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population growth

30 years of working together to solve Shanghai’s most pressing water problems

Sing Cho's picture

Also available in 中文
 

Editor's Note: 
The global water crisis is a crisis of too much, too polluted and too little. At the World Bank, our job is to find and implement solutions to tackle this crisis. In the “Water Solutions” blog series, you’ll read about World Bank-supported projects in different countries which demonstrated solutions to the world’s most pressing water issues, to fulfill our vision for a water-secure world.

Cities are growing at a staggering rate, changing our world beyond recognition. For the first time in history, over half the population -- 55 percent -- lives in urban areas.  By 2050, that number will rise to 68 percent.  This rapid urban growth has given rise to sprawling megacities, many of which are in Asia and Africa.

Perhaps no place epitomizes this trend better than Shanghai. In 1990, the city was still primarily an industrial hub with a population of 13 million. By 2016, the figure had ballooned to 24 million, making Shanghai one of the largest metropolitan areas in the world and the financial and economic hub of China. 

Of pigs, pythons and population growth – setting the record straight

Maitreyi Bordia Das's picture
The Nairobi Central Business District.
Photo: Sarah Farhat/The World Bank


I am constantly startled by references to “population growth” as a cause of a number of development challenges.  Whether it’s urbanization, food security, or water scarcity, all too often “population growth” is cited as a cause for pessimism or even a reason not to strive for progress.  I can almost see Thomas Malthus grinning at me from the shadows.

It gets worse. I recently reviewed a paper where higher fertility among minorities was touted as an explanation for their poverty! A few months ago, a respected professional wrote asking why we weren’t doing more on family planning, since fertility in Africa would pretty much stymie any efforts to provide infrastructure-based services! I hear statements to this effect routinely from policy makers in charge of infrastructure ministries and projects (“how can we keep up with the population?” or “nothing we do will be enough unless we control the population”) but am always amazed when I hear them from scientists of different hues.

So I thought I’d try to set the record straight: