Urbanization refers to the growth of natural or rural land into an area with increased density of people and people made structures due to population in-migration. Urbanization is mainly attributed to the expansion and growth of towns and cities. Urbanization is characterized by the movement of a large number of people from rural areas to urban ones. According to United Nations estimates, approximately half of the world population is living in urban areas. Urbanization is mainly a twentieth century phenomena with population figures at the start of the century indicating that only thirteen percent of world population lived in urban areas at the start of the century. The figure rose dramatically and according the United nations World Urbanization Prospects report approximately forty nine percent of the world population lived in urban areas in 2005. Urbanization today is mainly a feature of the developing countries (Brimblecombe, 2005).
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Urbanization is by and large a natural process that involves people moving from rural areas in search of better livelihood. On the whole scale urbanization result to increased investments and business. Apart from meeting government and administration needs, urbanization also creates a conducive environment for businesses to grow. Large numbers of people found in urban areas form a good customer base for existing businesses. For instance, though the city of Dubai was built on the back of its oil industry, the biggest contributor to its economy today is investment. Its revenues from natural gas and oil account for approximately six percent of United Arabs Emirate’s revenues. This is a considerably small figure compare to the 22% coming from real estate and construction, 16% from trade and approximately eleven percent coming from financial services. This are significantly large figures taking in consideration that urban constructions and real estate are the major contributors to the United Arabs Emirates economy (Unesco, 2008).
People move to urban areas either to set up businesses or to seek employment. One of the major benefits of urbanization is that it provides millions of people with a way to earn their living through employment. In China for instance, the number of employed people in urban rose from ninety five million to in 1978 to 174 million in 1995. By 2004 the figure had increased considerably to reach the 500 million mark. According to the China employment situation report of 2004, the income of urban residents also rose from 1,500 yuan to 8470 yuan which this translates to better conditions of living. As the most populous country in the world, China has managed to keep its unemployment rate at a low of approximately five percent thanks to its rapid growth of urban areas. Urban unemployment is actually lower and is estimated to be between three and four percent (Brimblecombe, 1987).
Urbanization leads to efficiency because people and the amenities and the services they need are concentrated at a single location. There is efficient use of land because a large number of people occupy a small portion of land. A single block can be occupied by more than a hundred individuals. If the same number of people was to be settled in single housing units, they will occupy large tracts of land that would otherwise been used for other purposes. Urban areas are also very convenient because everything is nearby. An urban setting makes it possible to have education facilities, health facilities, social services and cultural and recreation facilities all in one place. Proximity to services such as work, homes, shopping, and leisure activities reduces the cost of transport while at the same time boosting energy efficiency. As a result of large numbers of people and concentration of wealth and resources, many institutions such as universities become possible. Urbanization also contributes to conservation of energy and resource. It is easier to and economical to supply electricity, water, fuel, among other things to people concentrated in one place than it is to people who live far apart (Unesco, 2008).
Urbanization especially in the third world countries is a major contributor to widening disparities between the rich and poor regions. Businesses and firms chose their location based on the quality of a location which has to do with proximity to services such as buildings, labor, infrastructure, telecommunication among other things. Urban areas therefore attract lots of people in search of employment. This results to concentration of people and resources in urban areas leaving vast rural areas with little or no development. This is especially so in Africa and Latin America countries where the rural population is left without basic infrastructure as a result of government and the private sector concentrating their resources in urban areas. This leaves the rural areas poor and without basic amenities leading to increased migration to towns and cities. In-migrants to towns and cities put immense pressure on the existing infrastructure and services making the living standards urban areas low (Unesco, 2008).
Urban areas occupy about three percent of the entire world land area. This is considerably small taking into account the amount of pollution and environmental degradation they put on their localities. For instance, Chinese cities suffer regularly from air pollution with thirty nine cities classified as severe air pollution areas. Cities do not only affect their localities but also beyond their boundaries in areas like forests, croplands, coal mines and watersheds. In developing countries cities, where the increasing populations out pace the ability to provide services and the infrastructure, the worst forms of environmental problems are mainly found in urban areas with also residents facing severe economic and social problems. Some of the problems found in such urban areas include inadequate water supply, accumulation of garbage and waste and unsanitary dwelling places (Brimblecombe, 1995). According to estimates, approximately 370 million people living in urban areas do not have adequate sanitation. The estimates also show that at least 180 million people residing in urban areas do not have a nearby source of safe drinking water. Water and sanitation problems are acute especially in developing nations. Slum settlements have numerous challenges associated with provision of water and sanitation (Bowler, 2000).
