Urban Planning in Developing Countries

Published: Last Edited:

This essay has been submitted by a student. This is not an example of the work written by our professional essay writers.

Urban Planning in Developing Countries


In recent years, there has been an increasing interest in third world urban planning. Over past three decades there has been a large migration of China`s population from rural to urban regions. As Grübler says: “Fast urbanization and consequent land use change had altered ecosystems, destroyed wildlife habitats, changed regional climates and released large amounts of carbon into the atmosphere”(Grübler, 1998). At the same time, the cities are developing very fast but ignored the quality of planning. As a consequence, the citizens` living quality has dropped rapidly. There is evidence, however, that citizens who live in a well-planned city find it easy to have a high happiness level.

For example, Barcelona`s city plan remains one of the best models in the world even Spain may be facing significant economic and political challenges these years. Compared with other cities in the developing countries, Barcelona has paid more attention on the city users` perception and experience, the city planners always put the users` feeling first and then comes the rules, that is why Barcelona`s citizens can easily enjoy their life there. On the other hand, citizens of the developing countries` cities will be harder to promote happiness index.

A question arising from these considerations concerns the best way to design cities or re-plan cities of developing countries. The project will examine the urban design in developing countries. It will look at how to make the most suitable decision for every third world countries' planning. It will explain why we should pay more attention to this area. Firstly, the project will make a comparison between the urban design in developed countries and that in developing countries. Secondly, the project will talk about how to make a good plan in developing countries. Thirdly, the project will analysis the feasibility of making a good plan in developing countries.

Section 1

Urban planning in the world

  1. Urban planning in developed countries

Planning used to be a physical space theory, but for now, the developed countries` planning is a theory of public policy and public management. As the basic urban construction is completed, what they should do now is just to keep upgrading each area of a city and increase public participation. As Potter says: “By now, many countries in both the developed and developing world regions espouse the need for greater public participation in planning, although in practice, many may only pay it lip service.”(Potter, 2012, p.149)

In developed countries, the planners play an important role in the society. The planners always spend lot of time to understand the cities and forecast the evolution of the cities. City is like a system and the system is a complicated entirety, which contains a lot of objects and sections. The planners in developed countries will do their best to combine them and make them related to each other. On the other hand, the planners are always glad to listen to the citizens and collect their opinions; they will combine variety of special requirements and plans to become a comprehensive rational choice. For these reasons, the citizens in developed countries are much easier to obtain happiness.

  1. Urban planning in developing countries

The planning process in so-called developing countries, like China, is radically different from western countries. In recent years, large numbers of teachers came back from abroad bring back the ideas of foreigners, then pass on to their students. Nevertheless, the urbanization process in China is quite different with foreign countries and we do not have a own theory which is suitable for this situation, the way we are planning is copying western models, that is why we have so much problems in today`s cities.

Developing countries always have economically backward, the easiest way to grow economy is to increase the population. With the growth of population, many problems will be much harder to solve than before, such as the relationships between individuals, housing, transportation and environment. The planners in most of the developing countries always put profits in the first place and ignore the city user`s experience, they will think little about the city`s future. Developing countries also used to pursuit the develop speed and ignore the quality of a city. Any city`s development is a long historical process, there must have a large number of culture relics in this process. But as this stage of urban planning in China, most of the historical and cultural sights were severely damaged by our so-called development. When talking about the environment in China, it is also a huge problem. A good environment is a critical condition of city developing. With the unsuitable method of plan a city, the air quality, water quality and other environmental quality decreased sharply in these few decades. Compared with the urban planning in developed countries, there is a lack of future prospects in developing countries' urban planning.

