Megacities and participatory planning

An analysis of stakeholders.


  • Hana Elattar HafenCity Universität Hamburg


stakeholder analysis, , sustainable development, Megacities, Participatory Planning, Macro-scale development




Participatory planning has long been advocated as a pivotal method for creating sustainable cities. This approach hinges on the inclusion of all societal and economic groups within the urban context, recognizing them as the rightful owners and decision-makers of their cities, (Jacobs, 1961). In the context of mega cities, this condition could be regarded as ambitious.

Currently, there are 33 megacities worldwide, a number expected to rise to 44, as projected by the United Nations Department of Economics and Social Affairs (United Nations, 2018). These sprawling urban landscapes, predominantly located in Asia, Africa, and South America, encompass diverse and dense populations, making broad-scale participatory planning a daunting task. Typically, megacity participatory planning concentrates on neighbourhood-specific issues and small-scale developments. This local focus, while beneficial in addressing immediate community concerns, often overlooks the larger, city-wide initiatives crucial for addressing more significant challenges such as energy transition. The question here is, how can we ensure a participatory approach in the macro-scale design? These macro-scale developments in relation to the energy transition can be seen especially in transport planning, they include the redesign of some urban spaces to prioritize pedestrian pathways over vehicular traffic, aiming to reduce carbon emissions. The impact of such changes could not be considered only on the neighbourhood level, as the effects of changes in the street network tend to surpass their immediate neighbourhoods and reach into the city as a whole. Such effects can be seen in the form of more congested traffic or reduced parking spaces in areas. The inclusion of the inhabitants of such neighbourhoods could therefore not be considered as an efficient citizen involvement. Other examples relevant to transport and energy are the development of new public transport lines and planning for new charging stations, fuel stations or hydrogen refuelling stations.

the unique characteristics of megacities – their expansive size, intricate infrastructure, rapid growth, and socio-economic diversity (Wenzel et al., 2007; Buehler, 2003) – necessitate a re-evaluation of traditional participatory approaches. As mega cities form a complex eco-system, its development elements are usually differentiated between one another during the planning process. This is already true in other types of cities and leads to the shift of power structures between the different stakeholders depending on the objective of the development. This division of elements shows, nevertheless, a higher level of disconnect in megacities due to their high level of complexity, which results in most cases in a top-down approach in decision making.

To access an overarching framework for (mega)city-wide participatory planning, the study of the different stakeholders of development is of high importance. Studying the stakeholders in mega cities entails not only identifying them but also carrying an analysis of what their main needs would be and most importantly, their degree of influence in the different planning elements (i.e., transport, energy, public space, etc.). Among others, stakeholders considered in participatory planning include city inhabitants, municipal authorities, tourism industry and environmental and sustainable groups. The study conducts a detailed quantitative analysis of these groups, acknowledging the diverse political and environmental contexts in which megacities exist. This analysis aims to overcome the prerequisite condition that all socio-economic groups of the megacity must be included in the discussion and focus on stakeholders which are more affected by different topics. Such approach will also prevent the leaning towards the idea that every neighbourhood is an island for its citizens and allow for more agile framework for megacity planning with citizen involvement at the centre. Finally, such approach should allow for the creation of more complex planning tools in the future which could be compatible to this large range of changing stakeholders. 

Author Biography

  • Hana Elattar, HafenCity Universität Hamburg

    PhD student at HafenCity Universität Hamburg, working in the Digital City Science Lab at HCU Hamburg. I have obtained my MSc. degree in Urban planning from the Institut d'Urbanisme et Geographie Alpine, Grenobles-Alpes University. I am also a holder of a BSc. in Landscape Architecture from the Faculty of Engineering, Ain Shams University in Cairo - Egypt. 

    I am currently researching how participatory traffic planning is an accelerator to the energy transition of cities with a case study on a peripherical area in Cairo.



Buehler R. (2003) ‘Urban Development in Mega-Cities in Developing Countries: Potentials of Citizen Participation in Planning and Managing Urban Development’, Universität Konstanz Fachbereich für Politik- und Verwaltungswissenschaften.

Jacobs, J. (1961), The death and life of great American Cities.

United Nations Department of Eonomic and Social Affairs. (2018) Population Dynamics. Available at: World Urbanization Prospects - Population Division - United Nations

Wenzel F. (2005) ‘Megacities – megarisks’, Nat Hazards, volume 42, pages (481–491). DOI: 10.1007/s11069-006-9073-2