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Urbanization

&
Environmental
Degradation
An Analysis













2013



INTRODUCTION
Urbanization is a process that leads to the growth of cities due to industrialization and economic
development, and that leads to urban- specific changes in specialization, labor division and
human behaviors. The population is growing at the rate of about 17 million annually. If the
current trend continues, by the year 2050, India would have 1620 million populations. Due to
uncontrolled urbanization in India, environmental degradation has been occurring very rapidly
and causing many problems like shortages of housing, worsening water quality, excessive air
pollution, noise, dust and heat, and the problems of disposal of solid wastes and hazardous
wastes.
IMPACTS OF URBANIZATION ON VARIOUS COMPONENTS OF ENVIRONMENT
Although ecosystem services provide myriad of functions and services that create value for
human users and are central to the continuation of human civilization, humans have obscured the
existence and importance of ecosystem services in a hurry to celebrate urban fantasy.

We live in two interpenetrating worlds. The first is the living world, which has been forged in an
evolutionary crucible over a period of four billion years. The second is the world of roads and
cities, farms and artifacts that people have been designing for themselves over the last few
millennia.

The growth and prosperity of the human designed world has come from the expense of the
resources of the natural world. The designed mess we have made of our neighborhoods, cities,
and ecosystems owes much to the lack of a coherent philosophy, vision, and practice of design
that is grounded in a rich understanding of ecology. There is a huge gap between these two
worlds- living or natural world and human designed or cultural world that has distanced humans
from nature. To bridge this gap and link humans with nature, we need an ecological thinking in
planning practice.
Most of the major environmental problems of the next century will result from the continuation
and sharpening of existing problems that currently do not receive enough political attention. The
problems are not noticed in many countries or nothing is done even the situation. The most
emerging issues are climate changes, freshwater scarcity, deforestation, and fresh water pollution
and population growth. It is very important to examine problems trough the social-economic-
cultural system. Even the interconnections between environmental problems are now better
known, we still lack exact information on how the issues are linked, on what degree they interact
and what are the most effective measures.
IMPACTS ON THE ATMOSPHERE AND CLIMATE
1. The creation of heat island
Materials like concrete, asphalt, bricks etc absorb and reflect energy differently than vegetation
and soil. Cities remain warm in the night when the countryside has already cooled.
2. Changes in Air Quality
Human activities release a wide range of emissions into the environment including carbon
dioxide, carbon monoxide, ozone, sulfur oxides, nitrogen oxides, lead, and many other
pollutants.
3. Changes in Patterns of Precipitation
Cities often receive more rain than the surrounding countryside since dust can provoke the
condensation of water vapor into rain droplets.

IMPACTS ON THE LITHOSPHERE AND LAND RESOURCES
Land use change driven by urbanization has put cities on soils that are best suited for other uses
such as food and fiber, forests and wetlands. New homes, buildings, roads and other structures
are being built every day. Are these developments guided by sound knowledge about the soil
information of the area? Are planners, developers and planning agencies making intellectual and
serious judgment in allocating lands based on soil information for different uses? And do they
really care about soil at all? The overall answer to these questions is a big NO because almost
all developments that have happened and are continuing to happen are guided by economic
benefits.
Urbanization alters the biological, chemical and physical properties of soil and there by
degrading its quality in a way that it leads to loss of vegetation, poor water infiltration,
accumulation of heavy metal, excess water runoff and soil erosion. Soil quality is often degraded
by soil erosion. The stability of slopes determines the vulnerability of landslides or slope failures.
The following explain the concepts behind the effects of urbanization on the lithosphere.
The major impacts of urbanization on lithosphere are
1. Erosion and other changes in land quality
Rapid development can result in very high levels of erosion and sedimentation in river channels.
2. Pollution
Pollutants are often dispersed across cities or concentrated in industrial areas or waste sites.
Lead- based paint used on roads and highways and on buildings is one such example of a widely
dispersed pollutant that found its way into soil.
Examples
Encroachment of urban land into nearby forested or vegetated areas, and the expansion of built
up areas and transportation networks into steeper terrain destabilizing slopes lead to slope
failures. In the U.S., landslides cause $1-2 billion in damages and more than 25 fatalities each
year. Urban and recreational developments into hillside areas have put more people and property
into risk of landslide hazards.

