Publication: A New Urban Landscape in East–Southeast Asia, 2000–2010

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Schneider, A.
Mertes, C. M.
Tatem, A. J.
Tan, B.
Sulla-Menashe, D.
Graves, S. J.
Patel, N. N.
Horton, J. A.
Gaughan, A. E.
Rollo, J. T.
East–Southeast Asia is currently one of the fastest urbanizing regions in the world, with countries such as China climbing from 20 to 50% urbanized in just a few decades. By 2050, these countries are projected to add 1 billion people, with 90% of that growth occurring in cities. This population shift parallels an equally astounding amount of built-up land expansion. However, spatially-and temporally-detailed information on regional-scale changes in urban land or population distribution do not exist; previous efforts have been either sample-based, focused on one country, or drawn conclusions from datasets with substantial temporal/spatial mismatch and variability in urban definitions. Using consistent methodology, satellite imagery and census data for >1000 agglomerations in the East–Southeast Asian region, we show that urban land increased >22% between 2000 and 2010 (from 155 000 to 189 000 km2), an amount equivalent to the area of Taiwan, while urban populations climbed >31% (from 738 to 969 million). Although urban land expanded at unprecedented rates, urban populations grew more rapidly, resulting in increasing densities for the majority of urban agglomerations, including those in both more developed (Japan, South Korea) and industrializing nations (China, Vietnam, Indonesia). This result contrasts previous sample-based studies, which conclude that cities are universally declining in density. The patterns and rates of change uncovered by these data sets provide a unique record of the massive urban transition currently underway in East–Southeast Asia that is impacting local-regional climate, pollution levels, water quality/availability, arable land, as well as the livelihoods and vulnerability of populations in the region.
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