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Wanted: Your questions on challenges and benefits of living in the city

Huong Lan Vu's picture
Dean Cira will answer some of your questions in a video

Urbanization itself cannot guarantee economic growth, but it does appear to be an inevitable process on the way to development: no country has achieved high income status without first urbanizing, and nearly all countries become at least 50% urbanized before fully reaching middle income status.

The trick is in how to manage this process in a way that plays up the benefits and minimizes the challenges it brings.

When I was a little child, we lived in a 30m2 house in the suburbs of Hanoi, Vietnam, with intermittent supplies of power and clean water. But I enjoyed playing on the quiet and clean street in front of my house. Twenty years later, my whole neighborhood has been nicely renovated; there’s enough electricity to run all appliances in my house, including two air conditioners. But I get stuck in traffic every day on my way to work, and the smog is so thick I can hardly breathe, even with a mask on my face.

Urbanization has arrived to my hometown with both advantages and challenges. However, noises, heavy traffic, and air and water pollution are not unique to Hanoi. They can be observed in many cities in emerging countries all over the world (such as China, India, Brazil, Indonesia, Mexico, the Philippines, or Nigeria). The Vietnam Urbanization Review notes that if these challenges are well managed, they will allow cities like Hanoi to retain its unique charm and livability while enjoying the benefits that urbanization brings.   

Do you have any questions on how to ease traffic congestion? Or dealing with high housing prices in your city? Do you want to share your own experiences? What are your concerns when moving in or out of a city?

Our urban expert, Dean Cira, is here to answer your questions. 

Send your question now using the comment function below to ask him and he’ll address on video five of all the questions received. We’ll take questions until the end of Wednesday, June 20. You can also join the conversation on Twitter by sending your questions to @worldbankasia.

Urban population (% of total)


Data from World Bank


Submitted by JULIUS OLUJIMI on
MY QUESTIONS ON CHALLENGES AND BENEFITS OF LIVING IN THE CITY Urbanisation is an inevitable phenomenon particularly in Sub-Saharan African countries (such as Nigeria); where the growth rate of the urban population is becoming higher and its attendant problems on urban infrastructure and the well-being of the urban dwellers are becoming unimaginable stressful. However, these countries in one form and the other can boast of one resource or more that are capable of launching the countries into sea of affluence but the problem of bad governance is a cog in the wheels of managing their urbanisation. My concern is that even if the Sub-Saharan African countries have the best urban planners; formulating the best urban policies and coming up with practicable urban programmes and projects to address the challenges associated with urbanisation; this may not likely yield any significant result without GOOD GOVERNANCE. Dean Cira, what is the way out of the mess of bad governance. JULIUS OLUJIMI, Ph.D DEPT. OF URBAN & REGIONAL PLANNING, FEDERAL UNIVERSITY OF TECHNOLOGY, AKURE, NIGERIA. e- mail [email protected] +234 8034540637

Submitted by Sonny Wibowo on
It has been long time since the early process of industrialization until to date that cities always attract peoples from other parts of the country. Urban problems are about similar and can be found everywhere in the world. In this case, developed countries are now much more better, after very long long struggles of development (even sometimes including wars or revolutions). The underlying factor is Urban Management. Good governance is a ticket to the good urban living. Bad Governance, unqualified agents, fierce corruption (as can be seen in most of the developing countries) drives living in cities (and in the whole country) into inferno.

Submitted by Budi yuwono on
Jakarta as the capital of the country with a population of 9,607,787 has a level of congestion is already unacceptable. Travel within the city, especially on weekdays is very tiring and a waste of time. People living around Jakarta in the morning they go to town and back in the afternoon and evening, this activity has been conducted for decades that this rhythm has become a part of their lives. New problems arise when we calculate the energy consumption to perform these activities continue to increase from year to year.

Submitted by Joann Villanueva on
Urbanization has caused degradation in some areas but improvement in others. Traffic congestion, for one, is among the major concerns with regards to pollution. Governments around the globe continue to put in measures to address this problem. Are there solid proof that smoke pollution due to vehicles has been contained? What is the connection of this problem on carbon footprints, and thus, growth of the economies?

Submitted by zhiyun on
I lived in Wuhan, China. Wuhan used to be one of the most developed city in China, but now the city receives more negative comments than positive ones, say, poor air condition, heavy traffic and some people look down upon people who lived in Wuhan, because they fancy using dirty words or just because of the dialect.However, people from suburban continue to crowd in the city and bring more problems. And now Wuhan has more than 10 millions population but it looks more like a big town rather than a big city. Is it deteriorated or something? Sure our city government spends time and money on city environment, however their effort only won the local Communist party secretary a title ,"Mr.Digging Around the City"

