When you're putting together any kind of urban development project, there are going to be logistical hiccups. That’s completely forgivable. What’s not forgivable is when the plan is completely thrown out the window and buildings and streets just pop up without any kind of flow or guide. But plans are thrown out disturbingly often. These are four of the most terribly designed cities on the planet.
Jakarta is the poster child of poorly planned and executed cities. It’s frequently ranked among the worst cities in the world to live in and regularly takes the top spot of Indonesia’s worst urban offerings. Traffic is horrible and constant, the city’s sinking as people extract more and more water from the ground, and a majority of the residents have some kind of respiratory issue thanks to the polluted air. Three things a city needs to conquer to offer even average quality of life for its citizens.
The main problem is that the city government let itself get overwhelmed by small issues, then didn’t properly research the solutions they implemented. For example, when the city tried to alleviate traffic by investing in mass transit, they chose buses. But when they built the bus lanes, they didn’t modify the roads at all, which meant the buses got caught in the omnipresent traffic, which was made worse by the lessening of available lanes. It’s like when they decided to build mass transit, instead of using a common sense solution used by cities all over the world, the Jakartan government left its common sense in the trash and doubled down on making everything worse. Then they did that for every other problem the city faced too.
Where Jakarta was poorly built for the amount of people they had, Naypyidaw was built for people no one can see. Everything’s empty everywhere. They have twenty-lane highways that are completely devoid of cars. And we’re not being hyperbolic to prove a point. When Top Gear went to Burma to film a special, they were able to stage a super-sized drag race in the middle of the highway.
On the same Top Gear episode, the three hosts talked about how Naypyidaw wasn’t a waste because it was built in anticipation of massive growth, though they admitted the growth wasn’t there yet. We’d disagree a bit and say it was at least a partial waste because the Burmese government built the massive city for growth without actually doing anything to enable growth in the country. The Burmese people are incredibly poor and it is highly unlikely any of them are going to be able to afford the lifestyle the city’s prepared for. The only people making any money are the ones building the city, and there aren’t enough of them to populate things the way it seems the Burmese government wants.
Chennai’s bad planning manifests itself in the fatal flooding the city has recently experienced. Back in November and December of 2015, the city saw a series of floods that claimed the lives of at least 90 residents. Urban planners maintain this was not a failing on their part, but was instead the result of haphazard planning executed by the local government. A man named RR Kuberan and his New Chennai Project submitted a redevelopment plan that turned Chembarambakkam Lake into a reservoir that would have supplied Chennai with plenty of clean drinking water, a transformation that would also have dried out surrounding land enough for development. But instead of going with that plan, the city allowed private developers to sell off land piecemeal and turn it into housing, which made water management next to impossible. It was a case of a city going for short term economic growth and urbanization instead of long term planning.
The planning for Dhaka’s expansion is nonexistent, which makes sense when you consider the way it grew. It started as a simple town, then exploded in size after Bangladesh won its independence in 1971. When it did, the city started on a path that would see its population increase a hundredfold, turning it into one of the most densely populated cities in the world. In that explosive growth, Dhaka failed to implement any planning or ordinance laws, which means buildings are often private ventures completely free of regulation or zoning and can be thrown up wherever and wherever, often to the detriment and destruction of any kind of unified sense of community. The city is a sprawling mass of slums, private construction, and traffic traffic traffic. It’s chaos incarnate, though people are slowly starting to realize how destructive that chaos can be.