Unit 5: Consequences of Urbanization
What is Wrong with Cities?
So much is said about problems in cities that the word 'urban' almost automatically evokes a vision of blights: run-down neighborhoods, slums, throngs of people overcrowding the streets, traffic, noise and pollution, crime and violence...
Of course, that is not the complete picture. Otherwise people would not be flocking to cities. As noted in previous units, cities are also crucibles of cultural, economic and social development. In many ways, the story of human civilization is the history of its cities. The question that some people pose today is whether the history of cities will also provide the script for the decay of human civilization.
This is the alarm that has been raised and the answer lies in the future. But it also lies with us. Many cities have shown that the urban environment can provide a healthy, stimulating setting for human development, that serious problems can be overcome -- unit 6 will provide some examples of this. In this unit we will be looking at some of the conditions that have prompted the predictions of urban doom.
Four problems are highlighted below and described in detail.
Safety and Crime
Urban management and policy are complicated affairs and it may be unreasonable to expect cities to improve overnight -- especially those in low-income countries with few resources to dedicate to problems. However, municipal governments in various cities or neighborhoods -- both in low- and high-income countries -- have proven that deep and positive changes are quite possible, sometimes at lower cost. Better public health, better use of land and better sanitation, environmentally-friendly public transport systems, employment generation, and proper waste disposal could vastly improve urban living conditions.
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