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Urbanisation: City and Urban Areas

Introduction Urbanization is increasing in both the developed and developing countries. However, rapid urbanization, particularly the growth of large cities, and the associated problems of unemployment, poverty, inadequate health, poor sanitation, urban slums and environmental degradation pose a formidable challenge in many developing countries. Available statistics show that more than half of the world’s 6. 6 billion people live in urban areas, crowded into 3 percent of the earth’s land area (Angotti, 1993; UNFPA, 1993).

The proportion of the world’s population living in urban areas, which was less than 5 percent in 1800 increased to 47 percent in 2000 and is expected to reach 65 percent in 2030 (United Nations, 1990; 1991). However, more than 90 percent of future population growth will be concentrated in cities in developing countries and a large percentage of this population will be poor. In Africa and Asia where urbanization is still considerably lower (40 percent), both are expected to be 54 percent urban by 2025 (UN 1995; 2002).

Although urbanization is the driving force for modernization, economic growth and development, there is increasing concern about the effects of expanding cities, principally on human health, livelihoods and the environment. The implications of rapid urbanization and demographic trends for employment, food security, water supply, shelter and sanitation, especially the disposal of wastes (solid and liquid) that the cities produce are staggering (UNCED, 1992).

The question that arises is whether the current trend in urban growth is sustainable considering the accompanying urban challenges such as unemployment, slum development, poverty and environmental degradation, especially in the developing countries. Urbanization defined Urbanization, simply defined, is the shift from a rural to an urban society, and involves an increase in the number of people in urban areas during a particular year.

Urbanization is the outcome of social, economic and political developments that lead to urban concentration and growth of large cities, changes in land use and transformation from rural to metropolitan pattern of organization and governance. Major causes of urbanization Natural population increase (high births than death) and migration are significant factors in the growth of cities in the developing countries. The natural increase is fuelled by improved medical care, better sanitation and improved food supplies, which reduce death rates and cause populations to grow.

In many developing countries, it is rural poverty that drives people from the rural areas into the city in search of employment, food, shelter and education. Most people move into the urban areas because they are ‘pushed’ out by factors such as poverty, environmental degradation, religious strife, political persecution, food insecurity and lack of basic infrastructure and services in the rural areas or because they are ‘pulled’ into the urban areas by the advantages and opportunities of the city including education, electricity, water etc.

Even though in many African countries the urban areas offer few jobs for the youth, they are often attracted there by the amenities of urban life (Tarver, 1996). Processes of urbanization One significant feature of the urbanization process in today’s local governments is that much of the growth is taking place in the absence of significant industrial expansion. Although local municipalities are fast urbanizing, mega-cities defined as cities with 10 million inhabitants or more are few.

Urbanization also finds expression principally in outward expansion of the built-up area and conversion of prime agricultural lands into residential and industrial uses. An alternative to the present expansion of the urban population across a wide area of the country in order to save prime land for agriculture is to construct high-rise buildings and promote commercial development in specific zones, which would depend on effective, appropriate technology and resources.

The urbanization processes are largely driven by market forces and policies of local governments that lead to simultaneous processes of change in livelihoods, land use, health and natural resources management including water, soil and forests and often reactive changes in local governance. Government development policies and budget allocations, which often favour urban residents over rural areas, tend to pull people into the urban areas.

In the cities, public investment, which often misses the urban poor, with expenditures biased towards the higher-income classes and poverty among vulnerable groups such as new migrants force them into slums and squatter settlements. Challenges of urbanisation Cities throughout the world exhibit an incredible diversity of characteristics, economic structures, levels of infrastructure, historic origins, patterns of growth, and degrees of formal planning. Yet, many of the problems that they face are strikingly familiar.

For one thing, as cities grow, they become increasingly diverse. Every city has its relatively more affluent and relatively poorer neighborhoods. But in developing countries, poorer neighborhoods can have dramatically lower levels of basic services. Consequently, a large number of urban residents in developing countries suffer to a greater or lesser extent from severe environmental health challenges associated with insufficient access to clean drinking water, inadequate sewerage facilities, and insufficient solid waste disposal.

