The world’s urban areas will more than double in size by 2030, presenting an opportunity to build greener and healthier cities, a U.N. study showed on Monday. Simple planning measures such as more parks, trees or roof gardens could make cities less polluted and help protect plants and animals, especially in emerging nations led by China and India where city growth will be fastest, it said.
“Rich biodiversity can exist in cities and is extremely critical to people’s health and well-being,” wrote Thomas Elmqvist of the Stockholm Resilience Centre, scientific editor of the Cities and Biodiversity Outlook.
The world’s urban population is expected to surge from just over 3.5 billion now to 4.9 billion by 2030, according to the assessment by the U.N. Convention on Biological Diversity. At the same time, the area to be covered by cities will expand by 150 percent, it said.
“Most of this growth is expected to happen in small and medium-sized cities, not in megacities,” according to the report, issued to coincide with a U.N. meeting on biodiversity in Hyderabad, India. More green spaces in cities can filter dust and pollution and soak up heat-trapping carbon dioxide. Some studies have shown that the presence of trees can help reduce asthma and allergies for children living nearby, it said. And the study said that cities were also home to a wide range of animals and plants.