Angeles Most cities in the developing world dis- polluting industries, the outlook for the London charge their sewage untreated into rivers environment looks grim. Yet some places New York or the sea. Delhi draws three-quarters of its have done better than others. Source: World Bank drinking water from the Yamuna river, Bangkok provides an example of how
  • 9. 14 A special report on cities The Economist May 5th 2007 2 claims for it may be extravagant: the city garded within China as a place not to side air. Chicago’s mayor has put a green will, it is said, be self-su cient in energy emulate. And even in much smaller cities a roof on city hall a miniature expanse of and water, green with parks, silent with new environmentalism is on display: in Ri- prairie that soaks up water and absorbs electric cars and utterly in harmony with uli, a free-and-easy way station on the heat. And Abu Dhabi, anticipating the nature. But the ambitions are laudable. Myanmar border, solar panels are sold al- world after oil, is investing in a huge solar- In other parts of China, too, signs of most as commonly as sex. power project, part of a scheme to turn the sensitivity to the environment are grow- Richer countries are experimenting in city into a green-energy pioneer. ing. Shanghai, Chongqing, Fatou and Xian other ways. Some cities are encouraging All this suggests that the lthy cities of joined with their collaborator, Denmark, green buildings. Melbourne’s council has the urbanising world can, and will, clean to show o a series of urban innovations commissioned a landmark ecologically themselves up, just as the squalid cities of at the Venice architecture Biennale last sustainable building air-conditioned by a the rich world have done. But they cannot year. Shenzen, whose extraordinary econ- natural breathing system , which draws do so alone. In this, as in most urban mat- omic boom has been partly built on con- in cool air at night to ush out the previous ters, a collaborative national government tempt for the environment, is now re- day’s heat, and uses vegetation to lter out- is essential, and international help, too. 7 Failures at the top Lucky the city with a decent government N OT all happy cities resemble one an- other, but each unhappy city is at least partly unhappy for a single reason: mis- a nearby polluted bay for a small fraction of the cost of having it done profes- sionally; he created parks and encouraged erned cities stand out. Chicago is a rustbelt town whose economic base was manufac- turing, an activity that has all but run out government. The quality of government, shops and other sponsors to take respon- of pu in the old industrial heartland of local and national, is the most important sibility for local orphans. As mayor of Bo- America. In the 1980s Chicago lost compa- factor, apart from the economy, in the suc- gotá ten years ago, Enrique Peñalosa also nies, jobs and people, and seemed des- cess of a city. won popularity by similarly fostering tined to languish in gradual decline in The failure of American governments greenery and bicycle paths, and by getting much the same way as Cleveland, Detroit at all levels both to prepare for and to re- people out of cars and on to buses. and Pittsburgh. But energetic government spond to Hurricane Katrina has been In rich countries, too, the well-gov- led by a mayor, Richard Daley, whose am- widely noted. Less noted, though just as bitions start and end in his home town, shocking, was the abject failure of Indian has turned the city round. Having greened state and local o cials before and after the streets with owers and trees, taken Mumbai’s ooding. The cleansing of Bang- over Chicago’s intractable public housing kok’s polluted air showed that govern- and then set about reforming the school ments can take action if they want to. But system, his administration has helped even there the politicians were supine, breathe new life into a moribund metrop- and the initiatives were taken by deter- olis. He was re-elected in February for a mined bureaucrats in spite of their politi- sixth term, with 70% of the vote. cal masters’ passivity. Running a city is not easy. The job has One feature common to most of the all the di culties of running a country, ex- spilling-out-all-over cities of the develop- cept that public attention cannot be di- ing world is a huge di erence in wealth be- verted to foreign a airs, and the control of tween the slum-dwellers at the bottom the economy lies elsewhere. Mayors often and the rich at the top. In virtually every have little control even of their own city. In misgoverned city, which is probably most Mumbai, for instance, neither the mayor of them, the politicians in power are nor the municipal commissioner exercises among the rich. Any well-governed city is real power, which in India often lies with likely to have an honest administration. the surrounding state. It is notable that So it should be no surprise that the Delhi, which as the capital has its own leg- mayor of Curitiba, Jaime Lerner, though islative authority, is the only big Indian he was rst appointed by a military re- city to produce a comprehensive urban gime, was later elected as mayor, and went plan now, incidentally, arousing much on to be twice elected governor of Paraná. controversy. The Nairobi mayor’s o ce He got things done, and most of them were has been similarly neutered, lest it should for the bene t of rich and poor alike: he ca- become too powerful. joled the poor to clear their slums of rub- Having one government responsible bish by rewarding them with bags of gro- for both the city and its surrounding state ceries; he persuaded shermen to clean up The bureaucrats cleaned up Bangok would, however, be the envy of many 1