A major recent United Nations report on the state of water and sanitation in the world’s cities found that water distribution systems in many cities in the developing world are inadequate, typically serving the city’s upper- and middle-class neighborhoods but not rapidly expanding settlements on the urban fringe. Furthermore, the current data on the provision of water and sanitation in urban areas is very weak and the true situation is actually far worse than most international statistics suggest [20].

The large projected increases in the numbers of urban residents in the developing world over the next 20–30 years implies that municipal authorities responsible for these sectors face very serious challenges in the years ahead. In many cities, the scarcity of public water supplies forces many low-income urban residents to use other water sources such as private water vendors who charge many times more than the local public rate. Consequently, people in slums often must pay much more for lower quality water than other urban residents [21].

Improving public sanitation is another major urban environmental challenge that needs to be immediately addressed in virtually all cities in the developing world. Failure to collect garbage as well as inadequate waste management and recycling policies and practices mean that cities are being inundated in their own waste. In African cities, waste management has been described as ‘a monster that has aborted most efforts made by city authorities, state and federal governments and professionals alike’ [22].

As is the case of the water supply distribution network, sewerage systems are far better at meeting the needs of upper- and middle-class neighborhoods than they are of servicing poorer neighborhoods, particularly unregulated neighborhoods on the urban periphery. A major environmental crisis is looming large as many developing countries as cities discharge ever increasing amounts of waste into the air or into freshwater bodies, threatening water quality and aquatic ecosystems.

The extent that urban growth affects the local ecosystem can be controlled to some extent by high quality land management. Land is an essential ingredient in all urban growth, yet in most cities there have been virtually no effective measures to control land development. Although many cities have formulated master plans at some time or another that included guidelines on land development and the future direction of urban growth, rarely, if ever, have these plans been realized.

Reasons for this include poor urban governance, poor critical assumptions-urban population projections underpinning these plans have often been extremely weak-and the inability of plans to be adjusted and refined in the light of changing conditions, such as the invasion and settling of unused public space. Devising equitable land development policies remains one of the largest challenges facing planners and policy makers in many cities in the developing world. Congestion in many large cities can also be extremely severe and air pollution is now a serious environmental concern in many cities.

Concentrations of carbon monoxide, lead, and suspended particulate matter in many large cities greatly exceed World Health Organization guidelines. Among the greatest environmental health concerns are exposure to fine particulate matter and to lead which contributes to learning disability in young children. A popular response to urban transportation congestion problems has been government investment in large-scale public transportation systems such as underground or overland metro systems. Less attention has been devoted to expanding and improving public bus networks, which tend to be overcrowded and poorly maintained.

In many cities, private mini-bus companies have filled a hole in the market by providing low-cost urban transportation where standard bus routes have proved insufficient. Conclusion Around the world, especially in Africa and Asia, cities are expanding rapidly. For the majority of urban dwellers, especially the poor, finding potable water supply, affordable shelter, accessible and secure urban land for agriculture to ensure food security, securing gainful employment and improvement in health facilities would continue to remain a priority.

Since restrictive urban growth policies, especially population distribution designed to reduce the rate of rural-urban migration appear to have had limited success in many developing countries, policies must be directed at transforming the rural economy in order to slow the rate of urban sprawl. Comprehensive land use planning and revision of planning standards and administrative procedures would, go a long way to, reduce many of the problems that face urban populations in the developing areas, especially Africa.

A Vision for Healthy Urbanization in the 21st Century: Challenges and Opportunities for China Dr Henk Bekedam WHO Representative, China Healthy urbanization: a framework for action in China China’s Scientific Concept of Development rightly considers urbanization not only as means to further boost economic growth, but also as means to improve the life of people in China. In this context, given the health risks associated with urbanization, it is very appropriate and necessary to put people’s health squarely on the urbanization agenda.

