‘In urbanisation, you think big because you are thinking decades ahead.’ ~Kushal Pal Singh
That was the idea which originated in the minds of one of the most successful real estate developer of India. Urbanisation is a term used to denote the shift of the population of a country from rural areas to the urban areas. This phenomenon is not only restricted to the migration of citizens into cities and metropolitan’s, but also implies that more and more towns and cities are being formed, while the existing ones expand their area as more people start living and working in these areas.
As per a United Nations report, half of the world’s population had become urban by the year 2008. And by 2050, it is projected to reach 64% in the developing countries while 86% in the developed states. The most notable growth can be observed in the non-aligned nations of Africa and Asia, including India.
There are many factors that have led to a rapid growth in the urban sprawl around the globe ever since industrialisation took place. For instance, the wages that are being paid in the urban landscape are far more than what a person gets in the villages. On top of that, Unemployment, both seasonal and permanent as well as poverty are prevalent in many of the rural households.
These factors, grouped with the thought of a better lifestyle and larger exposure attracts a rural denizen towards a city. Their eyes harbour hopes of a life of comfort. Additionally, Cities are seen as a hub of opportunities and privileges for students yearning for quality education or parents who want to give their children the best of education.
Maximum of the premier institutes and schools are located in urban areas which allure the rural class. Urban areas also provide young people looking to start their own business with resources and connections that they would not have access to normally. All these factors hence come into play in increasing the urban sprawl and lead to the growth of cities in terms of region and population.
As per the 2011 census, the National Capital Region consist of 4.61 crore of the Indian populace, with 1.9 crore being in Delhi itself. The total area covered under the region is only 54,984 km. That is equivalent to the entire population of Spain being shoved into New York State of The USA.
A comparison like that signifies the gravity of the situation that we face in our nation due to the increased process of urbanisation. While it has been often touted as a sign of growth and development of a nation, urbanisation is one medicine that comes with a range of adverse side effects.
Urbanisation in India
A pre-dominantly agricultural country like ours had avoided large scale urbanisation even during the British Raj while the industrial revolution was at its height. While the colonials were partially responsible for this due to the exploitation that they belted out on India, they did set up factories and mills to around regions like Bombay, Surat and Calcutta that have now developed to become important mega-cities of modern India.
According to the Census conducted in 1901, only 11.4% of the Indian population used to live in urban areas. This figure gradually rose to 30% in the 21st century. The significant rise in urban population was observed post-independence scenario. India adopted for itself a mixed economy, as a result of which the private sector bloomed which ultimately facilitated the rise of urbanisation.
Mumbai is a prime example of urban boom in the 20th century. With major factories and industries being set up in the city, it steadily grew into being the financial capital of India.
Today, the city accommodates 22.1 million inhabitants which easily makes it the largest metropolis in the nation. But the city’s landscape is dotted with both skyscrapers as well as slums, which indicates the stark disparity in which life exists in in the city of dreams.
Mumbai, Kolkata, Delhi and Chennai witnessed a rapid urban growth during 1941. The agricultural share in the GDP fell while that of the secondary sector increased. Public Sector grew as a result, roads, railways water supply and electricity became much more easily available. The infrastructure of the metropolises developed to a great extent as new technologies were implemented in the secondary sector.
This was also the time when the Second World War had begun in Europe and Britain was neck deep into the battle. Naturally, the demand of government services employees increased which led to many Indians fill in the shoes of major bureaucratic roles. After the war ended and the Britishers decided to leave, our country experienced partition.
This led to a large scale migration of refugees across the border. Cities provided these helpless people a ray of hope as they were ready made source of job and income for them. As a result, lots of refugees moved into cities and made them their homes.
The finance ministry of the first central government had come up with the five-year plan models which had started off from the year 1951. Urbanisation had been one of the main goals which was proposed to help India develop as an economy.
In the modern times, there are many setbacks that the agricultural community is facing today. Multiple government projects over the years have led to land fragmentation as well as village displacement in the face of road, highway and dam constructions. To add to the woes, agriculture as a primary source of income is no more profitable with low MSPs and the frequent failure of crops due to natural calamities, farmers are left with no choice but to escape their anguish.
And to do that, they are travelling to urban cities just to find a better way to live life. While these are the reasons why urbanisation is taking place, they are not the problems that directly arise from urban expansion. India is already treading on a path to become a top economy in both Asia as well as the whole world and the rapid urbanisation is definitely a sign of it. But at the same time, the fall of rural extent will cause harm to the country too.
