Essay and Answer Writing → UPSC Essays

Urbanisation and its Impacts [2008]

“Urbanisation is the inevitable outcome of the processes of growth and processes of modernisation” – urbanisation most plainly refers to the increase in number of people living in cities. The process is said to have begun first after the industrial revolution in the 18th century. People were attracted to urban areas from rural areas to work in factories. They were also pushed as developments in technology led to mechanisation on farms. More than half of the world’s population lives in urban areas. Due to the ongoing urbanisation and growth of the world’s population, there will be about 2.5 billion more people added to the urban population by 2050, mainly in Africa and Asia. While on one hand urbanisation has been considered a boon for having created better infrastructure, employment opportunities and economic facilities, nowadays towns are facing problems such as a lack of jobs, homelessness and expanding squatter settlements, inadequate services, poor health and educational services and high levels of pollution. The essay evaluates the pros and cons of urbanisation.
 
Urbanisation
Urbanisation involves a complex set of economic, demographic, social, cultural, technological, and environmental processes that result in an increase in the proportion of the population of a territory that lives in towns and cities, an increased concentration of population in the larger settlements of the territory, and an increasing density of population within urban settlements. At the international scale, levels of urbanisation are closely related with levels of economic development, while rates of urbanisation are inversely related with levels of economic development. 
 
Demographic processes of immigration and migration, as well as natural population growth, are important determinants of urbanisation, but these are in turn underpinned by other processes, especially economic change. What causes urbanisation? :
 
·Urbanisation occurs because people move from rural areas (countryside) to urban areas (towns and cities). This usually occurs when a country is still developing.
·Urbanisation occurs either organically or planned as a result of individual, collective and state action. 
·Living in a city can be culturally and economically beneficial since it can provide greater opportunities for access to the labour, education, housing, etc. 
·Conditions like density, proximity, diversity, and marketplace competition are elements of an urban environment that are deemed beneficial.
 
Trends
Prior to 1950 the majority of urbanisation occurred in more economically developed countries. Rapid urbanisation took place during the period of industrialisation that took place in Europe and North America in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Many people moved from rural to urban areas to get jobs in the rapidly expanding industries in many large towns and cities. Since 1950 urbanisation has slowed in most of these places and now some of the biggest cities are losing population as people move away from the city to rural environments. This is known as counter-urbanisation.
 
Since 1950 the most rapid growth in urbanisation has occurred in Less Economically Developed Countries in South America, Africa and Asia. Between 1950 and 1990 the urban population living in LEDCs doubled. The UN predicts that by 2030 60% of the world's population will live in urban environments.
 
The three main causes of urbanisation here are:
 
·Rural to urban migration 
·People living in rural areas are 'pulled' to the city. 
·Natural increase caused by a decrease in death rates while birth rates remain high.
 
Advantages
The process of urbanisation affects all sizes of settlements, villages gradually grow to become small towns, smaller towns become larger towns, and large towns become cities. This trend has led to the growth of mega-cities. A mega-city is an urban area of greater than 10 million people. In 1970, there were only 3 mega-cities across the globe, but by the year 2000, the number had risen to 17 and by 2030, 24 more mega-cities will be added.
 
Urban living offers many benefits to residents including:
·more job opportunities
·higher incomes
·greater collaboration
·innovation opportunities
·economic opportunities
 
Disadvantages
Although development of the economy is very much associated with urbanisation, it has resulted in some serious problems too.
 
·Congestion in the urban areas: too much congestion has resulted in problems like traffic jams, concentration of population and the management of which is gradually becoming very difficult and costly.
·Uncontrolled migration and rapid urban growth are associated with increasing urban poverty and inequality and rises in slum and squatter populations. These people usually have inadequate water supply and sanitation services.
·Urbanisation affects the physical environment through the impacts of the number of people, their activities and the increased demands on resources.
·Poor air and water quality, insufficient water availability, waste-disposal problems, and high energy consumption are exacerbated by the increasing population density and demands of urban environments. 
·Health: urbanisation does not translate into a significant increase in life expectancy. Rapid urbanisation has led to increased mortality from non-communicable diseases associated with lifestyle, including cancer and heart disease.
·Pollution and physical barriers to root growth promote loss of urban tree cover.
·Animal populations are inhibited by toxic substances, vehicles, and the loss of habitat and food sources.
·Environmental: The existence of urban heat islands has become a growing concern over the years. An urban heat island is formed when industrial and urban areas produce and retain heat. In cities, there is less vegetation and exposed soil, most of the sun's energy is instead absorbed by buildings and asphalt, leading to higher surface temperatures. Vehicles, factories, and industrial and domestic heating and cooling units release even more heat.
 
Solutions
Considering unhealthy consequences of rapid urbanisation, it is quite important to formulate an urban policy which can provide urban development with minimum undesirable effects. 
 
·Integrating urbanisation process with the development plans of the country
·Making arrangement for selective urban development
·To develop rural districts
·Relieving pressure on large urban centres by developing urban amenities in adequate quantities so as to make urban living peaceful.
 
Conclusion
As population continues to grow and urbanise at unprecedented rates, new urbanism and smart growth techniques are implemented to create a transition into developing environmentally, economically, and socially sustainable cities. Smart Growth and New Urbanism’s principles include walkability, high-density design, land conservation, social equity, and economic diversity. Urbanisation at the rate at which it is happening may be difficult to stop but what can be achieved is creating policies and possibilities of sustainable development – that promotes greener and cleaner modes of development.



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