  • 10. The Economist May 5th 2007 A special report on cities 152 American o cials. It would lead to better right failure. It took almost 200 years and state of Maharashtra. And a metro, 80% co-ordination of transport, education and the Kennedy Centre, and the invention of paid for by private investors, will eventu- other services, and a better chance of get- air-conditioning to make Washington, ally carry commuters to and from their ting richer people in the suburbs to pay a DC, for example, a civilised city. Canberra place of work on the peninsula. share of the costs of the big city from has yet to rid itself of its deadening politi- A collection of o cials, industrialists, which they usually bene t. But any kind cal monoculture. Brasilia has grown tatty, professionals and NGO workers known as of collaboration is complicated if, like Min- attracting slums, as has Abuja, yet another the Citizens Action Group gather regularly neapolis, you have 344 local governments planned capital. But planning is needed if under the chairmanship of the state’s chief within your metropolitan area. infrastructure is to work, the local econ- minister to help push all these projects This fragmentation of government is omy is to t in with the regional and na- along. It is supported by Bombay First, the less common in the South of the United tional economies and if health, education businessmen’s organisation, and other in- States: Virginia’s Fairfax county contains and other social policies are to be suitable terested parties. But the task that confronts no municipalities, whereas Allegheny for the people they must serve. them is simply huge, ranging from improv- county in Pennsylvania, with a similar ing the city’s schools and hospitals to per- population, has 130. But for the northern- Plan of inaction suading the national Ministry of Shipping, ers consolidation is di cult. Only a few The failure to plan can be seen most obvi- which owns the port, to release some of its American cities, such as Louisville and ously in inadequate physical infrastruc- 800 hectares of land for municipal use. Jacksonville, have managed to rationalise ture. Bengalooru’s streets are choked be- With 300-400 families moving into a multiplicity of competing jurisdictions. cause no public transport system has been Mumbai every day and the city needing at France has done better, as has South Af- built to carry the tra c that economic suc- least 1.1m houses for poorer Mumbaikars rica, which has reduced the number of lo- cess has created. Mumbai’s airport, crucial (according to McKinsey in 2003), the neces- cal authorities from 1,100 in 1994 to 283 to- for the city that has long been the gateway sary sense of urgency will be hard to day. However, it has yet to enable poor to India, is already handling many more achieve. Mumbai really needs a com- and black communities to be joined ad- passengers than it was designed for. The pletely di erent form of government, one ministratively to rich and white ones, as only solution is to build a new airport that would ideally be led by a mayor who geographical logic would often suggest. across the harbour, with a rail link to the could give his authority to all the endeav- Brazil has created special urban zones with city across a bridge. ours that the city requires and be held comprehensive planning for health, job- But then almost every aspect of Mum- responsible for both their successes and training, microcredit, you name it. By con- bai’s infrastructure is inadequate. Power any shortcomings. Of that there is no sign. trast, Mexico City, with 79 executive bo- shortages mean daily blackouts for many It is a paradox, common even in the de- dies, 63 legislative zones and three levels of areas, which in turn lead to train delays mocracies of the developing world, that government, has yet to succeed in its ef- and cuts in water supplies. An eight-lane voting and city government appear dis- forts to co-ordinate its many urban plans. bridge, with two lanes set aside for buses, connected. The explanation is that most Not all cities need to be planned, in the is being built over the sea along the west of voters in cities are poor. The slums alone way that 16th-century Rome was laid out the peninsula, with the aim of relieving account for nearly 1 billion people, one in by Pope Sixtus V, with his obelisks and congestion ashore. Other bridges are three of the world’s city-dwellers. Yet they connecting streets, and Paris was designed planned to carry tra c across the bay on are not organised and, lacking money, also by Baron Haussmann, with his boulevards the east side, where a huge new city, Navi lack political power. Until that changes, and grands travaux. And some planning Mumbai, is to be built round a special many cities may be destined to fester in has been a disappointment, if not an out- economic zone, one of 72 approved for the corruption and misgovernment. 