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Rapid Urbanisation deteriorates quality of life, even in metro cities

Urbanisation and environment

Today, people are moving from village or rural areas to towns/cities or urban areas for better job opportunities where they can get involved in non-agricultural occupations such as manufacturing industry, trade, management etc. This migration of people to cities for better jobs, opportunities and lifestyle is known as Urbanisation.

Urban population in India

India’s urban population is estimated to stand at 675 million in 2035, the second highest behind China’s one billion. 34% of India’s population today live in cities or towns and the amount is increasing at an average rate of 2.4%.

According to the Minister for Housing and Urban Affairs (MoHUA), Shri Hardeep S. Puri, India is the second-largest urban system in the world and 11% of the total global urban population lives in Indian cities.

The UN estimates that around 416 million people will be added to our urban population between 2018 and 2050.

People migrate to cities as they face problems in rural areas. The impact of this migration on space, quality of life and environment is tremendous. Infrastructural facilities required to support such a large concentration of population is lagging far behind the pace of urbanisation and as a result the environment in these cities is deteriorating very rapidly.

Deteriorating infrastructure, weak municipal institutions and poor delivery systems have constrained the urban economy and further resulted in many environmental related problems.  

Impact of Urbanisation on Environment

Let’s see what impact urbanisation and population density has on our environment.

Solid Waste Management:

Indian cities and towns generate about 80,000 tonnes of waste everyday, and only 60% of this volume is collected. Kolkata collects about 75%, Bangalore about 68% and the number goes even lower to 50% in small towns. In industrial areas hazardous waste gets mixed up with the garbage and is dumped like normal household waste in open dumps or landfills. A large mountain of garbage at Gazipur is the infamous landfill of Delhi. Water, air and land all are polluted because of the landfill.These places are often in the low income areas of the city which have a lot of population.

State wise waste generation and treatment. Source: Research Gate
Land:

Due to development projects in these areas often forests are cleared and agricultural land is claimed. These activities then lead to problems like air pollution, soil erosion. Due to this claiming of land cities also face the waterlogging and flood. Each year certain areas in metro cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore face a flood like situation after little rainfall.

Sanitation:

Cities are always divided into 2 areas. One where the rich live and other where the poor. Areas with more income have more facilities and are less dense and areas with lower income have less or no facilities at all and are very heavily dense. The people living in low income areas don’t have access to the human waste disposal system. Sewerage systems only exist in 60 Class I cities out of 300. Due to no proper treatment often sewage water is directly discharged into fresh water sources and then can cause water borne diseases.

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Groundwater Depletion in India. Source: GOI
Fresh Water:

200 per capita per day (IPCD), water is supplied to metro cities like Delhi, Calcutta, Mumbai and Hyderabad, as per claims. However, this figure hides the serious inequities in access, quality and quantity of water supply available to different parts of the city.

Surface streams provide Approximately 60 to 70% of drinking water. The discharge of domestic and industrial wastes into water bodies is a direct threat to public health.

Also, many metro cities have almost lost all of their groundwater. Hence, cities face drought like situation and scarcity of water rises every summer. 

Air:

India has 35 out of top 50 polluted cities in the world. Most of these cities are tier 1. In India today also most of the electricity is produced through coal thermal plants. Also the increase in population has a direct relation with the increase in vehicles which contribute most to air pollution.

Electricity produced by coal. Source: Ministry of coal

Conclusion

Urbanisation can also harm environment in lot of other ways like Humans living in densely populated areas can rapidly spread diseases, Urbanisation also creates disturbed environments where invasive species often thrive and outcompete native species, Increasing regional temperatures, causing habitat loss for different species of birds and animals, Paving land with concrete can increase water runoff, increasing erosion and decreasing soil quality.

India’s urbanisation will throw up formidable challenges like running out of land, running out of water and even running out of clean air to breath. The demands for natural and socio-economic resources, such as land, housing, water, energy and other required infrastructure are often stressing the environment beyond sustainable development. Coping the urban environmental problems will require sharing of responsibilities of state and central Government.  The protection of the environment and safeguarding of health through the integrated management of water resources, sanitation and solid waste should be the centre of the future strategies. 

(All numbers in this article are from the official website of Niti Aayog.)

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