As metropolitan cities continue to grow at incredible rates alongside each other across the globe, their boundaries start to blur. This has given rise to a new scale of geography known as "mega-regions". These vastly populated settlements have interlocking economic systems, common natural resources and shared transportation links. But they also have shared problems.
Global population growth will continue to gather pace as we move through the 21st century, putting more and more stress on the systems that support our most densely regions. According to a new UN report, the world's mega-cities are merging to form these vast mega-regions which may stretch hundreds of kilometres across countries and be home to more than 100 million people.
UN-Habitat, the agency for human settlements, which identifies the trend of developing mega-regions in its biannual State of World Cities report, refers to these regions as "endless cities" and earmarks them as one of the most significant developments in the way people live their lives and the way economies grow.
Hong Kong-Shenhzen-Guangzhou region
This trend has forced the world past a tipping point over the last 12 months, with over half of the global population now residing in cities. Anna Tibaijuka, outgoing director of UN-Habitat, said: "Just over half the world now lives in cities but by 2050, over 70 percent of the world will be urban dwellers. By then, only 14 percent of people in rich countries will live outside cities, and 33 percent in poor countries."
The largest and most developed mega-region is, unsurprisingly, in China. The Hong Kong-Shenhzen-Guangzhou region is home to over 120 million people and it is here where a significant chunk of China's economic boom is happening.
The case of the Hong Kong-Shenzhen-Guangzhou region is exemplary: three very strong financial centers, with their own relative independence and history and openly encouraged, promoted and enhanced by the Beijing government. This is now the leading growth engine for China's economic future.
Asia is a hot-spot for mega-region development, with Japan and India also showing all the signs of emerging mega-regions.
The economic benefits of these regions are clear: "They [mega-regions], rather than countries, are now driving wealth. Research shows that the world's largest 40 mega-regions cover only a tiny fraction of the habitable surface of our planet and are home to fewer than 18 percent of the world's population [but] account for 66 percent of all economic activity and about 85 percent of technological and scientific innovation," said the report's co-author Eduardo Lopez Moreno.
"The top 25 cities in the world account for more than half of the world's wealth. And the five largest cities in India and China now account for 50 percent of those countries' wealth," he added.
However, mass urban sprawl is a by-product of such immense growth and presents a huge challenge to governments as they struggle to deal with this "unstoppable urbanisation". As reported by UK newspaper the Guardian, "new slums, unbalanced development and income inequalities" can all lead to divided, dysfunctional cities. Los Angeles is a case in point.
Asian cities are growing more equally according to the report, but primarily because they were already uniformly poor with a greater volume of slums.
Here, Business Management Asia takes a look at how Asia's mega-regions are developing...
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