Analysis of Informal Dynamics in Mega Urban Areas – Based on Spatial Structure and Steering Mechanisms Focused on Water in the Pearl River Delta

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Klaus Baier

Senior Scientist


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Analysis of Informal Dynamics in Mega Urban Areas – Based on Spatial Structure and Steering Mechanisms Focused on Water in the Pearl River Delta

Funding: DFG

Program: DFG-Schwerpunktprogramm 1233 "Megastädte: Informelle Dynamik des globalen Wandels"

Project term: 2007 to 2011


Since the year 2007 there is an equal share of people living in cities and in rural areas. Especially in developing countries there is still a strongly increasing growth of urban areas. At large that means that the number of megacities will continue to rise.At present we speak of 39 megacities worldwide of which 28 are located in developing countries.

Processes of urbanization have a negative influence on the availability and quality of water resources. Often the hydrological and hydrogeological basis of an area is strongly affected by processes of urbanization in these countries. Changes of the structure of urban development going along with the urbanization will not be without consequences for the environment and water resources. Consequences for ground water resources are fluctuation of groundwater level and serious pollution of ground water through diverse sources of urban pollutant. Especially in developing and threshold countries, but also in industrialized countries, the so-called urban recharge of ground water is affected by canal leakage and/ or missing sanitation systems, leading to a strong contamination of ground water. Furthermore, urban systems often exhibit a fast feedback between wastewater, surface water and ground water.

In megacities formal as well as informal dynamics influence further developing processes. In many cases these formal and informal processes exist side by side and are therefore difficult to separate and differentiate. Nevertheless, informal influences on formally planned settlement structures exist on a considerable scale. The role of uncontrolled factors working on a local level with influence on formally planned and structured cities in China is getting more and more important, among other things because of the economic liberalization of the so-called special economic area.

Within the context of this project a method was developed and tested that permits complex and highly dynamic urban agglomeration centers as megacities to be foreseeable and controllable. This method was examined by means of flow of material and resources of the reference medium water. The aim was to formulate a conclusion on the quality and quantity of the resource water and by that achieve on one hand the improvement of water supply and express on the other hand a proposal for an effective protection of the resource water in mega-urban centers