Urbanization in Developing Countries

Term Paper 2018 8 Pages

Business economics - Economic and Social History


Table of Contents


Impacts of Urbanization
Negative Impacts of Urbanization
Positive Impacts of Urbanization

Impacts of Urbanization in Pakistan and Bahrain

Sustainability of Urbanization in Developing Countries

Challenges to Urban Sustainability

Appropriate Approaches to Urban Sustainability




Urbanization is defined as the influx and increase of the number of people who live in the cities and major towns in the country, and it is caused by movement of people from rural areas to urban areas. Henderson (2003) defines urbanization as the “shift of [the] population from rural to urban environments, is a transitory process, albeit one that is socially and culturally traumatic” (p. 276). The movement of people from rural to urban centers occurs mainly due to increased population pressure and limited resources available for a 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 centers in search of jobs and better living standards which are associated with urban areas. Various arguments have been advanced by scholars on whether urbanization is sustainable or unsustainable. In order to understand the sustainability of urbanization it is good to consider economic, social, political, cultural and environmental effects of urbanization. The increase in urbanization occurred during the industrialization period which took place in Europe in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. During this period, large masses of people moved from rural areas to urban areas in search of employment in the industries, but this phenomenon is now being witnessed in developing countries where industrialization is assuming upward trends. Therefore, this paper will provide an overview of urbanization in developing countries, especially regarding its sustainability.

Impacts of Urbanization

Ideally, socio-economic and political effects of urbanization serve as the main indicators of the level of sustainability of urbanization. Based on the effects of urbanization, it is clear that urbanization 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 urbanization is unsustainable.

Negative Impacts of Urbanization

It is believed that, increased urbanization 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 urbanization; thus, a large portion of the population cannot afford the high costs of housing in urban centers. Recent studies show that at least all the major towns and cities in the world have slums, which have emerged owing to the increased movement of people from the rural areas to the urban areas. Countries, which are experiencing high rates of urbanization, have the greatest population of urban dwellers living in slums. For instance, in Asia where the rate of urbanization is very high, 50% of the population lives in slums (Brueckner, 2013). The increase in the number of people living in the cities has led to increased demand and cost of housing; thus, many people who cannot afford the high cost of living opt for the slums and this leads to increased growth of slums. The high rate of urbanization 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. Ordinarily, high levels of water shortages lead to disease outbreak incidences which subsequently affect the economy of these countries in the efforts to curb the diseases. The current high level of urbanization has resulted to increase into high levels of unemployment to the population living in the urban centers. With the current increase in unemployment and increases, in the levels of urbanization, 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 urbanization with most people in the cities, in Pakistan.

On the other hand, the increase in competition for facilities in the cities due to the high rate of urbanization 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 urbanization is unsustainable. The increased number of people in cities leads to limitation in the provision of education and health care due to the effects of overcrowding and this result into increased levels of illiteracy in urban centers. Limitations in accessing basic needs by the population living in the urban areas show how it reduces sustainability. Increased urbanization also has negative effects on the 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.

Political stability has also been affected by urbanization due to an increase in political unrest 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. Urbanization brings together people from diverse cultural and political background with different opinions on political matters; thus, there is diversity in politics, and this contributes mostly to political violence and thus it indicates how urbanization is not sustainable. Urbanization 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 urbanization resulting to urban sprawl. Urbanization has been found to pose an enormous threat to the natural environment, vegetation and animals are destroyed during construction activities.

Positive Impacts of Urbanization

Despite the numerous negative consequences of urbanization, it presents some positive social, economic and political effects in developing countries. Annez, Buckley and Spence (2009) reveal that “the rate of urbanization, in developing countries and GDP per capita are positively related” (p. 7). Some of the positive impacts of urbanization include the provision of efficient services especially labor 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 urbanization, there is a significant growth in the commercial activities in the cities and towns. For instance, in Bahrain, urbanization has led to technological spill-over from large cities to local urban areas, boosting economic growth. For instance, the coastal region is experiencing rapid development. Sharif (2012) states, “Muharraq will continue to attract more development projects considering the scarcity of land and rapid population growth, which will contribute to the increase of artificial islands developments” (p. 2).

Impacts of Urbanization in Pakistan and Bahrain

As a general statement, the effects of urbanization are diverse. Urbanization presents both positive and negative effects and thus studying its effects is important to understand whether it is sustainable or unsustainable in developing countries. Some of the most outstanding examples of developing countries, which are currently experiencing the impacts of urbanization, are Pakistan and Bahrain. In Pakistan, urbanization seems to have caused immense socioeconomic consequences. Arif and Ibrahim (1998) state that urbanization, “is commonly linked with unemployment, underemployment, shortage of housing, transport and other infrastructures like water supply and sewerage” (p. 507). However, urbanization bears numerous positive effects as it has been the case in Bahrain. Grant (2012) remarks that “urbanization can provide an engine for economic growth. The combined benefits of market proximity and the economics of agglomeration offer considerable potential for labor market opportunities, meeting the services and infrastructure needs of large numbers of people” (p. 9).

Sustainability of Urbanization in Developing Countries

Based on the positive and the negative social, economic, political, cultural and environmental effects of urbanization, it seems that urbanization in developing countries is not sustainable. This is so because; urbanization in developing countries is exceedingly high. United Nations (n.d) predicts that “of the 187,066 new city dwellers that will be added to the world’s urban population every day between 2012 and 2015, 91.5 percent, or 171,213, will be born in a developing country” (p. 3). This implies that, demographic trends have led to a rapid expansion of populations in developing countries.

Challenges to Urban Sustainability

Sustainability in urban development in developing countries does not seem to be achieved due to the existence of challenging issues. Some of the challenges to urban sustainability in developing countries include large agglomerations, lack of institutional capacity and lack of proper urban planning.

In developing countries, there is a rapid increase in the number of residents living in urban areas (Cohen, 2004). One of the most common trends in agglomerations is the crowding of residents in big cities. In most cases, big cities are usually the capital cities for the respective countries, and this issue has led to the emergence of slums. This phenomenon in developing countries is contrary to the one observed in developed countries where capital cities are established in small cities. Therefore, the crowding of residents in big cities has led to social, economic and environmental issues which hinder sustainable development.

The second challenge to urban sustainability in developing countries is the lack of institutional capacity. Ordinarily, urban centers in developing countries are characterized by socioeconomic fragmentation. This aspect has become an enormous challenge to municipal councils in providing adequate social and health services to the urban populations (United Nations, n.d).

Thirdly, developing countries lack proper urban planning. This is attributable to the absence of urban planning policies which ensure urban infrastructures are designed appropriately. As a result, transport systems, as well as communication networks are not adequate for the large proportion of residents in the cities. In addition, lack of urban planning has led to the growth of suburban centers which create unsustainable urban surrounding.

Appropriate Approaches to Urban Sustainability

Currently, the global community is adopting new measures which are aimed at achieving urban sustainability. However, developing countries appear to be lagging behind in advancing towards urban sustainability in the future. It is unfortunate that, most countries have given focus on big cities and neglected small urban centers which are expanding rapidly.

Some of the most appropriate approaches which hold promise to sustainable urban development include the creation of appropriate urban planning policies, countering the influx of residents into big cities and introducing favorable foreign investment policies.



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Title: Urbanization in Developing Countries