In 2020, urban residents represented 55% of the world’s population and their numbers were expected to reach 66% by 2050, even in the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic. Between population growth and accelerating population shifts into cities, the ranks of city-dwellers will swell by 2.5 billion people. Meanwhile, the world’s rural population is shrinking, and over the next three decades it is set to decline, not only in proportion but also in total size.
Nearly 90% of the increase in urban residents will happen in Africa and Asia. And the largest nations in that region – India, China, and Nigeria – will be responsible for about a third of the growth. The United Nations projects that by 2050, India will add 416 million people to its alreadycrowded urban areas.
In her new book, Bright Lights, Biggest Cities: The Urban Challenge to India’s Future, Alyssa Ayres explores what this urban transformation means for India by looking at how seven megacities – Mumbai, Delhi, Ahmedabad, Pune, Chennai, Bengaluru, and Hyderabad – are currently grappling with aspects of unchecked growth. Their stories – and their successes and failures – have much to tell us about the way this economic and social shift will play out worldwide.