UN Cyberschoolbus - HomeUN Cyberschoolbus - Home
Cities of Today, Cities of Tomorrow

Unit 5: Consequences of Urbanization
Objectives Summary Text Activities


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.
Housing
100 million people worldwide are homeless and up to a billion may be living in inadequate housing

Health
the urban poor are at greater risk than anyone else in the world

Pollution
air pollution from cars, cooking, heating and industry can be deadly

Safety and Crime
urban violence is not the monopoly of any single region: it has increased all over the world over the past two decades
These urban problems arise due to a combination of factors. High population densities make it easier for diseases to be transmitted, especially in poor neighborhoods with unsafe conditions. High population density also means that more people are burning fuel in a smaller space so that pollution is concentrated. Garbage dumps and poor sanitation cause health problems. As people move to cities more housing is required and cities are often unable to meet the demand. Competition for resources, changes in lifestyle and extreme poverty also lead to greater crime rates.

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.

TOP OF PAGE


Objectives Summary Text Activities
TEACHING UNITS   MENU   1 2 3 4 5 6




UN Cyberschoolbus - Home comments and suggestions: cyberschoolbus@un.org Copyright © 1996- United Nations