7 In place of God Culture replaces religion F ROM the earliest times, a central role of any big town was sacred or religious. Until the 16th century, the status of a city lled by a secular alternative. In some places it is shopping, appropri- ately if you believe that consumerism is a they would draw tourists. Long before Florence, Venice and other European towns became must-see sights of the 18th- was in England granted only to towns that new religion, and remember that the century Grand Tour, Rome had built its had a diocesan cathedral, and to this day shrines of old often had a market close by. Coliseum, Babylon its hanging gardens the title metropolitan is in some In others the shrine-substitute is a cultural and Alexandria its lighthouse. Nowadays churches given to senior clerics. Cities still or sporting attraction. This has the merit of visitors ock to Berlin, London or Paris to tend to have bigger and more splendid feeding the soul while at the same time see an exhibition or collection, watch a churches, mosques and temples than do providing employment, producing pro ts play or opera, or listen to a concert. And it mere towns and villages. But in the rich and helping to ll the co ers of the city is not just tourists who are drawn. When world the religious role of the metropolis government. wooing investors or companies ready to has diminished, often to vanishing point. Some cities created their special non-re- move their headquarters, rival cities will The ensuing vacuum has generally been ligious attractions without realising that now aunt their galleries, theatres and or- 1
  • 11. 16 A special report on cities The Economist May 5th 2007 be well designed and aesthetically satisfy- ing (all are the work of well-known archi- tects). But many people value the character of old neighbourhoods, whether architec- turally notable or not. Modern cities tend to look alike. Cheap housing seems to mean identical blocks built of concrete. And even more expen- sive buildings tend to be constructed to run-of-the-mill designs. No wonder that swathes of Seoul look like swathes of São Paulo and swathes of Shanghai. Even the most ambitious buildings, many designed by trophy architects who it from one country to the next, often seem alien to their context. Dubai’s Burj Al Arab hotel, which is meant to resemble a giant dhow, may have visual echoes of local history. But the City of London’s gigantic Gherkin is as in or out of place there as it would be anywhere else. The same could be said of the Roppongi Hills centre in Tokyo, Fran- çois Mitterrand’s national library in Paris Calatrava cheers up Milwaukee or countless buildings elsewhere. Most cities in rich countries, with hon- 2 chestras as much as their airline connec- created a Millennium Park, with sculp- ourable exceptions, have been wanton in tions, modern hospitals and bre-optic tures, an auditorium and an extraordinary tearing down buildings, domestic, com- networks. That was partly how Chicago in fountain, though the humdrum amuse- mercial and public, that were built to a hu- 2000 stole Boeing’s headquarters from un- ments of its Navy Pier seem to pull in more man scale and re ected local history. To- der the noses of Dallas and Denver. people. And Valencia has recently added kyo has been vandalised. More damage No city can overnight create a great or- an opera house, designed by its own Mr was visited on Britain’s cities by architects chestra, a gallery lled with rare master- Calatrava, to the new museums, aquarium and planners in the 1950s and 1960s than pieces or a theatre district to rival Broad- and sculpture garden that make up its City by all the German bombing in the second way. But it took no time for Sydney, then a of Arts and Sciences. world war. Unfortunately, similar mis- faltering but by no means moribund city, Other cities Kuala Lumpur, Taipei, takes are being repeated in the fast-grow- to become visually synonymous with its Shanghai, soon perhaps St Petersburg and ing cities of Africa and Asia, where the unconventional opera house, nished in Paris go for tall buildings, believing, as stock of old buildings is often smaller. 