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Planet Earth: Data Snapshots of our Urban Legacy
By the year 2015, 27 of the world's 33 largest cities will be Asian. Bombay and Shanghai will buldge with 20 million people each, while Jakarta and surrounding cities will overflow with nearly 37 million. Suburban areas are growing faster than the cores. While Jakarta as a whole expanded 4 % annually in the first half of this decade, the population of several areas on its fringe grew as much as 18% per year.
More than half of the population of Dhaka, Bangladesh (pop: 8 million) live in slums.
India's capital New Delhi often cuts off electricity for more than six hours a day to reduce the load on the electric system - called 'load-shedding'
Due to the tapping of underground aquifers in Mexico City, the ground has sunk more than 7.5 cm over the past century. Tokyo buries its garbage in artificial islands in the Tokyo bay and surrounding areas. But it will run out of room for the 15 million tons of household refuse it generates - much of which is incinerated.
Air pollution in New Delhi is so heavy, that it is comparable to smoking 10 to 20 cigarettes a day.
Traffic clogs the streets of Bangkok to a legendary gridlock. The average speed in some of the central areas of the city is 12 km/h.
Top ten cities and their populations (1995, mil) -
Tokyo (26.8); Sao Paulo (16.4); New York (16.3); Mexico city (15.6); Bombay (15.1); Shangai (12.4); Los Angeles (12.4); Beijing (12.4); Calcutta (11.7); Seoul (11.6).
Lives of 2 million children could be saved from diarrhoeal illnesses each year if everyone has access to clean water.
While developed countries spend 11 % of their household incomes on food, third world families spend more than 70% of their incomes.
In 1995, 20% of the planet's people did not have access to clean drinking water, and 50% lacked proper toilet facilities.
300,000 new vehicles are added to the streets of Bangkok every year. The average Thai driver spends 44 full days a year sitting in traffic jams. In metropolitan Tokyo, 30% of all urban trips are made on bicycle and there are fully computerized three storey bicycle parking garages at many suburban rail stations.
If everyone on earth started to live as the Japanese, then we would need resources from an equivalent of three Earths to sustain ourselves!
Intensive imapcts of human activities on the environment can be seen everywhere. 30 new infectious diseases have emerged over the past 20 years.
At the rate our climate is changing, the world will soon be warmer than at any time in the last 10,000 years. There is scientific consensus that air pollution from human activities is partly responsible for global warming The world has warmed by 0.5 deg.C over the past century and an average 2 deg.C warming is predicted by 2100.
Climatic changes will alter natural vegetation, wildlife habitats, crop growing seasons, and the distribution of pests and diseases.
Global warming will cause a continued and accelerated rise in sea levels, threatening half of the world's most critical coastal wetlands.
Some 1.2 billion people - nearly one out of every three in the developing world - do not have access to a safe and reliable supply ofwater for their daily needs. Over pumping has caused land to subside beneath Bangkok at a rate of 5-10 cms a year for the past two decades.
Shanghai,China's most populous city, has been sinking at the rate of 10 mm annually since the mid-1980s due to overuse of ground water and large-scale contruction projects.
Water scarcity is particularly severe in and around Beijing where water tables have been dropping 1-2 meters a year, and a third of its wells have reportedly gone dry.
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