The Present Rate of Urbanisation Globally is Unsustainable
Urbanisation is generally defined as the influx and increase of the number of people who live in the cities and major towns in a country (Pomeroy, 2007). It is caused by movement of people from rural areas to urban areas. The movement of people from rural to urban centres occur mainly due to increased population pressure and limited resources available for the large population in the rural areas. Global change can be mostly associated to urban drift and it contributes mostly to the people moving to the cities and towns. Most people move to urban centres in search of jobs and better living standards which are associated with urban areas (Clark, 2003). Various arguments have been advanced by scholars on whether urbanisation is sustainable or unsustainable. In order to understand the sustainability of urbanisation it is good to consider economic, social, political, cultural and environmental effects of urbanisation. Urbanisation presents both positive and negative effects and thus studying its effects is important to understand whether it is sustainable or unsustainable. The increase in urbanisation occurred during the industrialization period which took place in Europe in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. During this period, large masses of people moved from rural areas to urban areas in search of employment in the industries (Pomeroy, 2007). As a general statement, the effects of urbanisation are diverse. Therefore, sustainability of urbanisation can be established through a comprehensive of the main effects. This paper will discuss the social, economic and political impacts of urbanisation and from the impacts conclude whether urbanisation is sustainable or unsustainable.
Basically, socio-economic and political effects of urbanisation serve as the main indicators of the level of sustainability of urbanisation. Based on the effects of urbanisation it is clear that urbanisation is not sustainable and thus it presents more negative effects than the positive effects. There are many effects which can be used to support the view that urbanisation is unsustainable. Increased urbanisation leads to more congestion in the cities and with the increase in the number of people the cost of infrastructure and building increases and this has mainly yielded poor housing conditions in the cities. The emergence of slums in major cities and towns has also resulted due to the high rate of urbanisation and where a large population cannot afford high costs of housing in urban centres. Recent studies show that at least all the major towns and cities in the world have slums which have emerged due to the increased movement of people from the rural areas to the urban areas (Clark, 2003). Countries which are experiencing high rates of urbanisation have the greatest population of urban dwellers living in slums. For instance, in Asia where the rate of urbanisation is very high, 50% of the population live in slums (Pomeroy, 2007). The increase in the number of people living in the cities has led to increased demand and cost of housing and thus many people who can’t afford the high cost of living opt for the slums and this leads to increased growth of slums. The high rate of urbanisation has resulted to less land and water in urban areas and that has resulted to the outbreak of diseases such as cholera in cities and towns. With the high influx of people from rural areas to major towns and cities high shortage of water and food has been experienced especially in developing countries. Usually, towns become more crowded thus the available resources are not able to support the population (Knox & McCarthy, 2005). Ordinarily, high levels of water shortages lead to diseases outbreak incidences which subsequently affect the economy of these countries in the efforts to curb the diseases (Wagner, 2008). The current high level of urbanisation has resulted to increase into high levels of unemployment to the population living in the urban centres. With the current increase in unemployment and increases in the levels of urbanisation, most of the population living in these urban areas will be rendered jobless thus increasing crime rate in the cities. For example, crime and drug abuse seem to be the worst impact of urbanisation with most people in the cities tending to criminal acts such as robbery so as to sustain themselves in cities (Pomeroy, 2007).
The increase in competition for facilities in the cities due to the high rate of urbanisation has resulted into the following problems: poor educational systems, lack of food and water, poor health care system which are some of the indicators of how urbanisation is unsustainable (Wagner, 2008). The increased number of people in cities leads to limitation in provision of education and health care due to the effects of overcrowding and this result into increased levels of illiteracy in urban centres. The limitations in accessing the basic needs by the population living in the urban areas due to the increased urbanisation shows how it reduces the sustainability (Knox & McCarthy, 2005). Increased urbanisation also has negative effects on economy as the government spends a lot of revenue in uplifting the living standards of the cities which are made poor by the increase of people migrating to the cities. The levels of poverty in cities are increased by the high influx of people from the rural areas and these can be associated to the high number of unemployment in the cities resulting from limited job opportunities in relative to the number of people living in the cities. The high levels of poverty contribute to increased crime such as drug abuse and prostitution in the cities (Pomeroy, 2007).
Political stability is also affected by urbanisation due to the increase in political violence in the cities. More often, people living in cities and towns engage in political violence due to the diversity in the population living in the urban areas as compared to the rural areas. Urbanisation brings together people from diverse cultural and political background and with different opinions on political matters and thus there is diversity in politics and this contributes mostly to political violence and thus it indicates how urbanisation is not sustainable (Wagner, 2008). Urbanisation also presents several negative effects to the environment and they include; increased pollution of land, water and air by the dense population living in the cities. The cities are unsustainable due to the high population and thus poor waste disposal leads to the pollution of land and water catchment areas. Another effect has been the loss of wildlife, forests and agricultural land which can be associated with the high levels of urbanisation resulting to urban sprawl (Azam, 2002).
Although urbanisation has presented many negative effects which make it appears unsustainable it still presents some positive social, economic and political effects in a country. Some of the positive impacts of urbanisation include; provision of efficient services especially labour to the increasing industries in the major cities and towns, it also improves the social and cultural integration of the diverse population which co-exist in the cities, the population helps increase the production of industries and thus promoting the general economy of the country. With increased levels of urbanisation there is growth in the commercial activities in the cities and towns (Clark, 2003).
In conclusion, urbanisation and its sustainability present more negative effects to the population. In general, it appears blatantly true that urbanisation is not sustainable in any way on a global scope. The negative effects of the recent high rates of urbanisation include; poor education and health care systems, poor housing leading to the emergence of slums, increased levels of crime in the cities which is mostly associated with the increased levels of unemployment as a result of high number of people in the cities and towns. Urbanisation also increases the levels of pollution in the urban areas with air, land and water pollution being more evident. The high rate of urbanisation also leads to competition in the scarce resources in the urban areas and this has caused serious water and food shortages in the towns. The scarcity of food and water is evidence of how increased urbanisation leads to unsustainable urban areas (Pomeroy, 2007).
Despite the more negative effects associated with the high rates of urbanisation in the world, it also presents some positive effects which include; improvement in the economy through increasing the productivity of industries located in the cities as well as promoting cultural and social integration through diverse interaction of the people living in the cities. It also promotes the commercial activities in the towns and cities and thus many business thrive well (Wagner, 2008). Based on the positive and the negative social, economic, political, cultural and environmental effects of urbanisation it is clear that urbanisation is not sustainable and it negatively impacts the population and the country in general. The greatest challenge is to eliminate or reduce the negative impacts of urbanisation in order to make it sustainable.
Azam, M. (2002). Environmental Effects on Groundwater Fluctuations Due to Urbanisation. Sydney: Curtin University of Technology press.
Clark, D. (2003). Urban World/Global City. London: Routledge press.
Knox, P.L & McCarthy, M.L. (2005). Urbanization: An Introduction to Urban Geography. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall.
Pomeroy, G. (2007). Global Perspectives on Urbanization. New York: University Press of America
Wagner, N.L. (2008). Urbanization: 21st Century Issues and Challenges. New York: Nova Publishers.