IMPACTS ON THE HYDROSPHERE AND WATER RESOURCES
Population growth, increasing trend of urbanization, and land use and climate change has
affected water availability and quality in such a way that water resources are increasingly
becoming limited. In many parts of the world, conflicts over water resources have already
occurred and the situation will deteriorate in future.
More than one third of rivers and streams in the area impaired or polluted and most of the aquatic
ecosystems together with their biota have been lost or diminished to a great number due to non
point source contamination of surface and ground water from agricultural and urban lands
A few impacts are explained below
1. Flow of Water into Streams
Natural vegetation and undisturbed soil are replaced with concrete, asphalt, brick, and other
impermeable surfaces. This means that, when it rains, water is less likely to be absorbed into the
ground and, instead, flows directly into river channels.
2. Flow of Water through Streams
Higher, faster peak flows change streams channels that have evolved over centuries under natural
conditions. Flooding can be a major problem as cities grow and stream channels attempt to keep
up with these changes.
3. Degraded Water Quality
The water quality has degraded with time due to urbanization that ultimately leads to increased
sedimentation there by also increasing the pollutant in run-off.
Examples
At some point in time, the conterminous United States contained more than 220 million acres of
wetlands. However, in 2004, the total area of wetlands was reduced to an estimated 107.7 million
acres, which accounts for 5.5 percent of the surface area of the conterminous United States.
There was a net gain of 191,750 acres of wetlands between 1998 and 2004. However this gain
was due to the conversion of agricultural lands or the combined effort of conservation measures
and restoration of previously impaired wetlands. In the same time period, the reports shows that
there was an estimated loss of 88,960 acres (39% of the loss) due to urban development, 51,440
acres (22 % of the loss) due to rural development, and 18,000 acres (8 % of the loss) due to
drainage or filling for silviculture. The rest of the loss, 70,100 acres (31%) was attributed to deep
water habitats.

