Wang YP, Kintrea K. Urban Expansion and Land Use Changes in Asia and Africa. Environment and Urbanization ASIA. March 2021. DOI: 10.1177/0975425321999081

Key points

Trends in urbanization and land cover changes

  • Unplanned urban sprawl was once associated mainly with the boom years of development in land-rich developed countries such as the USA, Canada and Australia, but it is now occurring in cities all over the developing world.
  • In Africa and Asia, urban population growth has consumed large areas of land around major cities.

Urban expansion and informal development

  • Fast urban expansion and sprawl indeed often results in more inequality, informality, insecurity and unsustainable forms of urban community.
  • As the SHLC case cities show, alongside of new industrial developments, various types of neighbourhoods are emerging in peripheral areas of large cities, including commercially constructed housing estates of various standards, gated or semi-gated communities for the rich, tenement and high-rise apartments for the middle class and civil servants and state-supported low-income settlements.
  • However, informal settlements such as urban villages, townships, relocation settlements as well as various slum settlements are growing at a much larger scale than the various types of planned or semi-planned residential areas.

Challenges for urban planning

  • To realize the full potential of the urban transformative power and address the social and economic problems caused by urban sprawl and expansion, the international community has adopted several agreements to guide urban development, with the assumption that well-planned cities and urban extensions can curb excessive land consumption.
  • These global policies and targets are very ambitious and maybe not very realistic.