Growing urban population strains Chinese cities

CHONGQING, June 26, 2011 (AFP) – A forest of buildings and cranes rises through thick fog above roads jammed with cars in a Chinese city the size of Austria and home to more than 32 million people. The southwestern megacity of Chongqing is bursting at the seams as authorities struggle to keep pace with its rapidly growing urban population — a situation seen repeatedly across the vast country of 1.3 billion people.

Lifelong resident Zhou Dechong, 80, says he is stunned by the speed of development in the teeming metropolis which, like many Chinese cities, is plagued by chronic traffic jams, dirty air and the deafening sound of jack-hammers.

“In every aspect, the pace of development has been very fast,” Zhou told AFP.

More than 350 million people are expected to move to Chinese towns and cities in the coming years, boosting the country’s urban population to one billion by 2030, according to a report by consultancy firm McKinsey & Company.

The unprecedented urbanisation will more than double the number of cities with one million residents to 221 and require the construction of five million buildings, including 50,000 skyscrapers — equivalent to 10 New Yorks, it said.