Living in urban is a keystone of modern society. It is commonly associated with internal and international migration that led to the necessity of expanding cities in order to provide everyone with the needed living conditions. The process of active urbanization began around two centuries ago, and the number of those living in the cities was constantly growing. That said, this figure has increased from 5% to approximately 50% during the past two centuries (McMichael, 2000). It is interesting that the cities are expected to expand so that around two-thirds of the world population dwell in the urban territories by 2030 (McMichael, 2000). Such a spectacular change in settlement trends cannot but entail drastic social, economic, and environmental changes, and the urban poor is those most exposed to similar risks.
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As mentioned above, internal and international migration is among the primary factors that entailed the growth of cities and the creation of megacities (Hugo & Bardsley, 2013). Nevertheless, it is still essential to understand what motivated people to move from rural to urban areas. First and foremost, it is paramount to realize that the trend was specifically notable in the developing and the least developed countries. Still, nowadays, most of the megacities are located in the middle- and high-income states (Lucas, 2015). In this way, migration can be explained by the search for better economic conditions because big cities are traditionally associated with the operation of influential companies, the existence of adequate workplaces, and the developed system of infrastructure (Melchert, 2005).
However, what is even more critical, people left rural areas because the urban areas are known for better public health and education facilities (Franco, Mandla, & Rao, 2017; McMichael, 2000). From this perspective, migration was one of the ways to improve the quality of life. Due to economic development, it was more beneficial to expand cities and concentrate the workforce in one place than to continue dispersing it around a particular country (Melchert, 2005). It means that the growth of big cities is caused by the operation of economic giants, both national and international, that made migration attractive and forced local authorities to satisfy the demand of the migrants for housing (Lucas, 2015). In addition, it was supplemented by the increased growth of the population born in the cities (Franco et al., 2017).
Regardless of significant socio-economic benefits, living in the urban is as well connected to spectacular natural and human-caused hazards. First, it is critical to point to the fact that the growth of megacities is the cause of air, land, and water pollution as well as negative changes in the natural environment (Folberth, Butler, Collins, & Rumbolt, 2017). These changes are commonly related to increased health risks, especially in case of limited access to health care and social protection. From this perspective, the urban poor is exposed to human-caused environmental risks because they cannot afford adequate and timely health checks. Moreover, they are commonly poorly educated. It means that they are not informed of the potential negative consequences of living in the polluted areas (Lucas, 2015). At the same time, the urban poor is as well exposed to natural hazards. It is especially critical in the case of living close to river valleys and other territories with the increased risks of flooding connected to industry-caused environmental changes (Hugo, G., & Bardsley, 2013). In this case, the risks are associated with having no opportunity for changing the place of living.
Still, regardless of the existing challenges and significant risks, there are some chances of improving the standards of living of the urban poor. The most promising strategy for addressing this issue is controlling the process of urbanization. However, it is only possible in the case of regions where urbanization is a novelty, such as Sub-Saharan Africa (Hove, Ngwerume, & Muchemwa, 2013). As for addressing the needs of the poor in the currently existing urban areas, their standards of living can be improved by implementing the systems of accessible education and health protection. Similar public initiatives may not only help to avoid or treat serious health conditions but also educate people so that they could potentially increase the level of their income and know how to prevent some of the most common diseases (Duflo, Galiani, & Mobarak, 2012). Moreover, it is essential to invest in providing adequate sanitation and housing facilities to the urban poor in order to increase their quality of life (Duflo et al., 2012). It can be achieved by both fostering governmental support and enhancing charitable initiatives.
That said, the growth of megacities and rapid urbanization are related to both benefits and risks. Regardless of the higher chances of economic welfare and social improvements, they are inseparable from the growth of the rate of the urban poor. These people are commonly exposed to both natural and human-caused threats. Nevertheless, adequate attention to their needs, active social and governmental support, and controlling the further process of urbanization may be helpful for overcoming the existing challenges faced by the poor.
Duflo, E., Galiani, S., & Mobarak, M. (2012). Improving access to the urban services for the poor: Open issues and a framework for a future research agenda. Cambridge, MA: J-PAL.
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