Special Report

The World’s 33 Megacities

Angelo Young

Source: zhaojiankang / Getty Images

3. Shanghai, China
> 2018 population: 25.6 million
> 2000-2018 population growth: +79.6%
> Pct. of China’s population: 1.8%
> Est. 2030 population: 32.87 million

Shanghai is China’s largest city by population, and the third most populated in both Asia and the world as a whole. Located on the central east coast of the country at the mouth of the Yangtze River, Shanghai has the world’s busiest port complex in terms of cargo tonnage. Established as a city in 1297 during the Yuan Dynasty, Shanghai is also one of the oldest gateways for maritime trade. In 2017, Shanghai became the first Chinese city with a GDP over $3 trillion ($469 billion in 2017 dollars).

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2. Delhi, India
> 2018 population: 28.5 million
> 2000-2018 population growth: +81.7%
> Pct. of India’s population: 2.1%
> Est. 2030 population: 38.94 million

Sitting on the banks of a Ganges River tributary in north-central India, Delhi is the largest of the country’s five megacities. It comprises Old Delhi in the north, a historic city known for its opulent 17th-century Mughal historical sites, and New Delhi, built in the early 20th century as the seat of the British occupation. Delhi, the political center of India, has often taken second seat to Mumbai, the country’s financial and commercial center and home to Bollywood. Recent data from U.S. think tank Brookings Institution, however, ranks Delhi far ahead of Mumbai in job growth.

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1. Tokyo, Japan
> 2018 population: 37.5 million
> 2000-2018 population growth: +8.8%
> Pct. of Japan’s population: 29.5%
> Est. 2030 population: 36.57 million

Tokyo has been the reigning champion of the world’s megacities for decades. The industrial and political center of the world’s third largest economy has nearly the population of California crammed into a space smaller than the size of Connecticut. But its days as human history’s largest urban agglomeration are numbered as Japan’s population is projected to shrink, while Delhi’s population continues to expand. The United Nations predicts that by 2029, India’s capital territory will overtake Tokyo as the biggest megacity in the world.