1973. By contrast, Bilbao was a run-down did the burghers of medieval San Gimi- Shanghai has allowed block upon industrial town in a run-down part of gnano, that height means importance. block of distinctive red-brick tenements to Spain, but when it opened its Guggenheim And others lure expositions, jamborees or be demolished, just as Beijing has let de- museum in 1997, it inspired imitators all sporting events. Few have done this as skil- velopers destroy the courtyard houses of over the world. fully as Barcelona, which used the 1992 its hutong neighbourhoods. Mumbai has Bilbao’s coup was to get a rst-class Olympic games to renew its transport sys- been exemplary in listing for preservation American architect, Frank Gehry, to de- tem, put up new buildings, revamp its air- most of its notable old buildings it has sign a futuristic building which has served port and rebuild most of its infrastructure. some of the best Victorian architecture in to transform the image of the city (if not the world but is still destroying chawls, the reality) into that of an ultra-modern, Beyond the fringe the single-room tenemented buildings arty, fun- lled metropolis. Milwaukee, an- An alternative is to hold an annual fair or that give the city so much of its proletarian other depressed city, has likewise cheered festival, which almost every city in the character. Even Mecca is tearing down its itself up with a showy art gallery, this one world now seems to be doing in some heritage, including the house in which the designed by a Spanish architect, Santiago form. Edinburgh, however, may have Prophet Muhammad was born, to make Calatrava. Seattle commissioned Rem milked the cultural variety as successfully way for nondescript developments. Koolhaas, a Dutch architect, to design an as any city. Founded in 1947, the main festi- People want all sorts of things from eye-catching library, and Fort Worth se- val has spawned sub-festivals for books, their neighbourhood. As the urban icono- cured a prize-winning Japanese, Tadao lms and television, not to mention a host clast Jane Jacobs said, they want the untidi- Ando, for its new museum. of fringe events. It is widely imitated. ness that comes with having houses close One museum does not make a culture Yet neither buildings nor events are to workplaces, shops next to ats, and rich complex, however, and the more skilful guaranteed to pay o , either nancially or next to poor. They also want a balance be- exponents of the art of dazzle-and-regen- in terms of pleasing the citizenry. The se- tween privacy and the opportunity of erate go for a succession of buildings. Abu ries of Maggie’s centres being built for can- chance, or planned, encounter. But none Dhabi is to open branches of both the Lou- cer patients near hospitals in British cities of that need mean ugliness. Cities, after all, vre and the Guggenheim. Chicago has shows that small functional buildings can still have spiritual needs to satisfy. 7
  • 12. The Economist May 5th 2007 A special report on cities 17 The reinvention test A successful city must expect to go through several rebirths over timeC ITIES are durable. Most last longer than the countries that surroundthem, or indeed any other human institu- Pre-1492 Seville, 16th-century London and 19th-century Bombay (now Mumbai) all contained a variety of di erent peoples, No points for thrills Global livability rankings, 2005 5tions. But some thrive, whereas others whether Muslims, Jews, Parsis or others.merely mark time (Cleveland, Minsk, Throughout history, cities open to the City Ranking City RankingPyongyang), go into apparently long-term world have bene ted both from an ex- Vancouver 1 Dusseldorf 26decline (Detroit, New Orleans, Venice) or change of goods and from a trade in ideas Melbourne 2 Amsterdam 26disappear (Tenochtitlán, Tikal, Troy). What from abroad. Japan, by closing its doors to Vienna 2 Reykjavik 26are the characteristics of a successful city? foreigners, condemned its cities to slow Geneva 2 Munich 26 The short answer is good government marination in their own culture until the Perth 5 Luxembourg 26and a ourishing economy. But such attri- country’s opening up after 1853. Today the Adelaide 5 Cleveland 26butes may come and go in the life of a burgeoning cities with the best chance of Sydney 5 Pittsburgh 26metropolis. In order to be continuously overcoming their di culties are those in Zurich 5 Honolulu 33successful, a city has to be able to reinvent Asia and Latin America that can gain from Toronto 5 Boston 33itself, perhaps several times. Harvard’s Ed- globalisation. Africa’s cities, largely ex- Calgary 5 Lyon 33ward Glaeser describes how Boston has cluded from this phenomenon, are win- Brisbane 11 Chicago 33done this three times in the early 19th ning relatively little invesment, trade or en- Copenhagen 11 Miami 33century as the provider of seafaring hu- trepreneurial zz from foreigners. Helsinki 11 Seattle 33man capital for a far- ung maritime trad- Some cities in the rich world, too, have Stockholm 11 Madrid 33ing and shing empire, in the late 19th cen- been much more successful than others at Frankfurt 11 Barcelona 33tury as a factory town built on immigrant exploiting globalisation. The ones thatlabour and Brahmin capital, and nally in