Latin America is the development region with the highestworldwide urbanization rate. Today, the urban population in the region accounts for more than 82% of the total population and this percentage is expected to reach 90% in 2050. Consequently, cities in the region show a significant concentration of economic activity.
Cities with a population larger than 10 million people, also known as megacities, have turned into the focal points of Latin American development. They play a key role in innovation, the concentration of expert workforce, the dynamic development of economic activities and the provision of educational, cultural and recreational services.
However, this rapid growth poses significant challenges on environmental and social sustainability: high levels of inequality, unemployment, insecurity, environmental pollution and poor public services. In turn, extreme climatic events are becoming more widespread, increasing the vulnerability of cities and, in particular, the vulnerability of the most disadvantaged people. In addition, urban life accelerates climate change: the cities, collectively, are responsible for the consumption of more than 75% of the distributed energy and generate between 75 to 80% of greenhouse gases. All of these challenges are affecting and will continue to affect the quality of life of the cities’ inhabitants.
Urban infrastructure and the provision of public services that depend on it, play a crucial role in improving the quality of life, equity and social inclusion in our cities. Through these, people can have access to a steady supply of drinking water, electricity without frequent power cuts, well lit neighborhoods, clean and drained streets, clean air, safe and rapid transport, solid educational and hospital buildings and access to parks, rivers or bays free of pollution.
As the populations and economies of Latin America grow, the demand for adequate, equitable, high quality infrastructure that respects the environment, increases. Answering and meeting the demands of the citizens of the region requires innovative and sustainable solutions focused on the quality of the service that urban infrastructure offers.
Orginal publication date: March 2014
Publisher: Inter-American Development Bank (IDB)
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