Urbanization is a process where people move from rural areas to urban areas to seek higher standards of living. People living in rural areas are faced with unpredictable weather conditions which affect their livelihood; therefore, these people move to cities to seek a better life.
Contrary to rural areas, cities give these people opportunities to live a better life; there are industries, learning institutions, and social services which attract these people more (Andersen, 2002). As these people gain from these essential services, they also face problems caused by their increasing number; therefore, this paper will explore the advantages and disadvantages of urbanization.
Advantages of Urbanization
The cities are known to be efficient in that less effort is required to supply basic amenities, for example, electricity and fresh water. People who migrate to the cities enjoy these amenities, which are difficult to access in rural areas. The cities also make considerable use of space; there are a lot of flats which accommodate a lot of people in a small land area. There are also recycling programs which make use of waste material such as tins and waste papers; this helps in cleaning the city and providing jobs to those coming from rural areas.
Cities have a lot of social facilities such as health facilities, education centers, social services, as well as cultural activities, these facilities are essential for the development and healthy being of a population (Tolley and Vinod, 2006).
People leave from rural areas to cities to have easy access to these facilities; with all the social facilities, education and cultural activities, people in cities live a sophisticated and comfortable life. Cities also have advanced transport and communication networks which make movement and communication much easier.
During the development of cities, people settled in areas which had well established natural resources; therefore, most cities have a lot of resources around and within (DeBlij et al., 2010). These resources are easily exploited because of the availability of facilities and labor in the cities, which leads to economic development and improvement of living standards of the city dwellers (Varthoulakis, 2008).
The availability of these resources and labor from the city leads to the development of manufacturing and service industries around the city, creating employment for the population from rural areas (Savage, 2005).
Cities have well-established universities, colleges, and schools; these make them the best place for developing human resources. There are varieties of courses from different fields and levels, and students who move to cities have a wide choice of careers to choose from; this means that most of them will pursue careers of their choice, making their levels of success high.
After completing college and university education, students have a lot of job opportunities, also, for those who want to create job opportunities they have better prospects of starting businesses or projects (Andersen, 2002). Also, there are varieties of financial institutions for people to deposit their savings and borrow money for investments. This creates a favorable environment for investment and development.
People move to urban areas from different regions, religions, and castes, and despite these differences, they live and work together. As they live together, they learn and understand each other, and this assist in getting rid of social and cultural barriers, which is always the center of conflicts; since many people live in cities, a country with many cities will have less conflict.
People living in rural areas also benefit from urbanization; most of these people are engaged in farming, and their farm produces need to market. They always appreciate the existence of cities because they consume their farm produce in exchange for money, and this helps them to improve economically (Potsiou, 2010).
Imagine a country where everyone lives in rural areas and has land. There would be a lot of wastage because everyone will have enough for himself or herself. Urbanization also helps to ease pressure on agricultural land; as people move to urban centers, they give more space for agriculture and, therefore, the agricultural industry is boosted (Potsiou, 2010). The country will produce more agricultural goods, and this will ensure food security.
Disadvantages of Urbanization
As people continue to move to urban areas, pollution becomes a major issue in cities. Energy becomes inadequate, and some people resolve to illegal electricity connections and others address to the use of inefficient cooking fuels such as firewood and charcoal, which increases the number of carbon emissions (Marchand, 1998).
An example is Kozani in Greece, which is the most polluting city in Europe. The population of cars also increases as the number of people in cities increases, and this leads to the rise in the use of diesel and hence, the increase in carbon emissions
The population increase in cities brings about problems in transportation as well as traffic management. This is evident in cities such as Mumbai, which has close to 18 million citizens, with 55.5% of the population going on foot and 21.9% use train (Potsiou, 2010).
This city has few people with cars; however, over 20,000 have died because of the overcrowded train with a minimum of 10 people per day (Potsiou, 2010). Vietnam is another case, with over 18 million motorbikes and one million vehicles, and with narrow roads, the number of accidents associated with traffic has increased.
Urbanization leads to an increase in the number of people on limited land in cities; the rise in number exceeds the supply of water, which results in water shortages; hence, hygiene is compromised. Also, the population, after using water, it disposes of the wastewater on land which creates overburden disposal; this creates a less appealing sight, lousy odor emanating from the sewage and flies which are attracted by the dirty water (Arnaud et al., 2004).
As the population increases, fresh water in urbanized cities becomes expensive, and some of the people opt to take water from the nearby streams; this water is untreated and can cause diseases such as cholera.
Also, the water in these rivers are contaminated with untreated discharged in them, and these rivers drain their water into the sea where drinking water and water for irrigation is drawn; this can cause diseases for people using the sea water for drinking (Marchand, 1998). In New Delhi, sewerage was used for watering agricultural lands without care of the effects it can cause on human beings.
Cities with high populations face problems of garbage management. An example is the city of Athens, which has produced six thousand tons of garbage daily; the disposal of this garbage has become a problem for the city as the population continues to grow. Many countries have resolved to use landfills for disposal of waste, which is yet another way of contaminating the soil. Greece got into problems with the EU for operating 1,102 open landfills; however, they have reduced the number of operating landfills to 400 (Potsiou, 2010).
The increasing number of people in the cities has led to the need for building affordable houses; most cities with high population lack development policies and this has led to informal development (Arnaud et al., 2004).
The people cut down trees and built on land without any authorization from the landowners, and sometimes these people are evicted from the land and left to look for another place to settle. Slums have been built in urban areas, and they are characterized by poor sizing and quality construction, violation of land-use and no access to essential services. These are areas which crime develops because most of the people living in slums have insufficient job opportunities; they choose to engage in criminal activities for their survival.
Urbanization is here to stay, it might slow down but stopping it is not something that will come any sooner. Therefore, the primary way to minimize the problems caused by urbanization is to plan for all amenities and resources available for the comfort of the public without putting more pressure on society and the environment.
The cities should use the cardinal rule, where their growth is planned, rather than letting them grow on their own. As the local government plans for the city, it should make sure that there is adequate infrastructure to support the growing population and residential areas should be located near civic bodies to improve service provision.
To reduce rural-urban migration, job opportunities can be created in rural areas. This will reduce stress exerted on cities by the increasing number of people. Restricting people to move to cities cannot be used to solve problems associated with urbanization. This is because each citizen has a right to move and settle anywhere as long as he or she is not infringing on other people’s rights.
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