The issues caused by rapid urbanisation in poor countries
Below are listed some of the problems poor countries have suffered from as a result of very rapid urbanisation.
· Industrial accident – Indian City of Bhopal – poisonous gas escaped from a chemical plant and killed 3,000 people. 50,000 people suffered permanent disabilities and more died later. Often the rapid urbanisation of big cities lead to safety procedures being ignored
· expanding cities lead to problems of air and water pollution and disposal of waste, including toxic waste from plants like the one at
· in LEDC cities there are non-existent or poor regulations and a lack of planning for an environmental emergency make problems worse
· electronic waste – India, imports more than 4.5 million new computer a year, plus many second-hand ones with shorter lifespans. In India’s cities the poor scrape a living by breaking down PCs and monitors. They burn, boil or crush parts to extract the gold or platinum but this can often release toxic chemicals which
can harm the poor people’s health.
· the Ganges river contains untreated sewage, cremated remains, chemical and disease-causing microbes. Cows wade in the river and people wash their laundry
in it and drink from it
· in Shanghai, the construction boom is creating 30,000 tonnes of waste per day. Industry there is responsible for 70% of the country’s carbon dioxide
emissions. Some 73% of electricity is produced by coal-fired power stations. These factors are responsible for 400,000 deaths annually. Shanghai’s Huangpu
river is the main water supply for the city and in the last 10 years water quality has fallen as 4 million m3 of untreated human waste enter it daily
Reducing the problems
To reduce the environmental problems resulting from rapid urbanisation and industrialisation, there need to be guidelines to indicate what is allowed and what is not. Limits must be monitored and enforced to ensure that industries, for example, do not exceed the stated limits.
Waste provides a resource and a means of making a living for many shanty dwellers in poor countries. In Sao Paulo, Brazil, two huge incinerators burn 7,500 tonnes of waste a day, resulting in a problem caused by a management problem. There were only two landfill sites in 1990. Children and adults alike scavenge and extract materials and then reuse or resell them. For example, car tyres may be made into sandals and food waste is fed to animals or used as a fertiliser on vegetable plots. In Shanghai, China, an effective solid waste disposal unit has been installed in most households and the waste is used as a fertiliser in rural areas. Toxic waste and its safe disposal is a key issue in areas where the manufacturing industry is increasing. In the aftermath of the Bhopal accident in 1984, the site was covered in toxic waste. This could not be disposed of safely in India. This meant that the waste was packed up and sent to the USA so that it could be disposed of safely. It is important that cities in poorer countries are not seen as areas where toxic waste can be disposed of more easily. Large companies need to take responsibility for safely disposing of electrical goods
in areas such as Bangalore in India, where there are many call centres.
The large amount of e-waste in Bangalore is covered by one enforcement order, which is inadequate. There are not enough people employed to make sue the law
is obeyed. Greenpeace believes that the high-tech companies that create the products should take responsibility for the waste created. This would involve
extracting dangerous chemicals from the equipment at the end of its life. Recycling plants provide the way forward.
Air pollution is a real issue. Most industrial production is in the biggest cities and there is a need to encourage the use of new technologies that can reduce emissions of sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxide. Switching to cleaner, alternative sources of energy is an option. However, given the plentiful supplies of coal in countries such as China (80% of electricity is from this source) and India, this may need the introduction of a carbon tax to induce a change. In Shanghai, China, industries use low sulphur coal to try to reduce pollution. Greater monitoring and safety checks are essential if disasters such as Bhopal are to be avoided. Limits need to be set and enforced on emissions and companies, including TransNational Corporations (TNCs) must be monitored to ensure that emissions of carbon dioxide and sulphur dioxide are reduced. Transport also needs to be considers and strategies such as allowing odd-numbered cars into Mexico City on one day and even-numbered on another day can reduce traffic in towns. Other strategies include improving public transport, limiting the number of cars and introducing congestion charging to discourage car owners from entering city centres.
As with air pollution, limits relating to water pollution need to be identified and enforced if quality is to be improved. In 1986, the Ganga Action Plan sought to introduce water treatment works on the River Ganges in India, which it did successfully. However, the increasing population was not taken into account and water quality has since deteriorated. Such attempts have been replicated in other countries. In Shanghai, the Huangpu and Suzhou rivers have been the target for improving water quality. A World Bank loan of $200 million was granted to this cause in 2002.
A nice summary of all of the problems caused by rapid urbanisation