The growing city of Kathmandu, Nepal’s capital.
Photo: Jane Carter
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Small and medium-sized towns are important for connecting rural and larger urban areas and have the potential to play a more effective role in inclusive and equitable regional development. Yet the development potential that they offer often goes unnoticed and unplanned. Inadequate financial resources and infrastructure as well as lack of power and authority are some of the challenges these towns face, as the examples from Nepal and Bolivia show.

The growth of the world’s global urban population has led to economists, policy-makers and urban theorists declaring this as an era of the ‘Urban Age.’ In 2007, the world crossed the tipping point in which 50 per cent of its population became urban, in comparison to 1960, when only 34 per cent of the world’s population lived in towns or cities. The growth in the size of urban areas, especially in Africa, Asia and Latin America, means that far more people are urban dwellers today than was the case 50 years ago, a figure that is predicted to increase.

Nepal and Bolivia are no strangers to this trend. Nepal’s population was predominately rural until recently but is now urbanising at a rapid rate. The capital city of Kathmandu, with its surrounding valley, accounts for 24 per cent of the total urban population and has been growing between three and four per cent each year as people migrate to the area in search of better jobs and services.

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