Urbanizationrefers to the population shift from rural to urban areas, the corresponding decrease in the proportion of people living in rural areas, and the ways in which societies adapt to this change.
Causes of Urbanisation:
Natural increase of population: It occurs when the number of births exceeds the number of deaths.
Rural to urban migration: It is driven by pull factors (that attract people to urban areas) and push factors (that drive people away from the rural areas).
Employment opportunities, educational institutions and urban lifestyle are the main pull factors.
Poor living conditions, lack of educational and economic opportunities and poor health care facilities are the main push factors.
The most urbanized regions include Northern America (with 82% of its population living in urban areas (as of 2018)), Latin America and the Caribbean (81%), Europe (74%) and Oceania (68%).
The level of urbanization in Asia is now approximately 50%.
Africa remains mostly rural, with 43% of its population living in urban areas.
Together, India, China and Nigeria will account for 35% of the projected growth of the world’s urban population between 2018 and 2050.
By 2050, it is projected that India will have added 416 million urban dwellers.
Currently, India’s population stood at 1210 million in 2011, with an urbanisation level of 31.1% (Census of India 2011).
Number of Persons Living in Urban Areas:
Over 75% of the urban population of the country is in 10 States: Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Kerala.
Maharashtra leads with 50.8 million persons (13.5% of the total urban population of the country).
Uttar Pradesh accounts for about 44.4 million, followed by Tamil Nadu at 34.9 million.
High-Scoring States: Goa is the most urbanised State with 62.2% urban population.
Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Maharashtra, and Gujarat have attained over 40% urbanisation.
Among the North-Eastern States, Mizoram is the most urbanised with 51.5% urban population.
Low-Scoring States: Bihar, Odisha, Assam, and Uttar Pradesh continue to be at a lower level of urbanisation than the national average.
Union Territories: The NCT of Delhi and the UT of Chandigarh are most urbanized with 97.5% and 97.25% urban population respectively, followed by Daman and Diu and Lakshadweep (both above 75% urbanisation).
India’s Global Commitments regarding Urban Development:
The SDGs Goal 11 promotes urban planning as one of the recommended methods for achieving sustainable development.
Easier Access to Facilities: Urban living is linked with higher levels of literacy and education, better health, longer life expectancy, greater access to social services and enhanced opportunities for cultural and political participation.
Urbanisation is associated with easier access to hospitals, clinics and health services in general.
Living in proximity to these services results in improved emergency care and general health.
Access to Information: There are also benefits from easier access to sources of information such as radio and television which may be used to communicate information about health to the general public.
For instance, women living in towns and cities are more likely to be informed about family planning which results in reduction in family size and less frequent childbirth.
Individualism: Multiplicity of opportunities, social diversity, lack of familial and social control over decision making leads to more self interest and facilitates decision-making by an individual and choosing one’s career and actions by oneself.
Issues Associated to Urbanisation
Excessive Population Pressure: On the one hand, the rural-urban migration accelerates the pace of urbanisation, on the other, it creates excessive population pressure on the existing public utilities.
Consequently, the cities suffer from the problems of slums, crime, unemployment, urban poverty, pollution, congestion, ill-health and several deviant social activities.
Overflowing Slums: There are about 13.7 million slum households in the country sheltering a population of 65.49 million people across the country.
As much as 65% of Indian cities have adjoining slums where people live in small houses adjacent to each other.
Inadequate Housing: Among the numerous social problems of urbanisation, the problem of housing is the most distressing.
A vast majority of urban population live under conditions of poor shelter and in highly congested spaces.
In India, more than half of the urban households occupy a single room, with an average occupancy per room of 4.4 persons.
Unplanned Development: The model of building a developed city comprises unplanned development, which only bolsters the dichotomy prevailing in urban cities between the rich and the poor.
Pandemic-Induced Problems: The Covid-19 pandemic has exacerbated the misery of urban poor or slum dwellers.
The sudden implementation of complete Covid lockdown severely affected the ability of slum dwellers to earn their living.
Non-Inclusive Welfare Schemes: The benefits of welfare schemes for urban poor often reach only a small part of the intended beneficiaries.
Most relief funds and benefits do not reach slum dwellers, mainly because these settlements are not officially recognised by the government.
Sustainable Urbanization for Successful Development: As the world continues to urbanize, sustainable development depends increasingly on the successful management of urban growth, especially in low-income and lower-middle-income countries where the pace of urbanization is projected to be the fastest.
Integrated policies to improve the lives of both urban and rural dwellers are needed, while strengthening the linkages between urban and rural areas, building on their existing economic, social and environmental ties.
Improving Access to Health Facilities & Welfare Schemes: Accelerating efficiency of welfare and relief schemes along with ensuring access to free vaccines, food security and adequate shelter in the slums.
Improving sanitation and transportation facilities in slums and establishing clinics and healthcare facilities.
Aiding nonprofits and local support bodies who have better reach to these marginalised communities.
New Approaches for Urbanisation: New approaches to urban planning and effective governance are the need of the hour.
Necessary actions should be taken to build sustainable, robust and inclusive infrastructure.
Instead of a top-down approach, a bottom-up approach shall be adopted to better understand unique challenges faced by the urban poor.