Life in the Megacity

A Photo Essay

Photo: Rex Butler/Asia Images/IPNstock


Tokyo [opposite] is by far the largest megacity, with 35 million people, but its population increases by less than 100 000 per year.

Photo: Q. Sakamaki/Redux

The wealth of a city

is its people. Around the world, many seek a better life by moving. In 2006, more than 1 100 000 people obtained legal permanent resident status in the United States, a small fraction of the number believed to be living there illegally. On 10 April 2006, 125 000 people took to the streets of New York City protesting legislation that would make it a crime to help an illegal immigrant.

Photo: Peter Bialobrzeski/laif/redux

Cities everywhere are rebuilding

themselves at a furious pace. In Shanghai, the old and the new are meters apart [middle] and a new financial district, Lujiazui, is under ­construction [bottom]. Despite many ­kilometers of new elevated highways [above], new license fees, and restrictions on car ownership, average bus speed was 10 kilometers per hour in 2004.

Photo: Joachim Ladefoged/VII

youth will be heard,

for better or for worse. A May 2007 study of urban cellphone usage called Tokyo’s keitai (cellphone) kids oya yubi sedai, or ”the thumb generation”. Some ­observers say the popularity of keitai in Japan is tied to the culture’s lengthy train commutes.

To see all of Spectrum 's special report on The Megacity, including online extras and audio and video exclusives, go to