Urbanization: Problems and Remedies (2023)

Urbanization: Problems and Remedies (1)Urbanization is the norm of the modern era. Read here to know the causes, effects, and significance of it on the world.

Urbanization is the movement of people from rural to urban regions, expanding cities and towns. It is the process through which cities grow as higher percentages of the population come to live in the city.

Urbanization involves a complex set of economic, demographic, social, cultural, technological, and environmental processes that increase the proportion of the population of a territory that lives in towns and cities.

Urbanization is often discussed in countries that are currently in the process of industrializing and urbanizing, but all industrialized nations have experienced urbanization at some point in their history. Moreover, urbanization is on the rise all over the globe.

Table of Contents

What leads to urbanization?

Industrialization: Industrialization has improved job prospects by allowing individuals to work in contemporary sectors in occupations that contribute to economic progress. Because of better job possibilities, more individuals have been drawn to relocate from rural to urban regions since the industrial revolution.

Commerce: Commercialization and commerce are associated with the belief that towns and cities provide better business possibilities and returns than rural regions.

Facilities: There are several social advantages to living in a city or town. Better educational facilities, higher living standards, improved sanitation and housing, improved health care, improved recreation facilities, and improved social life are only a few examples

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Job prospects: Higher-value-added occupations are created and increased by services and industries, resulting in additional work possibilities

Cities also emerge when rural regions gradually transition into urban landscapes. Such a transition may be a result of mineral discoveries, resource exploitation, or agricultural operations.

Urbanization in India

India along with China and Nigeria are the most rapidly urbanizing countries as they account for 35% of world urban population growth projected for the 2018-2050 period.

In 2018 a large number of India’s cities have a population of between 300,000 and 1 million inhabitants. There are 120 medium-sized cities of such population size and only five urban settlements with 20 million or more inhabitants.

In India, the urban population amounts to 461 million people. This number is growing by 2.3 per cent each year. By 2031, 75 per cent of India’s national income is estimated to come from cities.

Providing the necessary urban infrastructure is the big challenge as 70 to 80 per cent of the infrastructure that will be needed by 2050 has not been built yet, and the estimated investment gap amounts to approximately 827 billion US dollars.

State-wise data:

  • More than 75% of the urban population of the country is in 10 States: Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Kerala.
  • Maharashtra has 50.8 million persons which are 13.5% of the total urban population of the country.
  • Uttar Pradesh accounts for about 44.4 million, followed by Tamil Nadu with 34.9 million.
  • Goa is the most urbanized State with a 62.2% urban population.
  • Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Maharashtra, and Gujarat have attained over 40% urbanization.
  • Among the North-Eastern States, Mizoram is the most urbanized with 51.5% urban population.
  • Bihar, Odisha, Assam, and Uttar Pradesh continue to be at a lower level of urbanization than the national average.
  • The NCT of Delhi and the UT of Chandigarh are most urbanized with 97.5% and 97.25% urban population respectively, followed by Daman and Diu and Lakshadweep.

Global scenario

At the international scale, levels of urbanization are closely correlated with levelsof economic development, while rates of urbanization are inversely correlated with levels of economic development.

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Demographic processes of immigration and migration, as well as natural population growth, are important determinants of urbanization, but these are in turn underpinned by other processes, especially structural economic change.

The most urbanized regions are Northern America with 82% of its population living in urban areas (as of 2018), Latin America and the Caribbean (81%), Europe (74%), and Oceania (68%).

Asia has about 50% level of urbanization in Asia and Africa remains mostly rural, with only 43% of its population living in urban areas.

Significance of Urbanization

Some of the beneficial effects of urbanization include job development, technical and infrastructure improvements, better transportation and communication, educational and medical facilities, and higher living standards.

Urban living is linked withhigher levels of literacyand education,better health, longer life expectancy, greater access to social services,and enhancedopportunities for cultural and political participation.

Urbanization and economic growth are strongly related in terms of industrialization, employment generation, and increase in productivity.

Drawbacks of urbanization

Dwelling crisis: There is a continuous scarcity of housing as the number of people living in metropolitan areas grows.

Overcrowding: Overcrowding, urban congestion is a constant, and it is an element that is growing day by day as more people and immigrants migrate to cities and towns in quest of a better living.

Unemployment: Lack of highly skilled jobs is most prevalent in metropolitan areas, especially among educated individuals.