Putting people’s health on the urbanization agenda is, however, a very complex task that requires concerted government policy actions across many sectors. Specifically, in order to alleviate the impact of urbanization on people’s health, government policies need to promote quality of urban life, environmental sustainability, health awareness, equitable access to basic health-related services and accountability of local government officials and people working in private enterprises for people’s health. A. Quality of urban life

International experience suggests that to promote quality of urban life, government particularly needs to act in three related areas: First, design and develop urban peripheries for people as well as for economic activity. This includes, moving industries out of the city centers and synchronizing the emergence of jobs in industries with housing and public infrastructure/services in urban peripheries. Second, design and develop user-friendly transport network. In this context, it is crucial to support public transport network and space for bicyclists and pedestrians, and thus reduce the necessity and advantages of relying on own car.

Third, provide suitable space for physical activities and recreation. Cultivating green areas and “escape zones” in urban centers and peripheries encourages people to stay fit and healthy. B. Environmental sustainability To promote environmental sustainability in urban development, government needs to enforce strict measures toward environmental protection and support environment-friendly investments. Specifically, it is a crucial role for the government to enforce environmental standards, and invest into systems and projects improving the use of energy and energy conservation.

In particular, the government needs to establish adequate pricing mechanisms for utilities to end the wasteful use of energy and water that is associated with blanket price subsidies. Similarly, the government needs to enforce energy-efficient construction practices. Critical are also investments into municipal waste management and environment-friendly technologies. C. Health awareness As urbanization is changing people’s lifestyles, promoting health awareness is critical. The government particularly needs to act on two accounts.

First, disseminating health information and promoting healthy lifestyles. Easy access to information about nutrition, healthy habits, and health risks can positively affect people’s behavior. To be effective, information dissemination needs to be complemented with active policies to support early child development, and sports and healthy habits in schools; and to nurture the positive image of healthy lifestyles. For instance, cycling to work would be again a sign of advancement and not backwardness! Second, developing and enforcing adequate health-related regulations.

This important task involves all relevant sectors. It involves the market. It involves developing system to manage people’s safety: traffic safety, environmental safety, occupational safety, patient safety, food safety and making public places smoke free. Finally, it involves mechanisms toward quality and cost-control in the health system. D. Equitable access to essential health services The possible negative health effects of urbanization underline the importance of enabling all people to have access to essential health services.

In this context, it would be appropriate for government to make a package of basic health services accessible to all people in urban areas, urban peripheries and rural areas (residents and floating population alike). This package of basic health services needs to cover public health functions and services – including the prevention of chronic diseases – and essential clinical services. To finance equitable access to basic health, the government will need to ensure full funding for the basic package of health services – through health insurance, medical financial assistance schemes and its own budget.

E. Accountability for people’s health In order to align the performance of local governments, public sector enterprises and agencies and private sector entities with the agenda of healthy urbanization, government needs to establish clear accountability for people’s health. In both the public and private sectors, agencies and enterprises need to bear responsibility for the health effects of their policies and actions. With respect to health services, health providers and local governments need to be accountable for ensuring equitable access, acceptable quality, safety, and fair price.

Challenges Cities throughout the world exhibit an incredible diversity of characteristics, economic structures, levels of infrastructure, historic origins, patterns of growth, and degrees of formal planning. Yet, many of the problems that they face are strikingly familiar. For one thing, as cities grow, they become increasingly diverse. Every city has its relatively more affluent and relatively poorer neighborhoods. But in developing countries, poorer neighborhoods can have dramatically lower levels of basic services.

Consequently, a large number of urban residents in developing countries suffer to a greater or lesser extent from severe environmental health challenges associated with insufficient access to clean drinking water, inadequate sewerage facilities, and insufficient solid waste disposal. A major recent United Nations report on the state of water and sanitation in the world’s cities found that water distribution systems in many cities in the developing world are inadequate, typically serving the city’s upper- and middle-class neighborhoods but not rapidly expanding settlements on the urban fringe.

Furthermore, the current data on the provision of water and sanitation in urban areas is very weak and the true situation is actually far worse than most international statistics suggest [20]. The large projected increases in the numbers of urban residents in the developing world over the next 20–30 years implies that municipal authorities responsible for these sectors face very serious challenges in the years ahead. In many cities, the scarcity of public water supplies forces many low-income urban residents to use other water sources such as private water vendors who charge many times more than the local public rate.

