North is clean, South is dirty

Forbes published the list of World’s Cleanest Cities yesterday.

#1. The key conclusion is that North is Clean, South is Dirty. Only 1 country (New Zealand) south of equator; Well, no kudos to India or china just because they are not down below. They are still dirty.

#2. Only 1 country from the whole of Asia (which contributes about 40% to world’s population). Singapore is a notable absence.

#3. 25 cities from just 13 countries. If you were to take the West: East ratio, of the 13, Japan and New Zealand are the only countries from the East.

#4. Rich is Clean, Poor is Dirty. Its quite apparent but in this list it is glaring. All cleanest cities come from the top 40 richest countries in the world.

My take: While the list is not a surprise, it is not clear how cleanliness was measured. I don’t expect Bangalore or for that matter any city in India to be a contender there, but I didn’t understand the rational behind why Calgary is rated top of say Stockholm. I agree with the wealth correlation but I think it should be coupled with population density as well. consider this

(source)
To generalize, cleanliness is directly proportional to wealth and inversely proportional to population density. the higher the density, the less cleaner the place gets.

Add another dimension to the wealth-density equation. How well regulated the city is. This has impact particularly as we slide down the wealth curve.

Add one more dimension to the wealth-density-regulation equation. Education level. this has impact particularly on the bottom of the wealth curve.

But by now, each dimension starts to feed off one another. Rich tend to live in less populated areas, follow civic rules, and be well educated.

Finally, Forbes list covers world’s minority. For over 50% of the population, we will probably have to wait for “World’s Filthiest Cities”!



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  1. Chandra says:

    “To generalize, cleanliness is directly proportional to wealth and inversely proportional to population density. the higher the density, the less cleaner the place gets.”

    Bala, I am not sure I agree. Most of the cities in the west are fairly dense with Japan obviously leading the way. Also country density has little to do with population density in cities.

    I think your third point about regulation or how well the municipality is run is probably way up there along with per capita income/wealth. Another big factor is culture of the society – for some having clean surroundings is not up on the list.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Tend to agree with chandra. More than anything, I think, it depends on the aggregate personal character and choice of habitants of keeping their city clean or keeping it dirty. If the aggregate to keep it clean exceeds that to keep it dirty then the city is dirty and vice versa.
    Example… if somehow all inhabitants of Mumbai decide not to chew paan, spit and smoke the city would look much cleaner (or less dirtier).
    Also population density matters only if the city transitions from dirty to clean and vice versa. Higher the population density the more difficult for the transition. We all know how difficult it is to change personal habits and the aggregate character and choice to keep city clean or dirty is a dependant of aggregate personal habits of the inhabitants.
    rgds../Bones

  3. Bala Girisaballa says:

    I think Chandra’s comment on culture impact on cleanliness is interesting.

    On density being not so straight forward indicator, I agree that other factors are more relevant than country density.

    I was not surprised to see that big congested cities in the US didn’t feature in the list but what came as a surprise is that most of canadian cities featured are big ones

  4. MOTHER OF MANY says:

    As a nurse who has visited many homes I can honestly say that wealth does not signify cleanliness. Those with more money seem to have the dirtiest houses.
    My city, Cardiff does not have a huge population but it is filthy because individuals choose to dispose of gum, cigarette ends and rubbish irresponsibly.
    Anonymous said
    ‘it depends on the aggregate personal character and choice of habitants of keeping their city clean or keeping it dirty’
    that is so true. I would never have let my children throw litter and they in turn I am sure will instill into their children the same standards.