Urban Explosion: the facts

For the first time in human history most of us live in cities: many in desperate conditions. The *NI* takes the measure of urban growth and poverty.

The UN Millennium Development Goals aim to improve the living conditions of 100 million slum-dwellers by 2020. But the number of slum-dwellers is estimated to grow by nearly 500 million between now and then.

Mega-city growth

Of the billion people designated very poor, over 750 million live in urban areas.

* While official Chinese sources put the population of Beijing and some other Chinese cities in the top 16 (above), independent sources outside the country don’t.

Cities and slums connect

While not all squatters live in slums and not all slum dwellers are squatters, the categories substantially overlap. Slum population by region^1^

Security of tenure

One of the biggest issues for the urban poor is their right to stay where they are.

Each year millions of people are evicted from their homes:


Squatting is often the most reasonable and inexpensive way for poor people to move to the city.

Life on the edge

Poor people build in undesirable areas – but at a price.

Disease and services^11^

The quality of life in shantytowns can be significantly improved through the provision of basic services. World diarrhoeal disease distribution

  1. _Global Urban Observatory_, UN Habitat, Nairobi, 2003.
  2. _The Challenge of Slums_, UN Habitat, Nairobi, 2003.
  3. Robert Neuwirth, _Shadow Cities_, Routledge, New York, 2005.
  4. Financing Urban Shelter, UN Habitat, 12 November 2005, Nairobi.
  5. Water and Poverty, Asian Development Bank, Water and Poverty Report, May 2002.
  6. ‘Forced Evictions Worldwide’, _Environment and Urbanization_, April 2005.
  7. Sabine Britner and Helmut Weber, _Caracas, Hecho en Venezuela_, Revolver, Frankfurt, 2005, .
  8. ‘Towards a pro-poor framework for slum upgrading’, _Environment and Urbanization_, April 2005.
  9. Peter Wilsher and Rosemary Righter, _The Exploding Cities_, Quadrangle Books, New York, 1975.
  10. Mike Davis, ‘Ecology against Capitalism’, _Socialist Review_, July 2005.
  11. Water and Sanitation Report, UN Habitat, Nairobi, 2003.