The European Commission (EC) has released an atlas of the planet that represents urbanization patterns for 200+ countries. More than 75% of the world’s population resides in urban areas, as per the atlas, which shows the footprint of human settlement throughout the years. The Atlas was officially launched at the 10th session of the World Urban Forum, held recently in Abu Dhabi, UAE. This is the fourth edition of the atlas, whose previous iterations focused on cities, exposure to natural hazards and mapping human settlements from space.
Between 1975 and 2015, there has been an increase in the number of urban dwellers from 69% to 76%. While, during the same period, the countries where less than half of the total population lives in urban areas has decreased from 48% to 36%.
Fast population growth is one of the main reasons for urbanization. However, the pace varies for different regions, with Asia, Africa and Latin America being ahead of others.
The three most urbanized countries in the EU, as per the atlas, are Malta, UK, and the Netherlands, with 95%, 85%, 82% population living in urban areas. Negative population growth rate and emigration is also resulting in de-urbanization in countries of East Europe.
The atlas contains a summary of the different pathways to urbanizations followed by countries, so that that they can be compared on a global level.
Comparative analysis mechanism
Countries have different parameters to interpret urbanization, which makes global comparative analysis a bit difficult. This atlas reduces the key parameters to just population density, which is the most crucial factor, and provides a new perspective.
For this methodology, researchers used AI to process terabytes of satellite data, and institutions that work on urbanization were involved.
The comparisons are being made by applying the European definition of urban and rural areas to the JRC’s (Joint Research Commission’s) Global Human Settlement Layer data.
The JRC ( Joint Research Commission) is building the knowledge base for creating a universal definition of urban and rural areas. Cities, towns, suburbs and rural areas are demarcated based on population density and size. Any human settlement that has a population of more than 5,000 is classified as urban.
The consortium includes the European Commission, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, the World Bank, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the International Labor Organization, and the United Nations Human Settlements Programme.
Over the past few decades, urbanization has been a defining feature of the world we inhabit due to rapid industrialization, fast mobility, advanced communication networks, and changing trade dynamics. It has also prompted the need to redesign our urban spaces, decongest them, and make them resilient and sustainable. For this purpose, it is essential to get an accurate picture of demographic patterns and their distribution, and the atlas would be of great help in this regard.