have done best are those that have plugged Montreal 16 Atlanta 41the 20th century as a centre of the informa- into global industries and been able to cap- Tokyo 16 Hong Kong 41tion economy. On each occasion, human ture the headquarters or lesser corporate Hamburg 16 Minneapolis 41capital provided the secret to Boston’s re- centres of globalised companies, espe- Paris 16 Manchester 41birth. A strong base of skilled workers, cially banks and other nancial rms, ar- Oslo 20 Washington, DC 41writes Mr Glaeser, has been a source of gues Saskia Sassen, of the University of Auckland 20 Detroit 41long-run urban health. Chicago. London, New York and Tokyo are Berlin 20 Houston 47 Education was important from the rst pre-eminent in this, but some other cities Brussels 20 London 47in Boston. But Mr Glaeser draws attention Paris, Frankfurt, Zurich, Amsterdam, Chi- Osaka Kobe 20 Los Angeles 47to other characteristics of the city that cago, Los Angeles, Sydney, Hong Kong, São Wellington 20 Dublin 47were present even in colonial times. It had Paulo, Mexico City are not far behind. Source: Economist Intelligence Unita strong set of community organisations, Not every city can go global or willbecause of its church structure, and some- even want to. There are other types of rai-thing like the rule of law. It also had a tradi- son d’être. One is simply to be a pleasant enna, Auckland, Dusseldorf, Frankfurt,tion of democratic egalitarianism . place to live and work, pleasant meaning Munich, Bern and Sydney. Law has been essential for urban life di erent things to di erent people, of The Economist Intelligence Unit, a sis-since Babylonian times, both because cit- course. In the developing world most peo- ter organisation to The Economist, carriesies have usually been centres of com- ple would be delighted to live in a city that out a similar exercise (see table). Five of itsmerce, and trade needs regulation, and be- was prosperous and well governed, if that top ten cities for 2005 were also in Mercer’scause cities tend to draw di erent kinds of meant jobs were available, o cials were top ten. All ten in each list, with the excep-people, whose success in living together honest, the streets were safe, housing was tion of Sydney and Calgary, might be con-depends on common rules of behaviour. a ordable and transport, sanitation and sidered rather homely, even dull. The citiesDemocracy, too, has served cities well, basic utilities operated to minimum stan- that have done most to excite attention theproviding a shock-absorber for changing dards. Even in rich countries not all these world over New York, Chicago and Loseconomic times and a mechanism where- things can be taken for granted. Angeles are also-rans. Smallish countriesby immigrants can join the mainstream. Mercer, a consulting rm, publishes a mostly do well, and Australia, the most ur- Immigration, or at least an ethnic and ranking of big cities each year based on an banised country of all, ranks notablyreligious mix, has also been closely associ- assessment of about 40 factors falling into highly, at least in the EIU list.ated with urban success. As Joel Kotkin ten categories (political, economic, cul- No list includes the ability to reinvent it-points out in The City , Chinese towns at tural, medical, educational, public-service, self among the desirable qualities of a city.the end of the rst millennium AD showed recreational, consumer-goods, housing That may, however, be increasingly put tothe same cosmopolitan mixture as did Al- and environmental). Last year the top ten the test, for some people believe that citiesexandria, Cairo, Antioch and Venice. cities were Zurich, Geneva, Vancouver, Vi- have had their day. 7
  • 13. 18 A special report on cities The Economist May 5th 2007 Et in suburbia ego? With age, cities go centrifugal but maybe not for ever W ITH people heading for cities as never before, it may seem an odd moment to be announcing their impend- lanta grew by 6% in the 1990s, its overall metropolitan area expanded by 39%, with the biggest expansion farthest from the its day also point to economic and techni- cal changes that seem to remove one of the most basic reasons for getting together in ing demise. In fact, it is an old cry: as long middle. A similar pattern of ourishing an urban huddle. No longer do people ago as 1967 Marshall McLuhan declared, fringes can be seen all over the country have to gather round the agora to do their The city no longer exists, except as a cul- sunbelt, rustbelt or snowbelt. business. Information technology allows tural ghost for tourists. Some of today’s The centre may be a place to visit for them to work wherever they want. Given urban critics, such as James Heart eld, work or entertainment rather than to live that they can also get a religious, sporting take much the same view. Many of the cit- in. That is true, for instance, of Los Angeles, or cultural x by turning on the television, ies that have been around longest are in despite its e orts to give itself a beating, and