Cities get bigger despite curbs

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The Independent Online
Twenty years of attempts to slow the explosive growth of cities by directing funds to the countryside have failed, leading politicians, officials and businessmen were told yesterday.

Governments should concentrate less on trying to limit the flight to the cities and more on improving them, Dr Janice Perlman, executive director of the New York-based Megacities project, told a top level brainstorming session in this Turkish seaside town.

As reported in last week's Independent on Sunday, humanity will become a predominantly urban species within the next four years, with more people living in towns and cities than in the countryside, for the first time in our history.

The authoritative World Resources Report, published last Friday, predicts that two thirds of the world's population will be urban in the year 2025, compared to just one third in 1975.

A giant United Nations conference in Istanbul this June will try to draw up strategies for coping with the impending urban crisis and the meeting here has been called to prepare for it.

"Virtually all countries have responded to the urban explosion by trying to limit the growth of their largest cities rather than making them work for those who are there and those who will inevitably arrive," said Dr Perlman. But this had "limited success" and, at times, had been "counter productive". Building roads in the countryside, for example, provided short-term jobs, but then made it easier to migrate, while education provided skills that were most useful in towns and cities.