Urbanization especially has led to a major housing problem due to population explosion hence the informal settings spring up to cater for the growing number of people. Run down areas with substandard housing is a feature of many cities especially in developing countries and countries like China and India. Slums have high rates of poverty, unemployment and are also characterized by urban decay. This results to high levels of crime, disease, unsanitary conditions, drug abuse, alcoholism, suicide, malnutrition, mental illness, among others. Due to lack of basic services, garbage accumulates in huge quantities. Most slums also lack basic infrastructure because of lack of planning by government officials. According to a United Nations HABITAT report on commonwealth countries released in 2006, two out of three people living in urban areas reside in slums. Over 327 million people in these commonwealth nations live in slums. This means that at least one in six people lives in slums (Unesco, 2008).
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Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA)
Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA), an association founded in 1971, made efforts to reverse the problem of unemployment and housing in India. The project aim is to help poor women is to give women control of natural and financial resources to help them set up their own small businesses and also acquire decent housing. Memberships of the SEWA banks consist of poor, self employed women in businesses such as weaving, pottery, among other small businesses. The SEWA bank has enabled poor self employed women to save, use loans in a productive manner, and repay them in time. The women, with the help of the bank, have been able to acquire four hundred plots under their names. The bank has also managed to push legislation allowing women to acquire land and also transfer assets to the names of women. The women have also managed to build water structures such as wells, ponds, and hand pumps thus giving themselves natural and financial resources. A large number of women also own sewing machines, handcarts, carpentry and black smithy tools, and hand carts to help them earn a decent living(Unesco 2008).
Shelter upgrading in Agadir, Morocco
In a project dubbed Best Work in, Morroco, The Moroccan National Shelter Upgrade took place in Agadir, a large city in Morocco. The city had serious problems of housing and had shantytowns. The city’s situation worsened when it was hit by an earthquake in 1960 and the government efforts of rebuilding did not cater for the housing problems the city was experiencing. Instead the government concentrated in building the infrastructure and restoring the various economic activities that are involved in the city including tourism and canning. There have been reported a tremendous population growth and this has helped in worsening an already bad situation (Brimblecombe, 1987).
There are various projects in the city which have the objective of improving the living condition of the people living in the city. These projects are funded by the government and other organizations which have seen the necessity of the upgrading of the city living conditions. Its main beneficiaries are the numerous squatters who are found in the city and hence have brought about much improved living conditions in the city. There has brought about living quarters and the people have an improved access to such things as water, electricity, education and health services. In the past, people had been distressed about accessing these services and the living conditions was very poor in regards to the current state of affairs (Bowler, 2000).
There has also been social amenities provision by the projects and this has encouraged social interaction between the people living in the city. In the past, people lived in very poor conditions which greatly hindered interaction. Apart from that, social vices have greatly reduced as some of these projects’ objectives are to increase the awareness of the people against some evils.
The Bronx Center Project-“Don’t move, improve”
This project involved a three hundred in South Bronx and its objectives were to restore the health and human services, development of economic activities, culture and education, transportation and housing. It has achieved a lot in respect to its objectives and one of the areas it has achieved is the development of the economy. Many residents have found jobs or started their own businesses and this has continued to the tunes that there is a generation of many jobs in the South Bronx area (Unesco, 2008).
Its other successes include the improved access to health and human services which have greatly improved over the years. Apart from that the community has been mobilized in terms of health issues and on how to prevent contacting some diseases. The education sector of that area has improved and there has been massive construction of schools and higher learning institutions have been built in the area. There has also been an improvement in cultural aspect of the area and people have been more involved in social interaction and hence they benefited socially from the projects.
- Unesco (2008) Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) Bank.
- Unesco (2008) Shelter Upgrading in Agadir, Morocco.
- Unesco (2008) City Management in Tilburg: Past, Present and Future.
- Unesco (2008) Banana Kelly Community Improvement Association.
- Unesco (2008) Project of Lots and Services for low income population on the North Zone.
- Bowler, Catherine and Peter Brimblecombe, “Control of Air Pollution in Manchester prior to the Public Health Act, 1875”, Environment and History, 6 (2000), 71-98
- Brimblecombe, Peter, The Big Smoke: a history of air pollution in London since medieval times (London: Methuen, 1987)
- Brimblecombe, P., “History of air pollution”, in: H. B. Singh (ed.), Composition Chemistry and Climate of the Atmosphere (New York: VNR publishers, 1995), pp. 1-18.
- Brimblecombe, P., “The Globalization of Local Air Pollution”, Globalizations, 2 (2005), 429-442.
- Cain, Louis P., “An Economic History of Urban Location and Sanitation”, Research in Economic History, 2 (1977), 337-389.