Science - Nature
By: - at February 12, 2013

The Trend and Challenges Facing the Urban World

The Shifting Trend of Urbanization
UrbanizationThe urban population for the first time in history overtook the rural population in 2008.  The big cities, especially the megacities, are largely the main contributors in expanding the urban population.  Over the past few decades, the continuous migration of people from rural area to urban centers has caused rapid worldwide urbanization.  Technological development, rapid expansion of communications, better employment opportunities and healthcare facilities, better options for education, better services, urban amenities and civic benefits are the main reasons for this huge influx of people from rural areas to cities or towns.  The challenges faced by today’s big cities, especially megacities, are mostly due to the unexpected and unplanned population growth.  But the big cities provide opportunities for social mobilization, relieving pressure on natural habitat, reducing poverty, and addressing environmental degradation.  Good governance is the key to address the problems big cities are facing.

The Causes of Urbanization
There are numerous reasons for urbanization. The following are some of the main reasons or causes of urbanization:
• The development of technology and industrialization
• Far better employment opportunities because of the presence of factories, businesses, and offices
• The growth of local, regional and international trade, especially during the 19th and 20th centuries
• Migration of population to the cities from villages due to lack of basic amenities such as healthcare, education, and jobs
• Migration of millions of people from rural to urban areas due to the jobs generated by industrialization every year, particularly in the developing countries or emerging economies.
• Growth of factories, service-based economy in cities
• Better standard of living
• Better income opportunities
• Civic benefits and entertainment
• The lack of basic amenities in villages
• Decreased use of lands for crops
• Decrease in the number of jobs in rural areas
• Demand for laborers in factories and services industries in urban centers
• Immigration to many cities, towns or urban centers in general over the centuries
• More offers of jobs and wages in urban areas
• Natural growth of population in cities by natural births

Decreased employment opportunities in agriculturalThe agricultural sectors cannot provide employment to the huge population living in villages.  Besides, agricultural sectors do not flourish always as fast as other sectors.  Natural disasters, failing crops, and decreased employment opportunities particularly in least developed and developing countries push people living in villages into urban areas.

The economic reasons behind urbanization are mainly the influence of industries.  Industries are mainly located in urban areas.  The concentration of industries and back link industries tend to be close to each other for certain advantages and benefits.  Therefore, people tend to live or work in and around these industrial areas for jobs.  These industries need a supply of a very large workforce filled by population from rural areas.

The world’s population is expected to be at least 9 billion by 2050 up from about 7 billion at present.  There are reports from various sources that this huge growth will be in developing and least developed countries.  The greatest growth of population is expected to be in thousands of slums located in numerous cities and other urban centers in the world, particularly in the developing world.

The Developments of Megacities
MegacityAs people are migrating from their rural homes to begin new lives in urban areas, the urban population is increasing constantly.  Although it is not possible to say exactly when urbanization took place, the fact is throughout history urbanization has taken place in the world.  The emergence of very large cities, especially megacities (cities with a population of 10 million or more), has been one of the most distinctive developments in urbanization.  The number of megacities in the world in 1950 was only two.  Today, in 2013, there are 26 megacities in the world and it is estimated that by 2025, there will be 29 megacities alone in the developing world.

The Major Challenges Faced by Big Cities in the World
Many big cities all over the world are today economically stagnant and badly hit by recessions.  The demand for housing, access to water, education and healthcare are ever increasing which the local authorities cannot provide due to the lack of funds or money.  Pollution is one of the biggest problems for cities, particularly for big cities.  Air pollution is one of the main culprits among others degrading the environment and making cities unbearable to live in.  More than a billion people today live in slums in Asia, Africa, and Latin America according to several reports.  Some of the negative effects of megacities or urban centers in general are:

• Environmental degradation
• Slums
• Poverty
• Unemployment
• Poor health
• Lack of infrastructure
• Lacking access to education
• Income inequalities
• Congestion

Poverty is growing faster in urban areas than in rural areas which is forcing people to live in unhygienic and dangerous conditions.  The unhealthy and unplanned growth of megacities is causing serious problems to the environment.  Migration due to environmental degradation, poverty, job opportunities are driving people off of the rural areas. Many megacities in the developing world are overloaded with the existing infrastructure and cannot provide for support to the huge people looking for even basic amenities.  The lack of decent housing and sanitation, health care and education, and jobs have forced hundreds of millions of people to live in slums.


It is not possible to say exactly where and when the process of urbanization began.  After modern industrialization, urbanization got some momentum.  The 20th century saw the rise of many large cities and some very large cities which are known as megacities. Today, just over 50% of the world lives in cities.  By 2050 the urban population will be over 70% of the world’s population.  The UN has rightly termed urbanization as unstoppable.  But the growth of cities, particularly megacities, is leading to unhealthy environment, new slums, unbalance developments, income inequalities, pollution, and unplanned and unprecedented urban sprawl. The problems of megacities can be an excellent opportunity to address the problems and solve the problems in an eco-friendly way to ensure there is less impact on climate change, and environmental degradation.

The author of this article researched various articles published on the following websites to gather information and ideas.





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