The World's Most Densely Populated Cities

By Steph Wright on August 31 2020 in World Facts

An aerial shot of Dhaka, the world's most densely populated city. Image credit: Taoty/Shutterstock.com
An aerial shot of Dhaka, the world's most densely populated city. Image credit: Taoty/Shutterstock.com
  • Human and physical factors influence population density; they both influence the growth and change of an area.
  • Cities with a high population density are found all across the world; the three most densely populated cities in the world are Dhaka, Mumbai and Medellin.
  • Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh has a total population of 8.9 million. It’s home to 44,500 people per square kilometer.
  • India’s city of Mumbai has approximately 31,700 people per square kilometer. Many people relocate to Mumbai to seek employment and business opportunities.

Population density is defined by the number of people living in each unit of area. It can be used as a statistic to show how many people live in that specific area. For example, Monaco, a principality located on France’s Mediterranean coast, is 2.02 square kilometers in size and has around 26,000 people per square kilometer. When comparing this information to other countries' statistics, it tells us that Monaco is the world’s most densely populated place.

Human and physical factors influence population density; they both influence the growth and change of an area. Human factors that influence population density include political, economic, and social issues. These are sometimes referred to as push or pull factors. Places with high political unrest (a push factor), such as Afghanistan, have a low population density as many people migrate. Economic factors such as employment opportunities (a pull factor) can also influence migration and population density. For example, when Poland joined the European Union in 2004, many workers migrated to the United Kingdom for an abundance of openings and better wages.  

Physical factors that influence population density relate to the environment and include climate, water supply and relief of the land. An area that is mountainous usually has a low population density as it is difficult to build infrastructure whereas coastal regions enable good transportation links which encourage trading opportunities, creates employment, and ultimately allows for a population to thrive. 

Cities with a high population density are found all across the world; the three most populated cities in the world are Dhaka, Mumbai and Medellin. Read on below to find out about the world’s top five most populated cities.

5. Casablanca, Morocco

A crowded street in Casablanca. Image credit: Ian Peter Morton/Shutterstock.com

The Moroccan city of Casablanca is the world’s fifth most populated city with 14,200 people per square kilometers. The city is considered the economic and business center of Morocco and many businesses and corporations have their headquarters there. In 2018, the city attracted over 12 million tourists, up 8% from the previous year.

4. Manila, the Philippines 

The crowded buildings in Manila. Image credit: Donsimon/Shutterstock.com

Manila is the capital city of the Philippines. This densely populated city is home to over 1.78 million people, with approximately 14,800 people per square kilometer. Not only is Manila the most populous city of the Philippines, but it is also one of the most populated of Southeast Asia. Manila is currently experiencing high fertility rates and experts have predicted by 2025, the population will have doubled. However, the infrastructure of the city is ill-equipped to deal with this surge in population.

3. Medellin, Colombia

Crowded homes in Medellin. Image credit: Inspired by Maps/Shutterstock.com

The third most populated city in the world is Medellin, Colombia with 19,700 people per square kilometer. Medellin provides employment opportunities for those in smaller Colombian towns. The city has also become a popular “digital nomad” destination thanks to its affordable cost of living and year-round spring climate.

2. Mumbai, India

Crowded marketplace in Mumbai. Image credit: Sladkozaponi/Shutterstock.com

India’s city of Mumbai has approximately 31,700 people per square kilometer. Many people relocate to Mumbai to seek employment and business opportunities; the city has the highest number of millionaires and billionaires in India. As Mumbai is surrounded by water on three sides, there is no room for the city to expand to accommodate its population. Political and corporate apathy is also attributed to the lack of attention to the overcrowding issue as urban planners suggest they have no sense of responsibility towards the people of Mumbai.

1. Dhaka, Bangladesh

An overcrowded city of Dhaka. Image credit: Rakib Bin Shahid Arnab/Shutterstock.com

Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh has a total population of 8.9 million. It’s home to 44,500 people per square kilometer. It is reported that 2,000 people move to Dhaka each day from various towns and cities across Bangladesh in attempts to escape natural disasters and climate change. However, the city is not equipped to deal with such a large population, and its drainage, waste management, and transportation infrastructure are at the risk of failure. Oftentimes, those who re-locate to Bangladesh find themselves in poverty as the combination of rapid population growth and land scarcity has meant property and rental prices are unaffordable.

Problems With Overcrowding

Densely populated locations have positive and negative attributes. One of the main challenges of overcrowding is the problems it presents to governments and policymakers. Officials often struggle to find adequate solutions to provide infrastructure, including sanitation, housing and transportation. Crowding can also present many health concerns such as a higher risk of spreading diseases. However, there have been studies to suggest living in a densely populated area can increase health and happiness. The University of Oxford and the University of Hong Kong found that those who lived in the built-up areas of 22 British cities had a lower body mass index and took more exercise than those who lived in suburban areas. Another positive of living in higher density city environments is the efficiency of commuting due to shorter journeys.

The World's Most Densely Populated Cities

RankCityCountryNumber of people per square km, 2013
1DhakaBangladesh44,500
2MumbaiIndia31,700
3MedellinColombia19,700
4ManilaPhilippines14,800
5CasablancaMorocco14,200
6LagosNigeria13,300
7KotaIndia12,100
8AbujaNigeria10,500
9SingaporeSingapore10,200
10JakartaIndonesia9,600

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