What are the positive effects of urbanization

BY JASCHA SCHULZ | 03/16/2015 11:49 AM

Problems and opportunities of urbanization

Since 2008, more people have lived in cities than in rural areas. And the trend of urbanization continues. But how can the increased demand for food, energy and mobility be met? And is urban population growth really a global phenomenon? UNI.DE pursued these and other questions relating to urbanization. It was particularly noticeable that developing and emerging countries have completely different problems with regard to urbanization than Western nations do.

Slums are urban slums that are characterized by neglect and overpopulation. The drinking water supply is mostly inadequate, and there is hardly any functioning infrastructure. In Nairobi there are around 200 such slums, in which almost 60% of the good three million people live. The population of the slums can often watch the wealthier strata of the population play golf from their homes. This paints an exemplary picture of social inequality in large cities in developing and emerging countries. Many of these countries cannot cope with the strong population growth - in Nairobi, for example, there were still 1.3 million people in 1989.

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The urbanization trend is particularly evident in Africa and Asia. Because industrialization is in full swing here. More and more people are therefore moving away from the country and looking for work and a better quality of life in cities. They often do not encounter these because the cities do not expand infrastructures such as water supplies accordingly. Medical care is also mostly not adapted to the changed conditions. Socially weak groups are thus further excluded from the advantages of prosperity, and the disease rate rises.

The United Nations suspects that the trend towards urbanization in developing and emerging countries will continue. While today 54% of the world's population is settled in cities, it should be 66% by 2050. As a result, six billion people will live in cities by 2050. 90% of the increase is expected in African and Asian countries. As always, urbanization should go hand in hand with an increase in the economic power of the countries. However, a functioning infrastructure and general access to water and medical care are necessary so that the increasing economic performance of the countries also leads to an increase in the individual quality of life.

In the industrialized countries, many people can already experience the positive consequences of urbanization. Large western cities often offer a wide range of leisure and cultural activities as well as diverse work opportunities. The chances of political participation are also greater in urban regions. For these reasons, many people in western countries continue to move to the city, even though the process of industrialization has largely been completed here.

Experts also emphasize other advantages of urbanization. Because in the city, a high population growth can be dealt with better than in the country. A comprehensive water and electricity supply as well as a comprehensive mobility network are much cheaper to provide due to the dense coexistence of the population.

The difficulties, however, lie in the implementation. When it comes to the question of how quickly you can get where, the expansion of local public transport and the mobile networking of the various parts of the city will be decisive. This is the only way to prevent traffic jams and overcrowding on buses and subways. New mobility concepts, such as car sharing, contribute to mobile flexibility in the city center. The distances that the individual has to cover in their daily routine should also be minimized. In this way, one promises a reduction in CO2 Emissions, since short distances should be covered on foot or by bike. The challenge here seems clear: a city has to be designed in such a way that you can find everything you need for everyday life in a small radius. The beautification of the cityscape in order to make the footpath more attractive forms an integral part of this concept.

Food and energy supply represent a further challenge. Here, creative approaches are required in order to react to the increasing demand. The concept of indoor farming (UNI.DE reported) forms such an approach with regard to the food supply of densely populated areas. It relocates the cultivation of food into the interior using a hydroponic technique, thus saving space. The use of normally unused areas is also becoming increasingly important in other respects in the big city. Angela Million, professor at the TU Berlin, describes roofs as a “huge resource”. They could be transformed into solar roofs, green spaces and allotments and thus improve the energy supply and the “microclimate” of the city.

For many, a colorful place that gives people a wide range of development opportunities and virtually unlimited mobility is the ideal of the modern city. Cities in emerging and developing countries in particular are still a long way from this idea.
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