do their shopping as well as their economic decline, such critics point out, lovable heart. But then the suburbs, espe- work on the internet, why live in a city? As and in some places more people are leav- cially if they are fairly old, may have ac- Je erson said, cities are pestilential to the ing them than joining them. When the quired all the characteristics of cities: a morals, the health, and the liberties of newly popular cities of the developing downtown , swanky shops, the head- man. They are the sort of places where world are a bit older, will they be consid- quarters of a Fortune 500 company, maybe you get mugged. ered just as undesirable places to live in as a mega-church, a theatre, a symphony or- Not so fast. Other changes suggest that central Bu alo or central Bradford? chestra and often an army of Latino mi- it may be sprawl, not the city, that is In America you certainly have to be an grants who have never been near a tradi- doomed. Land is nite, population is still optimist to believe that the old rustbelt cit- tional ghetto in the city centre. The exurbs expanding and the motor car’s dominance ies will soon regain population or econ- are more formless. may not last much longer. With global omic vitality. The surroundings of Detroit Much of this is uniquely American, but warming and no economic alternative to may be pleasant and prosperous enough, suburban living is not. In his book scarce petrol, it may not be feasible to go on and may stay that way, but the centre is dy- Sprawl , Robert Bruegmann quotes Dan- living 20km away from everything ing. Cities of this kind are like hummocks iel Defoe’s comments 300 years ago on the school, work, babysitter, Starbucks. of spinifex, or porcupine grass, whose cen- number of houses of gentlemen of qual- In any event, other trends suggest that tre eventually collapses, leaving live rings ity springing up in Surrey villages outside for every Timmy Willie, there is a Johnny surrounding a dead middle. London. Nowadays, says Mr Heart eld, Town-Mouse: many people like urban life City centres might actually look much the city critic, only 9% of Britons live in an and want to go on living in a city, particu- deader than they already do but for one urban core, whereas 43% prefer the sub- larly the centre. Among them are the el- curious change. In parts of America at urbs; barely 5% live in true country. Even derly, a growing share of the population, least, such as Detroit and Philadelphia, France, a late urbaniser, is becoming sub- who want easy access to transport, doc- many houses have become less expensive urban. Its banlieues are usually associated tors, hospitals, cinemas and above all fam- to buy than they were to build. Poor Amer- with immigrants, poverty and unrest. But ily and friends. And the young are urban icans live in cities largely because of access those are typical only of some inner sub- creatures, too. They like the buzz of a city, to public transport and services provided urbs. The outer ones are much like Amer- the concentration of restaurants, clubs and by benign municipal governments, argues ica’s: white, prosperous and gaining in- other forms of entertainment. And the bet- Harvard’s Mr Glaeser. But in blighted cit- habitants, just as French city centres are ter educated (and so the richer) are likely to ies, he says, they have an extra reason to losing them. nd work in the universities, hospitals and stay: if they move out, they will not be able Some of those who say the city has had research centres that tend to cluster in cit- 1 to a ord a house elsewhere. Plenty of cities are not dying, of course, even in the United States, where people Onward and southward 6 have been ocking to the metropolises of Urban agglomerations, population, m 1950 2005 2020 the South and West for decades. But Mr 40 Glaeser again the dominant form of city living in America, whether in the rustbelt 30 or the sunbelt, is sprawl, a natural conse- quence of lots of land and a car-based cul- 20 ture. As a result, the typical, densely 10 packed metropolis of 1900 has become a di use agglomeration of old city centre, 0 rich suburbs and then even-lower-density, London Paris New York- Lagos São Paulo Dhaka Mexico Delhi Mumbai Tokyo semi-urban exurbs, where every house sits Newark City Source: UN-Habitat on its own little prairie. So while central At-