Submitted by Nik Zafri on
Urbanization; to a certain degree; has always been an indicator to the level of success in the context of economics. I have no qualms against urbanization knowing the benefits of it such as infrastructures, job opportunity, healthcare, education, roads/highways, etc. But nowadays urbanization can be a menace if not properly planned. No doubt proper town planning is always there for new plans of urbanization to incorporate elements of sustainable development - green building, environmental management systems, control of carbon emission etc. etc. I'm talking about the current urbanized locations - as you've mentioned - traffic jams, uncontrolled pollution, bustling cities, social impacts such as crime, disunity as well. I feel that the most important thing that the current urbanized location require is a mass awareness to be communicated to all of them using various tools such as the internet, the billboards, the conventional flyers/brochures/buntings etc, free seminars etc. to make them understand the significance of protecting the environment (to include contractors, developers etc.), have more unity-based activities rather than being in 'clans'/'groups', ice-breakings programs disregarding race/religious backgrounds etc. Of course, everyone nowadays are talking about money and more money or having job opportunities or disliking certain political parties. For this, the mayors, the councillors, the authorities, the political parties, including people's representatives, religious representatives, associations etc. must come together to draw up a plan now! Well, many would disagree with me but my intention making a call of unity and peace will always be there. If not here, elsewhere - till the day I die.

Submitted by Sari on
Jakarta is the capital city of Indonesia. It is overpopulated and far more than 50% of national money circulated in this city. The development is vast but somehow it seems lack of plan. For example : the heavy traffic jam during the rush hour and productive hours really creates inefficiency and unnecessary petrol consumption. Lack of comfortable public transportation also adds to this matter. Not much pathway for pedestrian to walk, heavy air pollution, malls everywhere and rarely green area for public are just other bad examples. I just wondered whether it is possible the blueprint of a "good" city can be applicable to other cities. If it so, why not just share and follow the benchmark. How long do you think to have Jakarta as a better place to live in?

Submitted by Anonymous on
I challenge - continually - the value set that assumes the world needs such arbitrary (universal) goals as "middle income status" in other to be "acceptable" in the league of nations. I would instead argue that "successful" societies are those that evolve intellectually and culturally - as well as with heightened technology, infrastructure and density. In such an evolved society the citizens could aspire to an urban / rural ; industry / agriculture mix that they strive to develop and maintain at a level of need - i.e. continuity / sustainability. That, to my mind, is a far better scenario than a "middle income status" - with its assumed Western delights.

Submitted by Richard Bopurner on
Huong Lan Vu in his article states that "No country has achieved high income status without first urbanising" This is quite possibly true but is it a necessary condition of achiving high income status? A prerequisite of urbanization is agrarian reform allowing one farmer to produce more food than that required to support him or herself and his/her family. Having first achieved security of food production the next step would be the cost effective production of other goods requiring a concentrated labour force. But how big does that concentrated labour force need to be; 10,000; 100,000; 1,000,000; but surely not 10,000,000. The more populous the city the greater the problems for urban planners. Yet short of draconian measures in restricting peoples freedom of movement how do you limit the size to which cities may grow and what is that ideal size.

Submitted by Brent C Melville on
I would like to share some comments following my recent first visit to Vietnam. It would be sad to see Vietnamese cities follow the western model with cars becoming the primary form of transport. Australian cities, for instance, are barren and sterile when compared with Vietnamese cities. Western cities are built around fast moving cars, vans and trucks. People are secondary; hidden away in their cocoons. Vast amounts of road space are wasted because one person often drives a 5-seat car. Some efforts such as transit lanes are employed to reduce this, but in western cities, the automobile "rules". I believe HCMC and Hanoi are vibrant cities because of the small motorbikes. They are an efficient method of transport and I saw very few traffic jams of the kind that happen every rush hour in western cities. Think of it this way. In western city traffic there is often 4 to 6 engine cyclinders per driver. In Vietnam it is most often 1 engine cyclinder per driver, or even 2 to 4 people per engine cyclinder. One small scooter takes up 25% of one car space and uses much less fuel. If cars were to be adopted, look to India for their small urban vehicles. Or perhaps the compressed air vehicles developed in France. Or can the Koreans, Chinese and Japanese provide an inexpensive urban vehicle?

Submitted by Anonymous on
I am a university student in Hangzhou. Before I went to university, I used to live in a small villiage in a small town. Be specifically, I both experienced city life and rural life very well. Personally speaking, I prefer to city life more than country life. There is no doubt that urbanization has caused many serious problems, such as air pollution caused by thousands of cars and factories; the decrease of natural lives; the overpopulation and the high crime rate and so on. But I confirmly believe that we can use our wisdom to solve these this problems and overcome all difficulties. City life is more attractive to me because it is more active and vivid than rural life. In the country, you have to endure the mess and dirty; you need to endure the tedious life because there only exist a few ways to entertain. You need to go bed early and get up early before the sunrise. On winter days, you nearly have nothing to do except gossip about others' lives. Rather different in city, I can enjoy various kinds of entertainment, I can enjoy myself by different ways and I can fulfill my ambitions and realize my dreams and values easily.

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