Segments in this Video

Introduction: The Urban Explosion (02:14)


More than half of the world's population lives in cities. This film explores Mexico City, Istanbul, Shanghai, and New York, and examines how to sustain increasing populations without destroying the environment.

Mexico City, Mexico (04:34)

Nearly one million people gather on the eve of Independence Day. The city's population of over 20 million increases by 350,000 every year. Demonstrators demand environmental action; the city suffers significant air pollution and a dwindling water supply.

Mexico City: Water Dangers (04:19)

An underground reservoir supplies 70% of the city's drinking water. The aquifer is losing volume and the city is sinking. Open canals carry raw sewage to the Tula River. Farmers use untreated sewage for irrigation; irrigation water contaminates the aquifer in Santa Ana Ahuehuepan.

Mexico City: Drainage Tunnels (06:30)

Construction crews expand the city's network to eliminate open sewage canals. Currently, purification tanks process 10% of wastewater; treated water restores Lake Texcoco. Chinampas are a delicate ecosystem that requires fresh water; farmers fight for conservation. Citizens of El Capulin transform the area.

Istanbul, Turkey (04:02)

In ancient times, the city's location makes it the ideal capital for three empires. Today, Istanbul is a megacity that struggles with environmental issues. Ara Guler photographs changes.

Istanbul: Increasing Population (06:21)

Every day, 1,400 refugees arrive. Conflict between green space conservation and housing needs occurs. Inadequate sewage facilities threaten the water supply and fisheries; tankers threaten the Bosporus Strait.

Istanbul: City Planning (02:38)

Gurbuz Capan discusses transforming Esenyurt; the benefits for women are significant. Some of Guler's images capture hope.

Shanghai, China (04:02)

The city begins showing signs of economic greatness 150 years ago. Shanghai suffers during WWII, Mao's liberation, and the 1970s. Today, the city is a major international port and home to 16 million people seeking economic opportunity.

Shanghai: Environmental Problems (06:28)

Smog hangs over the skyline as air pollution increases. The city is rebuilding its infrastructure but struggles with water and sewage issues. Shanghai has few green spaces and millions share inadequate living space.

New York City (02:39)

Over 100 years ago, the city's population surges with the arrival of immigrants; water, sewage, and transit needs become a focus. New York now has a set infrastructure that helps its growth. Over 50% of the population is foreign born or children of immigrants.

New York: Ethnic Communities (04:47)

The South Bronx, once exemplifying environmental and urban blight, is a thriving community. Residents in West Harlem struggle with environmental abuses; experts label the area a public health disaster.

New York: Brooklyn (03:10)

Carroll Gardens exhibits significant environmental improvements after the cleanup of the Gowanus Canal. Immigrants continue to arrive.

Urbanization (02:09)

By 2020, over 60% of the world's population will live in urban centers. Balancing economic growth and a city's health can be challenging; cities remain places of learning.

Credits: The Urban Explosion (01:57)

Credits: The Urban Explosion

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The Urban Explosion

Part of the Series : Journey to Planet Earth, Season 1
DVD (Chaptered) Price: $169.95
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This program explores a major dilemma of the 21st Century: how to sustain the world’s exploding urban population without destroying the delicate balance of our environment. Featured locations include: Mexico City, Istanbul, Shanghai and New York City.

Length: 56 minutes

Item#: BVL210596

Copyright date: ©2004

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