Humans have created urban areas right since the ancient times. Urbanization, as we know it now, began with the Industrial Revolution in the 18th century, and has only been on the rise ever since. Statistics tell us that half of the world's people already live in urban areas, with that number set to expand in the years to come. Our cities have been luring people for various reasons, the basic one being the hope of a better life. People are drawn to the cities for the comforts they offer, the opportunities they hold, and the sleek lifestyle they promise.
As cities continue to beckon people from all nooks and corners of the globe, a pertinent question remains to be answered - are our cities crumbling under the pressure? Urbanization, or rather, unplanned urbanization has led to the creation of several problems. Cities in developing countries, in particular, are home to the neo-urban dwellers, and are seen to be bearing the maximum brunt of it all. What follows are a few negative consequences of unstructured urbanization.
Rising Levels of Pollution
Cities have been invariably blamed for their contribution to the disturbing levels of pollution. Densely populated areas, coupled with a scant regard for environmental laws add to the woes. The urban population's daily commute costs the planet hard, with public transport systems failing to deliver, or people simply choosing luxury over sensibility and using private cars, which add to the emission of toxic fumes. Traffic congestion is a perennial problem, with no feasible solution foreseeable in the near future.
Huge cities create enormous amounts of waste, and the urban lifestyle includes creation of waste that is mostly non-biodegradable, thanks to the generous use of plastic wares. This leads to an unprecedented increase in the garbage that stays in our landfills, polluting the soil for years to come.
Countries experiencing a steady growth in population have their specific problems to deal with. With this population growth centered in and around the urban areas, the problems are further narrowed. The rapidly increasing number of arrivals to the cities are proving to be unmanageable to the authorities, owing to lack of resources and organizational skills. The rising demand for space pushes the property prices higher, simultaneously paving the way for the creation of slums. Living conditions here take a definite beating due to the absence of basic amenities like safe drinking water, clean toilets, and drainage systems.
High Cost of Living
Living in a city does not come cheap, with people having to pay the added cost of transportation and taxes for regular commodities. It's not too hard to imagine a time when city dwellers will be asked to pay a tax on the oxygen they breathe. The swelling population makes every commodity pricey, and at the same time, leads to an influx of low-grade substitutes of food products, water, and even medical supplies. Costs of food, transportation, rents, and other necessities are perpetually on the rise, as their demand keeps exceeding the supply.
While the cities are a haven for the opportunity seekers, the unfortunate reality is that they are not handed out equally. Cities are the best places to view examples of economic inequality, where the rich keep getting richer, with the poor remaining the way they are. Extreme affluence and acute poverty live right next to each other in the cities, albeit grudgingly. At some point, this makes way for rebellion. Opportunities, or rather, their limited nature, translates into unemployment. As the population spirals out of control, the disenchantment is bound to increase, resulting in a flare-up of sorts. If there's one thing we fail to understand, it is the fact that every city has its limits, and burdening it will only cause it to burst at the seams.
Increase in Crime Rates
With the undue pressure that we're putting on our cities each day, it is going to be nothing short of a challenge for the governing bodies to manage these sprawling metropolitan areas. Deftly managing densely populated areas is next to impossible, which raises issues regarding civic duties; law and order, in particular. As the city life pulls in all sorts of people, and allows for all sorts of activities to flourish, criminals, too, find their share of opportunities here. Street crimes go on to become common as the authorities find it tough to patrol cities that are crowded beyond limits. As the safety concerns increase, it is ultimately the citizens who have to bear the consequences.
Urbanization, to be truthful, is an inevitable part of development, and it is our future. But, unless it is strictly governed and conducted in an organized manner, this growth can only spiral out of control and create further problems than solutions.