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The Sustainability of Southeast Asia’s Fast Rate of Urbanization: An Issue That Must Be Addressed

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*Image Source: Pixabay

The present generation has 50% of the globe’s population who reside in cities. This number is predicted to increase as the United Nations expects that more than 67% of individuals will reside in cities by 2050.

North America and Europe has already experienced urbanization. However, it is just of recent times that urbanization took place in Africa and Asia. These two continents will contribute to 90 percent increase in city populations through 2050.

This major change in population will have great effect. Approximately 1.5 million people per week are expected to move from rural to urban areas. The question is if the world is equipped for such a shift on the lifestyle of majority of the population of the world. This is of great concern as climate change already has significant issues.

Initiatives on Sustainable Urbanization

Many global organizations are attempting to provide solutions to these pressing problems. ASEAN recently held in Chiang Rai, Thailand the eighth East Asian Summit (EAS) Seminar on Sustainable Cities.

The United Nations (UN) also is doing its part on finding solutions to problems. The United Nations convened in Quito, Ecuador in October the United Nations Conferences on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development (Habitat III). This convention resulted to the creation of the New Urban Agenda that outlined a plan on how to achieve sustainable housing and urban development that will be implemented on the next 20 years. Both public and private sectors are included in the plan.

Effect on the Environment

Climate change is already a global concern. It is a huge challenge for ASEAN countries to continue the development and to urbanize sustainable. ASEAN confronted this challenge.

ESC, which is ASEAN’s Initiative on Environmentally Sustainable Cities, gives primary importance to technologies that utilize low carbon and boosts cities to reach a carbon neutral economy. ESC also campaigns for various initiatives on converting waste to energy and responsible utilization of natural resources.

City governments and private companies are being creative in order to find solutions. China uses green roofs. Thailand coverts waste into art. South Korea runs electric buses.

Impact on the Economy

Urbanization used to mean a growing middle class and a growth in the economy. However, this new trend in urbanization might not go with the customary economic development.

It has been concluded that economies in Southeast Asian nations go with urbanization. However, there is varied increase across the region. Singapore is the fourth most progressive city in the world. Each person has an economic yield of $66,864 per individual. Jakarta has an economic yield of $9,984 per individual. This is still bigger compared to other cities of Indonesia.

ASEAN countries do experience economic growth during urbanization. However, there is uneven growth across the region. Moreover, there are also pressing challenges that go with economic growth such as an increase in carbon emission.


An increase in city population leads to a great demand for infrastructure in urban areas. City governments who lack finances find it difficult to meet this demand. An increase in infrastructure can also lead to more problems in the environment.

Various ASEAN cities such as Jakarta have begun developing appropriate systems on public transportation. This was made possible via donations from financial institutions and from other nations.

It is not cheap to have transportation systems. It costs an estimated 52 billion U.S. dollars the Sustainable Development Plan for Jakarta. The costs are way up high but this will give various benefits for its citizens that include better living conditions, reduced emissions, and reduced traffic jamming.

Many governments of different Southeast Asian countries are legalizing ridesharing. Ridesharing is method on how to decrease consumption in energy. The high cost of ownership of cars and long periods of commuting, matched with the city’s high smartphone penetrations makes the effort promising.


Housing is another concern for cities that are developing quickly.

The New Urban Agenda (NUA) of the United Nation campaigns home ownership. Co-housing is also an attempt by NUA to address this need. Policies regarding housing should be based on environmental protection, inclusion, and usefulness in the economy.

Both private and public sectors must cooperate in order to provide enough housing. The role of the government is to remove constraints in supply that include lack of developable property and vague land titles.

Social Changes

Implied with urbanization’s effect is social change. The lifestyle of urban settlers and the culture of the country will be changed as a result of urbanization.


Southeast Asian countries will experience a shift toward urbanization. These countries need to transition in a sustainable manner while facing significant challenges. It is still unknown as to how this transition will result to. However, the consequence of urbanization will be important to the population of the world and for the environment.

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