Dubai as a mini-me(ga)

Megacities are defined as cities with populations of 10 million or more. The medium cities we have discussed in BE551 were to have no more than a population 5 million by 2025 and a minimum population of 1 million. According to the World Urbanization Prospects 2009, Dubai had a population of 1.567 million people in 2010 and is expected to reach 2.076 million by 2025. That is a growth rate of 1.64% and an increase of .5 million people over 15 years. As Dubai’s population increases it growth rate declines, but the amount of people moving into the city is still greater than ever. The way Dubai has gone about its growth, capitalizing on a real estate boom and continuing at a high level with unprecedented sized projects, makes me wonder not if Dubai will ever become a megacity but when.

I am convinced that becoming a megacity is Dubai’s ultimate goal. However, in the case for Dubai, I am unsure what that achievement might mean for the city; Dubai is already labeled a megacity by critics. Although its population might be nine times lower than the definition of a megacity, its publicity and global presence sure make it seem like one.

Returning to the definition, megacities can usually be grouped together by their challenges. Slums, traffic congestion, urban sprawl, pollution, and health issues are the main hardships of any city, and more so in megacities because the issues are amplified tenfold. The difference, as was discussed in class, is that medium cities are in tension with their current challenges, as opposed to megacities who are content with the way things are, good or bad. I don’t see Dubai as being in tension with its identity but I do feel that it is preoccupied with its image.

Dubai has organized its social structure to prevent anyone from becoming a citizen of the UAE and limiting the amount of time a worker may stay in the city to six years. Additionally, there are laws the prevent workers from bringing their families to live in Dubai unless they make a certain minimum wage. By doing so Dubai is emphasizing a desire to promote nationalism while simultaneously covering up the existence of a lower class. They reinforce this concept by transporting workers from worksites to worker camps outside the city via private buses.

However, social inequalities of the city are not a secret and there must be tension building up among the workforce that amounts to over 500,000 people. That number makes up one third of the total population today. If those numbers were to continue to increase or become more organized, one might see a movement similar to that of Caracas, where the lower class has gained some power. At this time it appears that Dubai’s governing methods of citizenship laws are successfully regulating and restraining the workers. The laws in place may keep the “temporary workers” from gaining any power to revolt but if Dubai is to continue to grow, allowing only a small percentage of its population to be actual citizens, I do not believe it will be able to reach megacity size.

Demographics for Dubai


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