Urbanization provides South Asian countries with the potential to transform their economies to join the ranks of richer nations in both prosperity and livability, but a new World Bank report finds the region, while making strides, has struggled to make the most of the opportunity.
One big reason is that its urbanization has been messy and hidden, according to the report titled, “Leveraging Urbanization in South Asia: Managing Spatial Transformation for Prosperity and Livability.” Messy urbanization is reflected in the widespread existence of slums and sprawl. Sprawl, in turn, helps give rise to hidden urbanization, particularly on the peripheries of major cities, which is not captured by official statistics. Messy and hidden urbanization is symptomatic of the failure to adequately address congestion constraints that arise from the pressure of urban populations on infrastructure, basic services, land, housing, and the environment.
South Asia’s policymakers, the World Bank report says, face a choice: Continue on the same path or undertake difficult and appropriate reforms to improve the region’s trajectory of development. It won’t be easy but such actions are essential in making the region’s cities prosperous and livable.