|A traffic jam in HCM City's Tan Binh District. Rapid urbanisation creates prolonged impoverishment and reduces people's access to all aspects of life. — VNA/VNS Photo Hoang Hai
HA NOI (VNS) — Viet Nam is rapidly urbanising, both spatially and demographically. Urban areas have spread at the rate of 2.8 per cent per year, among the fastest development in the region, according to a report released by the World Bank (WB) yesterday.
Viet Nam's position in the urban hierarchy jumped during 2000-10 from having the seventh-largest amount of urban land in 2000 (2,200sq.km) to the fifth-largest amount in 2010 (2,900sq.km).
This put it ahead of Thailand and South Korea, according to the report on East Asia's changing urban landscape.
Viet Nam has the sixth-largest urban population in East Asia, just over 23 million people. Between 2000-10, its urban population increased by 7.5 million people. This rate of urban population increase, 4.1 per cent per year, was one of the highest rates in the region. Only Laos and Cambodia grew at a quicker rate.
At 7,700 people per square kilometres in 2010, urban areas in Viet Nam were denser, on average, than in the region as a whole, though not as dense as Indonesia, South Korea or the Philippines.
The report revealed the country's landscape was dominated by Ha Noi and HCM City, which both had more than five million people as of 2010 and added vast amounts of new land while remaining very dense in terms of population.
The cities' rates of expansion, at 3.8 per cent and 4 per cent each year respectively, are much faster than those of urban areas in other East Asian countries, except China. If the two cities continue to grow at the current rate, by 2020, they will both be twice as large as they were in 2000.
In HCM City, the increase in density in the city centre is said to be connected to industrial expansion, which creates jobs that attract people to existing neighbourhoods.
The report found that almost 200 million people moved to urban areas in East Asia during the period. It took more than 50 years for the same number to become urbanised in Europe.
The massive population shift is creating some of the world's biggest mega-cities including Tokyo, Shanghai, Jakarta, Seoul and Manila as well as hundreds of medium and smaller urban areas.
This transformation touched every aspect of life and livelihoods, from access to clean water to high speed trains that transport millions of people in and out of cities during rush hour, said WB Vice President for East Asia and Pacific Axel van Trotsenburg.
People moved to urban areas in search of more jobs and a better life. However, urbanisation came with the risk of creating prolonged impoverishment and lack of opportunity instead of improvements, he said.
Once cities were built, their urban form and land-use patterns were locked in for generations. Getting the mix right avoided wasting decades and large sums of money trying to undo mistakes, he added.
Therefore, it was important to understand the inter-related megatrends that accompany urban growth, he said, adding that to do so required monitoring and tracking the complex issues involved, including migration, labour, employment, income, transport, health, education and public infrastructure.
The report suggests that policy makers at the national and municipal levels have an important role to play in ensuring that urbanisation is sustainable and inclusive.
They should prepare for future spatial expansion by facilitating access to land so expansion can occur efficiently, using mechanisms such as guided land development, land pooling and readjustment, land sharing and transfer of development rights.
They should also ensure economically-efficient urbanisation by addressing the entire system of cities through national urbanisation strategies and supporting public investments in a range of large, small and medium-sized cities to foster diverse economic activity.
The report indicated it was also essential to make urbanisation inclusive by planning a spatial growth to help reduce inequality in access to economic opportunities and address the vulnerabilities of recent migrants.
It was also necessary to foster sustainable urbanisation by ensuring high-density urban areas were well located, planned and co-ordinated to produce a walkable, livable environment.
It was also necessary to overcome metropolitan fragmentation by co-ordinating urban services across municipal boundaries, using regional Government authorities and other mechanisms. — VNS