Mumbai slums Subhash Sharma/ZumaPress

India’s Deadly Cities

China and India face similar challenges in managing rapidly growing urban populations. But variations in their urban growth paths, as well as differences in their approaches to environmental policy, are likely to make India’s population challenges far more difficult to address.

SINGAPORE – China and India are driving Asia’s population and urbanization trends. According to a 2010 McKinsey study, the two countries are expected to account for 62% of the growth in the continent’s urban population between 2005 and 2025, and a staggering 40% of such growth worldwide.

Statistics like these underscore the urgency of urban planning and growth management. But it is equally important to acknowledge the critical differences between the two countries. Variations in their urban growth paths, as well as differences in their approaches to environmental policy, are likely to make India’s population challenges far more difficult to address.

China may be home to 20% of humanity, but for more than two decades its fertility rate has been lower than the “replacement” level (that required to maintain the current population), with population growth expected to turn negative within the next two decades. As a result, India, where population growth is projected to remain positive for the foreseeable future, is poised to become the world’s most populous country. Most projections have India’s population exceeding that of China by 2022.

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