Consequently, people in slums often must pay much more for lower quality water than other urban residents [21]. Improving public sanitation is another major urban environmental challenge that needs to be immediately addressed in virtually all cities in the developing world. Failure to collect garbage as well as inadequate waste management and recycling policies and practices mean that cities are being inundated in their own waste. In African cities, waste management has been described as ‘a monster that has aborted most efforts made by city authorities, state and federal governments and professionals alike’ [22].

As is the case of the water supply distribution network, sewerage systems are far better at meeting the needs of upper- and middle-class neighborhoods than they are of servicing poorer neighborhoods, particularly unregulated neighborhoods on the urban periphery. A major environmental crisis is looming large as many developing countries as cities discharge ever increasing amounts of waste into the air or into freshwater bodies, threatening water quality and aquatic ecosystems.

The extent that urban growth affects the local ecosystem can be controlled to some extent by high quality land management. Land is an essential ingredient in all urban growth, yet in most cities there have been virtually no effective measures to control land development. Although many cities have formulated master plans at some time or another that included guidelines on land development and the future direction of urban growth, rarely, if ever, have these plans been realized.

Reasons for this include poor urban governance, poor critical assumptions-urban population projections underpinning these plans have often been extremely weak-and the inability of plans to be adjusted and refined in the light of changing conditions, such as the invasion and settling of unused public space. Devising equitable land development policies remains one of the largest challenges facing planners and policy makers in many cities in the developing world. Congestion in many large cities can also be extremely severe and air pollution is now a serious environmental concern in many cities.

Concentrations of carbon monoxide, lead, and suspended particulate matter in many large cities greatly exceed World Health Organization guidelines. Among the greatest environmental health concerns are exposure to fine particulate matter and to lead which contributes to learning disability in young children. A popular response to urban transportation congestion problems has been government investment in large-scale public transportation systems such as underground or overland metro systems.

Less attention has been devoted to expanding and improving public bus networks, which tend to be overcrowded and poorly maintained. In many cities, private mini-bus companies have filled a hole in the market by providing low-cost urban transportation where standard bus routes have proved insufficient. Causes of urbanisation Urbanization and city growth are caused by a number of different factors including rural–urban migration, natural population increase, and annexation. Because rates of natural increase are generally slightly lower in urban than in rural areas, the principal reasons for rising levels of rbanization are rural–urban migration, the geographic expansion of urban areas through annexations, and the transformation and reclassification of rural villages into small urban settlements. The expansion of the metropolitan periphery can be caused both by the arrival of new migrants and by the sub-urbanization of the middle class out of the central city. The relative importance of each of these various causes of urbanization and suburbanization varies both within and between regions and countries.

As stated above, over the next 30 years, population growth in general and urban population growth in particular is expected to be particularly rapid in the developing world, averaging 2. 3 per cent per year during 2000–2030. Although much of the popular rhetoric on urbanization has left the impression that cities are currently growing too fast and that growth should be limited or somehow diverted, it is important not to lose sight of the fact that, for the most part, there is an economic logic to the pattern of urbanization [14].

In most cases, high growth rates are an indicator of success rather than failure and most of the world’s largest cities are located in countries with the world’s largest economies. Many cities in Pacific Asia, for example, have experienced dramatic economic growth, reflecting the fact that the region is completely integrated into the new global economy. Cities on the forefront of global restructuring such as Hong Kong, Singapore, Seoul, and Taipei have enjoyed unprecedented growth rates of more than 10 percent per annum throughout the 1970s and early 1980s.

All now rank among the top trading cities in the world and in fact, the level of gross national product (GNP) per capita in Hong Kong and Singapore exceeds that of many European countries. This extremely general descriptive of urban trends and projections naturally masks considerable regional diversity. There are enormous differences in the pattern of urbanization between regions and even greater variation in the level and speed with which individual countries or indeed individual cities within regions are growing.

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