Urbanization in the Amazon: Overview and the Beginnings in a New Country

Richard Bilsborrow, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Luis Vallejo, Independent Consultant

Urbanization is sweeping the developing world. Even the world's last untouched and inhospitable environments are beginning to urbanize. This paper will examine urbanization in the Amazon basin, site of the world's largest rainforest, isolated from economic centers. Yet large cities (exceeding 100,000) already exist in Brazil and Peru. This paper will briefly review this evolution, then examine the beginnings of urbanization in the Ecuadorian Amazon, where a few frontier-missionary towns as recently as 1970 have grown to small cities up to 30,000, following the discovery of oil and construction of road networks. Although the sizes of these urban centers are small, their growth rates are extraordinary. A specialized community-level survey carried out in 60 communities in 2000 provides data on how these areas have evolved and how they differ in infrastructure, economy and population. These data will be analyzed to provide a unique perspective on the early process of urbanization.

Presented in Session 26: Urbanization and Development