Special Report

30 Most Crowded Cities in the World

Source: McKay Savage/ Flickr

5. Chennai, India
> People per square mile: 64,655
> Population: 4.3 million
> Land area: 67.18 square miles
> Population change, 2005-2015: 35.0%

While Chennai currently has the fifth highest population density of any major city in the world, a new regional plan may expand the southern Indian city’s boundaries and reduce overcrowding in the urban area. The state’s Housing and Urban Development Department confirmed that the Chennai metropolitan area will be expanded to cover 3,428 square miles. The master plan will combine the Chennai metropolitan area with a number of neighboring cities, such as Kancheepuram, Tiruvallur, Chengalpattu and Mamallapuram, to create the Chennai Mega Region.

Source: Patrickroque01 / Wikimedia commons

4. Caloocan, Philippines
> People per square mile: 69,115
> Population: 1.5 million
> Land area: 21.54 square miles
> Population change, 2005-2015: N/A

With a population roughly the size of Philadelphia living in a space of 22 square miles, Caloocan is one of the densest cities in the world. In late 2015, Mayor Oscar Malapitan announced that he will focus his time in office on a long-term city development plan. The 15-year project, titled “Caloocan 2030: The Livable City Development Plan”, will put an emphasis on reliable transportation, inclusive growth, technology-driven anti-crime measures, and greening the city.

Source: Thinkstock

3. Manila, Philippines
> People per square mile: 171,301
> Population: 1.7 million
> Land area: 9.64 square miles
> Population change, 2005-2015: 19.0%

Manila, the capital of the Philippines, has a population of 1.7 million, which is roughly equivalent to the population of the broader Austin, Texas metropolitan area. However, while the Austin metro area consists of six counties at over 4,200 square miles, Manila spans less than 10 square miles. The average life expectancy in the Philippines is just 68 years, 11 years less than that of the United States. However, the Southeast Asian nation’s population is growing by more than double the U.S. rate.

Source: Thinkstock

2. Phnom Penh, Cambodia
> People per square mile: 193,730
> Population: 1.6 million
> Land area: 8.11 square miles
> Population change, 2005-2015: 31.5%

To deal with Phnom Penh’s massive population increase in the mid-20th century, the king of Cambodia commissioned an inexpensive housing complex, known as the Municipal Apartments, commonly referred to as the “White Building.” The symbolic apartment complex was demolished this month, never really addressing the city’s population growth. Already the second most crowded city in the world, Cambodia’s minister of land management, urban planning and construction told a housing forum the city would require 800,000 new living spaces by 2030.

Source: Thinkstock

1. Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia
> People per square mile: 760,261
> Population: 1.4 million
> Land area: 1,618 square miles
> Population change, 2005-2015: 47.6%

Mongolia, and its capital city Ulaanbaatar in particular, are dealing with the consequences of urbanization as more Mongolians migrate to cities. In Ulaanbaatar, the influx of new residents resulted in in unplanned neighborhoods known as “ger” areas to spring up. These neighborhoods are estimated to be home to 60% of Ulaanbaatar’s total population, despite being vulnerable to natural disasters. Ger areas also often lack water and sewage services as well as electricity. In response to the overcrowded conditions in the city, the mayor passed a decree to restrict migration to the city until 2018.

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