Vietnam is rapidly urbanising, both spatially and demographically; despite a large amount of urban expansion, its cities are becoming denser, said a report released by the World Bank (WB) on January 26.

According to the report “East Asia’s changing urban landscape: Measuring a decade of spatial growth”, Vietnam’s position in the urban hierarchy jumped during the 2000−2010 decade from having the seventh-largest amount of urban land in 2000 (2,200 square kilometres) to the fifth-largest amount in 2010 (2,900 square kilometres), overtaking Thailand and the Republic of Korea.

Urban areas in Vietnam grew spatially at 2.8 percent per year, among the fastest rates in the region.

The country has the sixth largest urban population in East Asia (23 million people) with an urban population increase of 7.5 million, going from from 19 percent (living in urban areas of 100,000 people or more) to 26 percent between 2000 and 2010, the report said.

Although Vietnam does not have any megacities of 10 million or more people, Ho Chi Minh City (7.8 million people) in the south and Hanoi (5.6 million people) in the north are among the region’s largest urban areas.

The WB found the most notable figure regarding urban expansion in Vietnam to be the rapid growth of the Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City urban areas. Their rates of expansion (3.8 percent and 4.0 percent per year, respectively) are much greater than those of urban areas in other East Asian countries, except China.

The report also said if the region’s new urban population from 2000 to 2010, with nearly 200 million people were a country unto itself, it would be the world’s sixth largest.

It added there were 869 urban areas in East Asia with more than 100,000 people, including eight megacities of 10 million or more people, 572 urban areas in the smallest population size category of 100,000 to 500,000, and 106 cities with between 1 and 5 million residents.

For the first time, the data compares urban areas and their populations in a standardised manner across East Asia, providing governments and local leaders with a better understanding of the shape and scale of the growth so they can improve urban planning initiatives and create opportunities for all, said a WB press release.