Asia’s Megacity Boom: Ridley Scott or thirty something glade runners

Like the CPA farce in Iraq, theory, ideology, and “the numbers” set up like, a mega fail, dude (花花公子). ;

Russ Imrie August 2012 (post in process live)

67% of Asia‘s urban areas fail the minimum EU standard for air quality. In Europe the rate is 11%. Don’t know what that means for Europe’s status but there’s no doubt the Asia numbers are not good. Key Indicators for Asia and the Pacific 2012 43rd Edition: Guanghua Wan Principal Economist, Asian Development Bank (ADB).

So there’s a lot of think-tanking going on in Washington DC (itself a paragon of urban river pollution and over-the-top traffic gridlock) on a vision the likes of which might see the monstrous Ship Breaking yards of Bangladesh (where ant-like swarms of barefoot men cut house-sized chunks from the rusty, oozing hulls of worn oil tankers) become cool art installations, where a “Jungle Marathon” along shaded mountain trails will draw coffee-chugging runners from hip urban centers around the planet, and where Irrawaddy River cruises will feature mega-screen HDTV video presentations in the saloon from the National Zoo in Washington DC starring the two surviving Irrawaddy River Dolphins, live, sort of. Or not.

The scariest factor in the move of Asian humanity to majority urbanization in Asia, an historic trend accelerating as we speak, is that the urban state is concentrated in megacities, almost states in themselves with meganeeds and mega”issues”, and as beyond central control at this time. The ADB study is a platform for planning ways to manage the exodus in a greener, less environmentally damaging way and improving the lives of the inhabitants.

The ebb and flow of resources and waste is on the epic level around monster cities like Karachi (9.8m – 18,900/sq km), Tokyo (32.5 m – 4,750/sq km), Mumbai (12.5m – 20,694 sq km), Shenzhen (10.36m – 5,201/sq km), Taipei (3.9m – 1,905/sq km) and (playfully tagged as part of China instead of ROC in this report), and Shanghai (117.8m – 6,845/sq km), with population densities highest for the globe. (population figures from wikipedia)

Out of the 25 most densely populated listed cities on this planet, 18 are in SE Asia. In the Western Hemisphere, only 3 garden spots make the list: Bogota (a weak 17th, down 8 from Mumbai), Lima (15th), and dead last, e um patético São Paulo, barely rates a mention.

Some problems intensified in these growing complexes include rising crime rates that follow the density and stress levels, economic disparities, housing shortages that nurture giant, uncontrollable slums, and environmental issues such as landslides and flooding.

All these cities  need fuel, water, food, building materials and no less important but ignored institutionally (and what this conference is addressing): waste disposal, clean air, an aware populace and most important, knowledgable administrations that can coerce millions to exert themselves to adapt greener lifestyles and feel some economic pain to do things in a more green way. Not likely say I, not for a majority.

In the case of China, at least, energy demands trump air quality when coal is the fossil fuel most available at a price communities can afford. 20% of China’s water goes to process coal. Coal consumption will grow by 30% by 2020. (CHOKE POINT: CHINA)

Shaky legal structures, unfocused environmental consciousness, and virtually powerless laws, while slowly gaining a bit more power and respect, make legal recourse a joke except in very rare cases. A judiciary totally unfamiliar with environmental rights law is hapless in many cases on weak benches when large enterprises and a skeptical public wield greater power.

A restive population demanding more and steadier electrical power to energize more affluent consumer lifestyles make national and local authorities hesitant to disrupt power generation, no matter how awful the pollution stream. Corruption in some cases or these national priorities to maintain grid power levels for maximum factory production  as well as private consumers put environmental control dead last. This short-sighted (albeit pragmatic) hierarchy of priorities makes me skeptical of plans to make Asia’s megacities go “green.”

Something that may force movement in this sluggish milieu is global warming and sea level rise. But wait, what movement? Millions, no billions of refugees fleeing low-lying (and some of the most productive and developed) coastal regions? Or a timely, rational movement in government and social sectors to deal with the causes of a catastrophe and to succor the critically impacted?

tipping points?

l. to r. Douglas Brooks (
Assistant Chief Economist, Asian Development Bank), Blair A. Ruble (Director, Kennan Institute and Comparative Urban Studies Project) – photo Russ Imrie

Sent from iPhone

distant US Capitol dome

U.S. Capitol SOTU eve, 2011 – photo Russ Imrie

Russell Imrie is a  Networking and Content Specialist, webmaster and an American Indian blogger living in the Washington DC area.

Copyright © forever and 2012 by Russell Imrie

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