When you think of maps, you don’t usually think of them as fluid objects. However, since the fall of the Berlin Wall, it seems all kinds of mergers and separations have been cluttering up atlases on a near-yearly basis. And that doesn’t include all of the wars and disputed territories.
But this article is specific to cities that literally did not exist a mere 50 years ago. In a mere two or three generations, these cities went from almost nothing, to being huge population centers and important cogs of economic growth.
10. Incheon, South Korea
The city of Incheon, in South Korea, is just miles from the North Korean border. With a population of nearly 3 million, it is the third largest city in South Korea. In 1994, the South Korean government, with a keen eye toward the future, decided to undertake a bold plan to reclaim land from the sea off the coast of Incheon, and build the world’s largest ubiquitous technological city. With a projected cost of $40 to 50 billion, the city has an estimated completion date of 2020, and hopes to accommodate up to half a million residents. The South Korean government is also trying to build the city within a strict green blueprint, which it may or may not meet.
9. King Abdullah Economic City, Saudi Arabia
Not only didn’t this city exist in 1960, it barely exists now. King Abdullah has a grand vision of a city of the future on the Red Sea about an hour away from the Saudi city of Jeddah. With an estimated cost of $100 billion, building a state-of-the-art city costs a great deal of money. It is hard to pin down the number of people who currently reside in the city, as we only hear vague estimates, like how the city should house 2 million in 2020, when it is completed. What is known for sure is that there are a lot of workers there, building a lot of shiny objects.
8. Iqaluit, Nunavut, Canada
In 1971, Frobisher Bay was officially declared a settlement in the Northwest Territories of Canada. Just south of the Arctic Circle, about 2,000 people braved the elements on the southern coast of Baffin Island. The native Inuit wanted a territory all of their own and, in 1999, officially split from the Northwest Territories and became the territory of Nunavut. Two years later, Iqaluit was officially designated as a city, specifically the capital of the new territory. In the past 10 years, the population has “spiked” to nearly 7,000 residents. Despite its small population, Iqaluit is a capital that governs over 750,000 square miles of territory, an area larger than the state of Alaska.
7. Sandouping, China
The area around Sandouping was known as Huangniupu village until 1984. The Chinese government created the city to house the 40,000 workers who would build the Three Gorges Dam, the largest electricity generating plant on Earth. Just a few miles up the river is the city of Chongqing, with a population of nearly 30 million. So basically the Chinese built a new city, to house a dam, to supply electricity to a nearby megapolis. Talk about a logistical nightmare. 35,000 residents still call Sandouping home.
6. Putrajaya, Malaysia
Kuala Lumpur is the federal capital of Malaysia, with a population of just over 1.5 million. But due to overcrowding, the government felt the need to build a brand new city to serve as the country’s federal administrative center. About 15 minutes south of Kuala Lumpur, the government built the planned city of Putrajaya. Established in 1995, the population has already ballooned to over 65,000, with a state-of-the-art transportation system linking it to Kuala Lumpur.
5. Astana, Kazakhstan
Kazakhstan declared independence out of the ashes of the former Soviet Union in 1991. Flush with oil money, the government took only four years to decide it wanted to move the capital from the largest city of Almaty, to the historical city of Tselinograd, which was renamed Astana. Formally incorporated in 1961, Tselinograd has had a lot of people living there throughout the century, but not always on their own accord; it was once home to one of the most notorious Gulags in the old Soviet Union.
Since Astana was named the capital of Kazakhstan, the population has soared from 250,000 to 700,000, and the skyline has changed from dreary cold war gray to that of a modern metropolis.
4. Abuja, Nigeria
Nigeria declared independence from the United Kingdom in 1960 and, for the next decade, war plagued the country. By the 70’s, multiple factions from across cultural divides decided that the country needed a brand new capital in the center of Nigeria, free from the history of bloodshed. With the discovery of oil, money began to flow into the African nation; construction lasted for over 10 years on Nigeria’s vision of the future. In 1991, Abuja was finished and named the new capital. In just over 20 years, the population of Abuja has skyrocketed to nearly a million (about 3 million in the metro area,) as Nigeria zoomed up to the 7th most populous nation in the world. Some population experts expect Nigeria to be the 3rd largest nation by 2050.
3. Doha, Qatar
Qatar declared independence from the United Kingdom in 1971. Large oil and gas reserves poured billions of dollars into the new economy, so much so that Forbes Magazine quickly named Qatar the world’s richest nation. Doha was named its own municipality in 1963, and has since grown in size and now houses a million residents.
The city is so powerful that they managed to *cough* convince the corrupt weasels at FIFA to award them the 2022 World Cup, despite being located in a desert, with the average high temperature being over 100 degrees Fahrenheit from May until September. Not really a friendly environment for high-level soccer.
2. Navi Mumbai, India
The city of Mumbai, formally Bombay, has a population of over 12 million. Mumbai grew and grew until it reached its physical limits in 1972, being on an island just off of the Indian coast. Navi Mumbai was then developed on the mainland, just across from Mumbai. Navi Mumbai is the largest planned community in the world. In 40 years, with the express purpose of de-congesting Mumbai, the population has grown exponentially, to the point where Navi Mumbai is now the home of 1.2 million residents, and continues to expand further and further inland.
1. Dubai, United Arab Emirates
In 1971, Dubai declared independence from the United Kingdom, and was part of the group that formed the United Arab Emirates. Oil was discovered in the region, and the riches it provided would change the geographic view of the area forever. In a period of 40 years, the population swelled from a few thousand to over 1.5 million residents. More radically, the city began building man-made islands, with land reclaimed from the Persian Gulf. So over the past 15 years, the city has continued to grow across land that was created after the year 2000. The Palm Islands are modern wonders, challenged only by the planned islands that are currently in limbo, due to Dubai’s current credit issues.