Its developers boast it is the world’s largest standalone building and it’s going up in Chengdu in southwest China – a genuine “sign of the times.” The New Century Global Centre will house two 1,000-room five-star hotels, an ice rink,a luxury Imax cinema, vast shopping malls and a 20,000-capacity swimming pool (that’s right – 20,000 capacity).
Alongside will be another massive futuristic structure, a contemporary arts centre to serve this city of more than 14 million. What’s more this municipality will reach 20 million in seven years. The Global Centre is the “sign of the times” in that it exemplifies the tremendous exodus of Chinese from villages to cities. More than half China’s population – 690.79 million now live in cities.
Optimists view this prospect as representing the best of urban living with basic services and needs to be easily provided. However, pessimists see a future filled with controversies over resources and rampant violence and disease.
India is faced with the same possibilities as China plus years of scarcity and outdated financial systems. Some 290 million people were living in cities in India in 2001, a figure that rose to 340 million in 2008 and is set to reach 590 million by 2030. By that year it is predicted there will be 68 Indian cities of more than four million and six megacities with populations of 10 million or more. Business consultants McKinsey and Co. say eventually India’s already congested cities will face gridlock, with only a quarter of the necessary trains and a severe shortage of water. Many inhabitants will have no drinking water and up to 80% of sewage will go untreated.
Even if infrastructure needs are met, the new cities of China and India face enormous challenges.
Note: Thanks to Paul Webster and Jason Burke of The Guardian Weekly for the above facts.