Discuss the view that urbanisation in both the developed and the developing world is unsustainable Urbanisation is an increase in the proportion of a country’s population living in towns and cities, mainly caused by natural growth and rural-urban migration. Urbanisation can pose problems for the cities council, such as housing shortages, waste management and traffic, and if these factors are not correctly sustained, there will be significant problems for these urban areas, such as pollution and increased illness and therefore will be unsustainable. Sustainability is development that meets the need of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs and for a city to be sustainable it needs to be capable of providing a good standard of living for its residents and have a neutral effect on the environment. Sustainability becomes increasingly hard to achieve in a growing city, which is especially true for urban areas in developing countries.
Developing countries are likely to be experiencing industrialisation which is causing mass rural-urban migration. The massive amounts of overcrowding paired with the large rates of poverty in developing states means the effects of urbanisation is worsened, which doesn’t bode well with the fact that the city’s council often don’t have nearly enough money and resources to solve the problem. However, although such situations may seem bleak, developing and developed countries alike can find solutions to sustainable urbanisation. Dharavi, the biggest slum in Mumbai, is an example of a way forward to a sustainable future. Mumbai has urbanised over the past 60 years, this was first triggered by British colonisation of India, and has since continued to grow and industrialise to the extent that in 1971 the population of Mumbai was 8 million, whereas now it has grown to a massive 21 million.
This has caused massive amounts of problems for Mumbai, including the development of one of the world’s biggest slums, Dharavi, home to around one million people. Dharavi was illegally built on wasteland and rubbish was a big problem, causing bad sanitation and attracting pests, which triggered outbreaks of Diphtheria and Cholera. However Dharavi’s recycling zone is slowly solving this rubbish problem, with 80% of plastic waste is recycled, which, when compared with the UK figure of 23%, shows that Dharavi’s contemporary take on recycling could be the way of providing a sustainable future for this rapidly urbanising city. Nonetheless this recycling system requires many, including children, to sift through the large piles of rubbish, which can lead to the spread of disease. When the plastics are processed the workers are again at risk as they work in dangerous conditions with toxic substances without protective clothing which could in-turn affect people’s life expectancy.
Without the correct help from the Government concerning Dharavi’s system, of which there is currently none, it may not be able to continue, due to the impact that it has on its workers. This means that Mumbai’s hope of a sustainable future in the face of urbanisation would amount to nothing. Rubbish isn’t just a problem in the developing world, it also a problem in the developed world, as we throw out more and more the problem of where to put all our waste becomes more apparent. England generates about 228 million tonnes of waste every year of which about half of it is dumped into landfill sites, while Germany only puts about 1% into landfills. For this to carry on would be unsustainable, meaning the UK government need to find a solution to the amount of waste we generate. An example of this problem being solved is a £730 million new recycling plan that has been established in Cambridgeshire. In this scheme a Mechanical Biological Treatment plant, which sorts through rubbish, removing recyclable materials and then composting the rest.
This means that materials that can be recycled that haven’t been separated manually from the other rubbish can be sorted, meaning less rubbish is going to the landfill. This scheme can be viewed as a success for a sustainable future, Cambridgeshire now tops national leader boards for recycling, as now over 50% of all its waste is recycled. However, Cambridgeshire still has to spend over £8 million a year on sending currently untreatable waste to the landfill, exhibiting that although there are some solutions to the problem, there is still a long way to go before waste will stop being a global problem. Traffic is a major issue for countries around the world regardless of the level of development. MEDC car ownership is high and is the preferred mode of transport, whilst developing countries have increasing numbers of car owners and need to find ways of accommodating them.
Freiburg, in Germany, is a prime example of how a developed country can become sustainable. This system is fully integrated into the city in the sense that buses are timetabled to match train times and train stations and bus routes are integrated with cycling and walking routes, which encourages walking or cycling to train stations, meaning it is easy for people living in this city to get around. The Stadtbahn, which is the railway system has been built so it within 300m of 65% of resident’s homes, meaning that it is easy to get to. Buses and the railway have priority at traffic lights, and cyclists are allowed to travel in both directions in 50% of the cities one way streets, meaning that it is quicker for people to use alternative travel over cars. Together these have encouraged the use of sustainable transport over car use and have reduced the proportion of journeys travelled by car from 38% to 32%, and the distance each person travelled by car declined by 7%; which consequently led to carbon dioxide emissions per captia falling by 13% between 1992 to 2005.
Not only is this socially and environmentally sustainable, it is also financially stable, as passenger fares cover 90% of the running costs. All in all this system seems completely sustainable, showing that there are solutions to the problem of transport in urban areas. There are also success stories regarding sustainable transport in developing countries. Mexico City has seen its roadways grow beyond capacity to more than four million vehicles, which coincided with the massive urbanisation of Mexico City, which currently holds 22.5% of Mexico’s population. In 2011 an IBM survey on commuting in 20 cities resulted in Mexico City being the most painful city to commute in and gridlock in the city centre costs Mexico 2.5 billion USD every year. Mexico City’s traffic problem worsens the pressing issue of air pollution which currently attributes to over 10,000 deaths per year due to the emissions produced by the cars.
However there have been many steps taken to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to improve the quality of urban life in Mexico City. ‘Hoy No Circula’ is an example of programmes the government have set up to reduce the traffic problem which prohibits the use of vehicles based on the last number on their license plates on certain days, for example license plates ending in 5 are not allowed to use their cars on Monday and the first Saturday of every month. However this programme is unpopular among Mexico City’s inhabitants and often proves inefficient and therefore ineffective. One of the most effective management techniques is the Metro Bus, opened in 2005, which run at high frequencies and hold up to 250,000 passengers per day. This has proved massively popular as it has bus lanes which significantly reduces traffic time by a third.
This also has massively reduced the amount of cars on the roads and therefore has reduced carbon dioxide emissions by 35,000 tonnes annually. This, coupled with the cities many initiatives to encourage cycling and walking has led to the Mexico City being awarded a prize for sustainable transport in 2013 This shows that developing countries are just as able to find sustainable solutions to problems caused by urbanisation as developed countries are. Overall it is evident that both developing and developed cities can find solutions to problems caused by urbanisation. However it is clear that solutions to transport problems are a lot more easily solved and a lot more easily sustained, as evident from both of my case studies, whereas waste management is a global problem which still needs a fully sustainable solution.