Section 2

How to make a suitable plan in developing countries

2.1 What should government and planners do?

The government should pay more attention on city planning than before. They used to pay too much attention on the economy increasing and almost ignored the city planning, so they should change their mind to keep the balance between them. The government should strengthen the seriousness of urban planning which including strengthen law enforcement, promote the enforcement process, improve enforcement measures and other related measures. During the planning process, the planners should put citizens to the first place but not profits. Environmental quality is very important in nowadays, the planners should not ignore it because urban planning is a theory of serving the individuals, and they should develop the city without damage the environment of citizens. Urban planning should reflect the profits of the public such as the area of transportation, entertainment, medical care, education and so on, planners must make sure people-oriented. As Silva says: “Urban planners face major challenges in the collection of data towards analysing the constantly changing social, economic and environmental conditions in cities.”(Silva, 2010, p.388)

2.2 What should citizens do?

Urban planning is not an affair of government and planners, the public should also take participate in it. The citizens of a city should improve their quality and have an international view to bring help to urban development. In developed countries, the correct theory said that urban planning is a collaborative process. When necessary, public should give objective advices and helpful suggestions to help the planners, ensure the process is progressing. On the other hand, everyone should do their best to protect the environment and reduce the waste of resources in the process of urban development, in order to reduce the pressure of government and planners. The connection between cities` users and planners should be a co-operation relationship.

Section 3

The feasibility of urban planning in developing countries.

3.1 A case analysis of Shanghai

This paragraph presents a case analysis of Shanghai, China's largest and most important industrial center. Rapid industrial and economic development in China over the past three decades has resulted in a large migration from rural areas to cities, the population of Shanghai was more than doubled and building area increased rapidly as same as the number of vehicles. For this reason, it is a really tough work to re-plan a city like Shanghai. Since we cannot cut down the number of population, the only way to re-plan the city is to adapt the current situation and find out the suitable solutions. During the past decades, Shanghai had spent a huge number of money on the urban infrastructure investment (see Appendix 1). Even the government used this part of bonus to upgrade a lot of areas of infrastructure investment, but it is still hard to balance the relationships between individuals, housing, transportation and environment.

3.2 Problems and difficulties

The migration and urbanization is still keep increasing in the cities like Shanghai and we cannot forecast the future. If we can build small and medium-sized cities, which have perfect function, surround the big cities, they may attract people to move in from the big cities. This method will change the migration and urbanization trend, it also can improve the growth and development of both big cities and other cities. As Pacione says:

National industrial-development policy, including the decision to build small and medium-sized cities for investment allocation purposes, has directly affected the growth and development of Shanghai...They conclude that the Chinese accomplishment in large-scale urban transformation and their success in containing the spatial growth of large industrial centers is a remarkable achievement in urban and regional planning, which should be studied closely by planners in both the developed and the developing countries.(Pacione, 1981, p.26)

On the other hand, this method may be useless to China because of the population. There has more opportunities in big cities such as Shanghai, it is really a tough work to change people`s mind to migrate to smaller cities. With a huge number of population and lack of public participation in large cities, the work of plan and re-plan tend to be harder.

Compared with developed countries, there will be much less problems in urban design or city re-planning.


Taking the suggested solutions could solve the problems in developing countries but it will take a long time for developing countries to keep pace with the developed countries. The developing countries should learn the way of developed countries, but still need to find out a much more suitable way to plan the cities or re-plan them.

A good city planning contains a lot of elements and it is not only a process to integrate various of resources, it should bring urban residents a more comfortable and harmonious living environment. Although many of the developing countries` cities are upgrading, but in most of their plan there still exist unscientific, irrational and follow blindly. The cities` planners made their decision to make the cities become a new Manhattan or a new Hong Kong regardless of the specific circumstances, the number of these cities now is at least 40 according to relevant statistics. We cannot just focus on economic development and forget the significance of urban planning itself.

Developing countries has a lot of problems in the urban planning process, it is due to lack of research institutions for urban planning. At this point, the developed countries always have their own urban planning research institutions, which will find the most suitable solutions to upgrade the cities. The developing countries should build research centers like the developed countries and understand the cities so that the planners can make the correct decisions.


Grübler, A. (1998) Technology and Global Change. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Potter, R. (2012) Urbanisation and Planning in the Third World. Routledge Ltd.

Silva, C. (2010) Handbook of Research on E-planning. Information Science Reference (Isr)

Pacione, M. (ed.) (1981) Problems and planning in Third World cities. Great Britain: Biddles Ltd.

Shanghai Bureau of Statistic (2011). Available at: http://www.stats-sh.gov.cn/tjnj/nje11.htm?d1=2011tjnje/E1001.htm



Power Generation


Post and Telecommunications

Public Utilities

Civil Constructions














































































100 million yuan

Appendix 1: Urban Infrastructure Investment of Shanghai (2000-2010)