Hazards of Urbanisation
The private sector started to grow after the economic liberalisation of the 1990’s. This increased the inflow of skilled and unskilled labourers as well as white-collar jobbers to the cities hoping to strike gold in the chaos of the big urban settlements. The first problem that arises due to this is increased illegal housing buildings and decreased condition of lifestyle.
As per a survey conducted by AUICK Newsletter No.27 in 2012, the urban growth rate of India was at 2.07% as compared to Rwanda’s 7.6%. Regions of the cities developed into unsanitary and unhealthy settlements of poverty-stricken people. The slums in Mumbai are a very famous example of this.
Since the buildings are illegal, the supply of electricity and water is also limited which affects the quality of life. People live amongst choked pipes and open gutters where mosquitoes breed and harmful microbes grow.
On a higher level, globalisation has also been claimed to empower global warming and all sorts of pollution. Additionally, with the ever-growing urban population, market disparity was observed in the cities due to increase in demands which the primary sector was unable to cope with. The immigrants are socially affected too.
The liberal ideologies and thoughts of the cities are stark opposite compared to the conservative mentality they were brought up in. It is like a culture shock. They have to abandon their way of thinking to adapt to the urban lifestyle to be successful in that biosphere.
Furthermore, the networks of friends and family become the support systems during the initial period. After that, they have to struggle to find jobs to not only survive in this new city, but also to send home where they have left behind a family. This period of struggle may even last for years and leave them emotionally and mentally exhausted. Urban unemployment is hence, another of the important setback which is increasing with the growing urbanisation.
Finally we have the environmental effects of urbanisation. With the development of cities, more and more industries are being set up in our country. A new concept of urban heat islands has become popular over the years. It is a term used to denote the urban areas that have become heat absorbent and retain the temperatures for a very long time.
On top of that, heat produced by vehicles and urban heating or cooling systems too generate a lot of amount of heat. This has caused the temperature of cities and metropolitan to stay 1 to 3°C above the normal temperatures in the region. In the same lines, pollution is further degrading our ecology.
The air is becoming less breathable; the water bodies are undergoing eutrophication which adversely affects the marine life. Expansion of the cities and the urban cover means cutting down forests which leads to deforestation and loss of habitat for the wild animals.
Urbanisation has definitely brought with it growth with its implementation. The agrarian communities from which migrants come from, family members left at home, usually the elderly and young, are eased out of financial pressures as their relatives work to provide higher standards of living for their dependants.
Their quality of life is often additionally improved by the provisions that the migrant sends back. Many facilities like education, healthcare, recreation are available. Although not everyone can grab them, but they are within the arm’s reach for everyone living in a city as compared to rural regions.
Schemes and plans have been rolling out of the central and the state governments to improve the condition of both, the underprivileged in the rural as well as the hopeless in the urban area. Yet no visible outcome has come to the notice of the world. Education schemes have also been signed which has made basic education free for all the students below 13 years as well as adult students who are willing to continue their studies.
Today, we should focus more on the aspect of rural life in India. The farmers are socially, mentally and physically weakened due to their current conditions. Many have opted the easy way out by committing suicide while their children and wives shed tears at their waste of life. Development should be brought in the village with innovation in the agricultural sector. Right from the quality of seeds that are sown, to the storage warehouses, a vigilant eye can help prevent problems.
Enough employment opportunities should exist in rural areas too. That way, people will not be running towards the cities and seek jobs in the rural areas themselves. Empowering farmers is also an important way to reduce the urban stress.
The schemes that the current government is running, for example the PM-KISAN scheme that offers direct income benefits to the farmers with small plots of land is very helpful in these situations, but more inclusive plans that can also cover labour farmers or farmers working on fields owned by others should be chalked out to strengthen the agrarian community.
The main focus should be on reducing the stress on the urban regions and repopulating the villages. This helps evenly spread the population density which reduces urban clog which can control the CO2 emission hotspots that the cities have become. A healthy mind, resides in a healthy body; A healthy body, resides in a healthy environment.
As long as we are able to maintain the standard of living of the people living in the existing urban and rural areas, we can ensure the mental, physical, social and emotional well-being of each and every citizen of our country. Hence it is important to control urban growth to provide the welfare of the individuals.
It is true that urbanisation is causing huge economic growth and has made India the fastest growing economy of the decade, but the hidden impact that it is inflicting on us is very dangerous for the future of our planet. This is very aptly described by an old Cree Indian saying from the highlands of America-
“Only when the last tree has been cut down, the last fish been caught, and the last stream poisoned, will we realise we cannot eat money.”