My original country, Pakistan, was once the centre of one of the earliest and most widespread civilizations; the Indus Valley Civilization. The civilization flourished in some regions of today’s Pakistan, Afghanistan and India between c. 7,000 – c. 600 BCE. It consisted of two earliest largest cities, Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro. Both of the cities are thought to have had populations of between 40,000 – 50,000 people. By around c. 1,500 BCE, cities became abandoned due to unknown reasons.
Having a population of 40,000 – 50,000 in a city at that time was stunning; most ancient cities had on average 10,000 people living in them. Today, more than 3,500 years later since the Indus River Civilization disappeared, having a population of 50,000 is no longer significant, as the world is becoming an increasingly crowded place. To grasp the idea on how large today’s largest cities are, we look at the five largest cities in the world under a definition of “urban area” in the visual content above. An urban area is defined as a continuously built-up land mass of urban development that is within a labor market. See the source data here: Demographia World Urban Areas 17th Annual Edition: 202106.
#1 Tokyo, Japan
The largest urban area in the world is Tokyo, Japan. Blending the super-modern and the traditional, the Greater Tokyo Area accommodates 39.1 million people within the area of 8,231 km2. Its population is as large as the sum of the populations of New York City and Beijing, while its area is almost half of the sum areas of the two.
#2 Jakarta, Indonesia
The second largest urban area is one of the fastest growing cities, Jakarta, with a population of 35.4 million in the area of 3,541 km2. Its population almost equals to the sum of the populations of Guangzhou and Los Angels. The area of Jakarta is relatively small, as the sum area of these two cities is almost three times as Jakarta’s area.
#3 Delhi, India
Along with many historical sites, Delhi has a population of 31.9 million people. If you have visited both Tokyo and Delhi, you might feel that Delhi has more population than Tokyo. Well, you may be right in terms of congestion; the area of Delhi is only 2,233 km2. Delhi’s population is almost equal to the sum of populations of Osaka, Chicago, and Washington D.C.. Surprisingly, the sum of the areas of the three cities is nearly as seven times as Delhi’s area. Undoubtedly, it feels quite congested.
#4 Manila, the Philippines
Manila, a vibrant active city of mixture of colonial architectures and increasing high-rise buildings, is the home to 24 million residents. It is equal to the combined populations of Philadelphia, Dallas, Houston, and Atlanta. The 24 million people live in a 1,873 km2 land in Manila. On the other hand, the combined area of the four U.S. cities is 23,038 km2.
#5 São Paulo, Brazil
Known for its multiculturalism since the late nineteenth century, 22.5 million people reside in São Paulo, which almost equals to the combined populations of Paris and London. The area of this ethnically diverse and young city is 3,237 km2. It is almost as 1.5 times as the combined areas of the two European cities.
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