  • 14. The Economist May 5th 2007 A special report on cities 192 ies. The suburbs may be pleasant enough their family, once came from. Where do ur- when parents are absorbed with work and ban Africans get buried? In their villages. children, but for the childless and the Even in highly urbanised Japan the farmer empty-nesters the city has many merits. and his rice eld maintain a special place Several academics take this view. in the mind of the Tokyo sarariman. Some, such as Richard Florida, of George When the current rush to the cities ends Mason University, see cities as natural and this great episode in the history of ur- homes for the creative class , whose banisation is over, which will probably be members are artists, designers, academics when 80% of the world’s population live and so on. Others, such as Terry Nichols in cities, the true e ects of urban life may Clark, of the University of Chicago, stress be clearer. In their book Mismatch: Why the pleasures of the city as a reason to live Our World No Longer Fits Our Bodies , Pe- there: entertainment, they say, can replace ter Gluckman and Mark Hanson argue manufacturing in the post-industrial city, that the big changes in human history, providing both jobs and fun. most of which have happened rather re- Others nd further reasons for opti- cently in humans’ evolutionary history, mism. Bruce Katz, of the Brookings Institu- have not been matched by changes in hu- tion in Washington, argues that there is man biology. Cities may be the epitome of much more inventiveness at municipal modernity, but they are inhabited by a and state level in America than at federal creature designed for a pre-agricultural ex- level. A city like Denver is exploiting its istence. The supermarket is no substitute power to tax to introduce a light-rail sys- for the steppes, plains and savannahs of tem. Private-sector investment is being Centripetal heads, centrifugal hearts the hunter-gatherer. The o ce chair is no combined with government money for ur- place for the descendants of Homo erectus. ban purposes much more widely and ef- might help: they could then a ord to live No wonder there is a tension between fectively. Cities such as Chicago are now on less expensive land in the suburbs. habitat and inhabitant. seen as central to environmental improve- In that event, rich and poor cities might Perhaps that tension will lead to some ments. All this means that public policy is start to look more similar and, for some, terrible rupture in the megacities now tak- becoming more city-centred. more attractive. For it is tempting to see in ing shape. It is not hard to see that political At the same time cities are becoming the popularity of the suburbs an attempt changes perhaps new city-states, per- sexier in the popular imagination liter- to marry the convenience of urban life haps new forms of city-cum-regional gov- ally, in the case of Sex and the City , but with the traditional charms of the country. ernment may ensue. With luck, though, more metaphorically through other televi- Human beings are adaptive. Many have the tension can instead be put to work, re- sion shows like Seinfeld and Friends . for centuries relished city life. Like the rob- inventively, to create better cities. Dachas The trendiness is not con ned to New ins and great tits that adjust their songs to and weekend cottages will be popular. The York. For anyone on the way up, the city is city noises, they are urban survivors. suburbs will keep some adherents; if a the place to be. Some 60% of the jobs in But talk to many an inhabitant of to- cheap and non-polluting substitute for American cities fall into the new econ- day’s big cities and you soon detect a rural petrol can be found, they may even repre- omy category, compared with about 40% background, and often a slight wistfulness sent the compromise of choice for discom- in the Sprawl-Mart suburbs. And once they with it. Where do Chinese city-dwellers go bobulated 21st-century man. But there is have got to the top, the successful do not al- for their holidays? Back to where they, or no going back to the countryside now. 7 ways opt for wide-open spaces: the most densely populated borough in Britain is O er to readers Future special reports London’s smart Kensington & Chelsea. Reprints of this special report are available at a Countries and regions Looking to the future, William Mitchell, price of £2.50 plus postage and packing. Hong Kong June 30th of the Massachusetts Institute of Technol- A minimum order of ve copies is required. Iran July 14th ogy, argues that the next urban age will be characterised by the new, network-medi- Corporate o er Business, nance, economics and ideas ated metropolis of the digital electronic Customisation options on corporate orders of 100 International banking May 19th era . He believes that 21st-century cities or more are available. Please contact us to discuss Business and climate change June 2nd will be e-topias places where people your requirements. Air travel June 16th live and work in the same building, lead Send all orders to: busy local lives in pedestrian-scale neigh- The Rights and Syndication Department bourhoods and strong communities, but 26 Red Lion Square also gather virtually in electronic meeting- London WC1r 4HQ places and link themselves up to enable Tel +44 (0)20 7576 8000 decentralised production. Fax +44 (0)20 7576 8492 To the slum-dwellers of Kibera or Dha- e-mail: Previous special reports and a list of ravi, all this may seem distant, indeed far- forthcoming ones can be found online fetched. Their rst need is to get out of pov- erty and the slums. Yet technology, if it brought cheap and reliable commuting,