Problems of Urbanization
India has the second largest urban population in the world only after China. India’s urban population (about 28% of the total population) is almost equal to the total population of USA. The rate of urban growth is on the upswing. People in large number are arriving in the mega and metropolitan cities, swelling urban India by more than five per cent annually. This stupendous growth of population is the cause of numerous socio-economic and environmental problems. Some of the important problems of urban India have been briefly presented below:
The growing population demands more space which is not easily available because of physical and geographical constraints. The scarcity of space leads to high price of land and high rents for offices and residential accommodations. Since people cannot afford high rents, it is the main cause of unwanted growth of slums.
According to one estimate, there is an annual shortage of about two million houses in Indian cities. This has forced low income group people to live in slums or occupy footpaths and road pavements. The number of such slums and pavement dwellers is rising in the metropolitan cities of India.
In most of the cities of India, there is growth and not urbanisation. In fact, the number of people is increasing in the cities while the infrastructural facilities and civic amenities are quite inadequate. With greater concentration of people in urban places, the social amenities like housing, electricity, drinking water, transport, sanitation, sewage disposal, educational institutions, hospitals, parks, playgrounds, and recreational facilities are quite under great stress.
Unemployment is the state of being involuntarily out of work. In India, the rate of urban unemployment which is more than 3 per cent annually is increasing progressively. According to one estimate, about 25 per cent of the workers in the urban centres are unemployed. The high rate of unemployment and under-employment often leads to high rate of crime.
Transport bottlenecks and traffic congestion are the major problems of most of the Indian cities. The larger a town grows the more important its functions become. The workers and commuters need more transport facilities. Unfortunately, the roads in most of the cities, especially in the old towns (down-towns) are narrow which cannot cope with the growing pressure of passengers, travelers, and commuters. The number of private vehicles is rising steeply. It leads to traffic congestion, delays, irritation, and tension. If the number of vehicles is allowed to increase at the present rate without widening and upgrading the roads, the whole transport system of the major cities may collapse.
The shortage of energy reduces the industrial production of goods and their distribution. In fact, energy depends on the industrial growth, efficiency of the transport and human comfort. The peak power demand in the metropolises, million and class one cities is increasing day by day and power situation is not geared to meet it.
Water is the first and foremost necessity of human life. In fact, water is life, and man cannot survive without it. The average per capita consumption of water in Kolkata is 250 litres, in Mumbai175 litres and only 80 litres in Delhi as against 1200 litres in Los Angles and 1100 litres in Chicago. The acute scarcity of water in the urban places of India may be appreciated from the fact that in Chennai, Hyderabad, Jaipur, Jodhpur, Nagpur, Shimla, Solan, Surat, Udaipur, Vadodara, etc., only one to two hours of water supply in a day is permitted. The National Capital (New Delhi) also regulates water supply to only about four hours a day.
Environmental pollution is the other serious problem of all the million and mega-cities. It is not only air-pollution caused by smoke emitted from vehicles, factories and houses; water and noise pollutions are equally serious. The scarcity of dumping grounds makes the rural-urban fringe unhygienic and less conducive for human health. The problem of garbage disposal (hazardous plastics, metal and package) is thus quite serious in most of the Indian cities and urban places.
Unfortunately, most of the garbage is dumped into the rivers or along their banks. The cities like Mumbai, Kolkata, and Chennai continue to discharge a major part of their garbage into the sea.
Increasing urban crimes are disturbing the peace of modern cities. According to sociologists, unemployment is the main cause of crimes in urban areas. The unemployed youths indulge in crime like abduction, extortion, kidnapping, murder, pick-pocketing, rape, robbery, snatching, and theft. The slums are especially infested with unemployed criminals who, in due course of time, become habitual offenders. Material culture, growing consumerism, selfishness, stiff competition, lavishness, increasing socio-economic disparities, rising unemployment and loneliness are some of the main reasons of this menace.