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High rates of urbanisation in the South have led to unsustainable development in its cities and towns. The form of development that is taking place is ‘parasitic’, in that it excludes the poor and follows the development paradigm of the North rather than one more appropriate to the situations faced in the South. Sustainable development is seen as a measure to counterpoise economic growth with environmental concerns, but it remains doubtful whether this can be realised since the impact of participation of the countries of the South in the global market has proved disastrous. This paper highlights the need to be aware of a country’s ‘carrying’ and ‘caring’ capacity, and argues that work towards sustainable development needs to go from the poor upwards. The Philippines epitomises these concerns, especially regarding the high rate of urbanisation in Metro Manila, where environmental problems and lack of services have led to a deterioration in the quality of life. This is seen by the author to be the responsibility of five overlapping power groups – the state, business, the church, the media, and international aid agencies. The latter tend to follow the Northern development paradigm, which places the South in a vulnerable position and forces Southern governments to act against their country’s best interests. A new development paradigm is desperately needed that will avoid the mistakes of the past and improve future prospects for the poor and the environment.

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