Slums: Industrialization is fast-paced but there is a shortage of developed land for housing. The increasing migration of rural immigrants to the city, and the inflated prices of land beyond the urban poor contribute to the rise of slums and squatters in metropolitan areas.

Sewage infrastructure: In most metropolitan areas, insufficient sewage infrastructure is observed concerning the rapid population growth.

Health crisis: Communicable illnesses like typhoid, dysentery, plague, and diarrhoea eventually can spread rapidly. Covid 19 pandemic is a live example of how overpopulated cities and medical facilities collapse under the weight of a pandemic.

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Pollution: The need for transportation increases with the increase in population, resulting in traffic congestion and pollution.

Urban Heat Islands (UHI): Thesearesignificantly warmer urban areas than their surrounding rural areasdue to human activities. Urban Heat Island is a major problem associated with rapid urbanization.

Crime rates: Shortage of resources, overcrowding, higher poverty rates, unemployment, and a loss of social services and education lead to social issues such as violence, drug misuse, and crime.

Government schemes to manage urbanization

Smart cities mission

The National Smart Cities Mission is an urban renewal mission launched in 2015, to promote cities to provide core infrastructure, a clean and sustainable environment, and a decent quality of life to their citizens through the application of ‘smart solutions’.

AMRUT (Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation) mission

The purpose of AMRUT which is mainly for urban rejuvenation is to:

  • Ensure that every household has access to a tap with an assured supply of water and a sewerage connection.
  • Increase the amenity value of cities by developing greenery and well maintained open spaces (e.g. parks) and
  • Reduce pollution by switching to public transport or constructing facilities for non-motorized transport (e.g. walking and cycling).

Swacch Bharat mission

It was launched in 2014 to accelerate the efforts to achieve universal sanitation coverage and to ensure that the open defecation free (ODF) behaviours are sustained, no one is left behind, and that solid and liquid waste management facilities are accessible, the Mission is moving towards the next Phase II of SBMG i.e ODF-Plus.

Swacch Bharat mission Urban 2.0 was allocated funds in Union Budget 2021. The goal of the Swachh Bharat Mission Urban 2.0 is to make all the cities garbage-free with sophisticated waste management systems.

HRIDAY (Heritage City Development and Augmentation Yojana)

National Heritage City Development and Augmentation Yojana (HRIDAY) was launched on 21 January 2015 to bring together urban planning, economic growth, and heritage conservation in an inclusive manner to preserve the heritage character of each Heritage City.

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PM Awas Yojana

The Housing for All scheme was an initiative of the Indian government to establish housing facilities for slum dwellers and was introduced by the Indian government’s Ministry of Housing and urban affairs. The mission has an Urban part and Gramin part to comprehensively acknowledge the diversity of the Indian landscape.

Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan

Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan (Self-reliant India Mission) is a campaign launched by the Central Government of India which included an Rs.20 lakh crore economic stimulus package and several reform proposals. The five pillars of the mission are- economy, infrastructure, system, democracy, and demand.

Way forward

Sustainable, planned, and eco-friendly cities: Governments’ efforts to build smart, safe, environmentally friendly, and affordable cities should get more boost and legal backing as well.

Private investments: More investments can be encouraged for green living and other urban initiatives for sustainable landscapes.

Access for all: every resident should be able to access all the services, without discrimination of any kind. Disabled friendly and inclusive infrastructure should be made mandatory in urban areas.

Employment: To mitigate the negative consequences of increasing urbanization while still protecting natural ecosystems, private investments in environmental resource utilization and employment creation should be promoted.

Health and Population management: population control is important to manage the spread of diseases. It will help in creating a healthy society with medical facilities accessible to all.

Poverty alleviation: A bottom-up approach can be adoptedto better understand unique challenges faced by the urban poor and worked upon.

As we move forward in the 21st century, the global population is likely to continue growing. Urban areas will continue to grow with the population. By 2050, it is projected that two-thirds of the urban population will be living in urban areas, that are close to 7 billion people in cities alone.

This continual growth presents complex challenges as we prepare for the cities of the future. How we choose to manage urbanization will have consequences for our world for many years to come.

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Previous year question

UPSC Mains-GS 1, 2017

The growth of cities as I.T. hubs has opened up new avenues of employment but has also created new problems. Substantiate this statement with examples. (15 marks, 250 words)


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