Megacities: Concept, Features & Challenges

United Nations had observed as late as in 2007 that humanity will reach a significant demographic milestone, wherein for the first time in history more people will live in cities than the countryside and by 2030, over 60% of people will live in cities. The growth rate is particularly rapid in many of the so-called megacities, cities with more than 10 million inhabitants. The megacities listed by the UN already have a total population of around 280 million. They are increasingly the growth engines of their respective national economies.

What is Megacity?

Megacities have more than 10 million inhabitants. The terms Megapolis or Megalopolis are sometimes used synonymously with Megacity. As of 2015, there are 35 megacities in existence. The United Nations predicts that there would be 41 megacities by 2030. In India there are 4 megacities- Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Bengaluru.

Key Features of Megacities

The United Nations has outlined certain features which pertain to Megacities-

  • Megacities prioritize economic competitiveness and employment.
  • The environment matters, but may be sacrificed for growth.
  • Transport overtakes all other infrastructure concerns.
  • Better governance is a vital step towards better cities.
  • Holistic solutions are desired but difficult to achieve.
  • Cities will seek to improve services, but could do more to manage demand. Technology will help deliver transparency and efficiency.
  • The private sector has a role to play in increasing efficiency.

Typical Challenges faced by Megacities

The key challenges faced by megacities are following:


It is observed that due to rising population, the absolute number of slum dwellers is rising. There are legal and illegal settlements with insufficient housing and sanitation. This is largely due to massive migration, both internal and transnational, into cities, which has caused growth rates of urban populations and spatial concentrations not seen before in history. Slum dwellers often have minimal or no access to education, healthcare, or the urban economy.


As there is lack of proper and sufficient infrastructure and public services which includes sanitation, housing, education and healthcare to support the growing population not only leads to the growth of slums, but also breeds discontent among urban dwellers, leading to high crime rates.


Megacities have a significant number of homeless people.

Traffic congestion

Looking within our own geographical boundaries, cities like Mumbai and Kolkata are facing huge traffic. Traffic congestion leads to increased pollution, slow speed of vehicles, etc.

Urban sprawl

Urban sprawl have the disadvantages of longer transport distances to work, high car dependence, inadequate facilities (e.g. health, cultural. etc.) and higher per-person infrastructure costs.

Air pollution

There are hazardous chemicals which are let out and are harmful to humans, other living organisms and are also damaging the natural environment. Smog is a typical form of air pollution which happens due to vehicle emissions and industrial fumes.

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