IMPACTS ON THE BIOSPHERE
1. Modification of Habitats
The fertilizers that spread across lawns find its way into water channels where it promotes the
growth of plants at the expense of fish. The waste dumped into streams lowers oxygen levels
during its decay and cause the die-off of plants and animals.
2. Destruction of Habitats
There is also complete eradication of habitats as an outcome of urbanization and native species
are pushed out of cities.
3. Creation of New Habitats
New habitats are also created for some native and non-native species. Cities also create habitats
for some species considered pests, such as pigeons, sparrows, rats, mice, flies and mosquitoes.
Urbanization has, for example, eliminated many bat colonies in caves, but has provided sites
such as bridges for these species to nest.
Examples
Urbanization alters habitat through housing, road construction, pavement, devegetation,
plantation of non-native species, land fragmentation etc. Residential development associated
with expansion of roads, utilities etc. poses threat to wildlife through loss, degradation, and
fragmentation of habitat. Habitat Urbanization alters habitat through housing, road construction,
pavement, devegetation, plantation of non-native species, land fragmentation etc. Residential
development associated with expansion of roads, utilities etc. poses threat to wildlife through
loss, degradation, and fragmentation of habitat.
Habitat alteration from urbanization is so drastic and widespread that it results in the
endangerment and extinction of species accompanied by long lasting habitat loss. Apart from
reducing the richness of native species, urbanization increases the dominance of nonnative
species in the area thereby causing biological homogenization
Diversity refers to species richness, Extinctions refers to global extinction of species and Risk
refers to the percentage of a plant and animal species at risk of extinction. Texas ranks first in
diversity of birds and reptiles species, second in diversity of mammal and plant species, and
fourth in the diversity of amphibians.
Habitat loss, which affects about 85% of the imperiled species, is the leading cause of species
endangerment. Spread of non-native species is the second most threat, which affects 49% of the
imperiled species.
Invasion of non-native species, urbanization and agriculture are the three leading causes of
species endangerment due to habitat loss. Urbanization, which endangered 64 species in Florida,
61 in California and 26 in Texas, is the second most threat to species endangerment. In the
combined area of Utah, Nevada, and Idaho, where the majority of land is owned by public and
unavailable for development, only 2 species were endangered by urbanization. Roads including
highways through their construction, maintenance and use have endangered 94 species.
Of the 6,400 imperiled species identified, 4,173 species were analyzed in the mainland U.S,
which showed approximately 60 percent are found in one or more of the mainland metropolitan
areas, with 31 percent found exclusively within metropolitan areas. It is a clear demonstration of
our traditional reckless planning approach which ignored the importance of critical
environmental habitats and continued to develop. It means the future of these species depends
upon the growth patterns of metropolitan areas.
The examples discussed above are in the context of the United States, Indian examples are
discussed in the forthcoming sections.
URBANIZATION AND ENVIRONMENTAL DEGRADATION IN INDIA
Indias population has very rapidly grown since the demographic watershed of 1921, when
medical treatment, sanitary improvement, etc., started reducing mortality drastically and led to
concomitant population. The population is growing at the rate of about 17 million annually
which means a staggering 45, 000 births per day and 31 births per minutes. If the current trend
continues, by the year 2050, India would have 1620 million populations. Population explosion is
one of the most threatening issues facing contemporary India particularly by the Indian cities.
One of the most important reasons for population explosion in the cities of India is the large
scale rural to urban migration and rapid urbanization. Due to uncontrolled urbanization in India,
environmental degradation has been occurring very rapidly and causing shortages of housing,
worsening water quality, excessive air pollution, noise, dust and heat, and the problems of
disposal of solid wastes and hazardous wastes. The large and metropolitan cities present a
particularly depressing picture today. The situations in metropolises like Mumbai, Kolkata,
Chennai, Delhi, Bangalore, Kanpur, Hyderabad etc., is becoming worse year by year. The
problems of finding space and housing for all have been intensified. Slums have become an
inevitable part of the major Indian metropolises. Environmental pollution in India can broadly be
attributed to rapid industrialization, energy production, urbanization, commercialization, and an
increase in the number of motorized vehicles. Vehicles are a major source of pollutants in cities
and towns. The concentrations of ambient air pollutants in the metropolitan cities of India as well
as many of the Indian cities are high enough to cause increased mortality. The rate of generation
of solid waste in urban centres has outpaced population growth in recent years with the wastes
normally disposed in low-lying areas of the citys outskirts.
Urbanization in India and Metropolitan cities
Urbanization is a process whereby increasing proportions of the population of a region or a
country live in urban areas. Urbanization has become a major demographic issue in the
21
st
Century not only in India but also all over the world. The level of urbanization in terms of the
proportion of urban population to the total is low in India but the urban population in absolute
terms is high. Since the first regular census of India was taken in 1881, almost all census reports
have commented on the urban growth. During the last three decades in India, the link between
urbanization and environment and the threat to the quality of life have emerged as a major issue.
(i) Pattern and Trend of Urbanization in India during 1901-2001: The pattern and trend of urban
population and number of towns in India during 1901 to 2001 shows that total urban population
has increased more than ten times from 26 million to 285 million whereas total population has
increased less than five times from 238 million to 1027 million from 1901 to 2001. A continuous
increase has been noticed in the percentage of urban population from 11% in 1901 to 17% in
1951 to further 28% in 2001. In the same fashion the number of towns had also increased from
1916 in 1901 to 2422 in 1951 and then to 4689 in 1991. This reveals the rapid urbanization
process in India.
(ii) Percentage of Urban Population in India by Size-Class of Urban Centres, 1961-1991: Urban
population in India by size class of town during 1901 to 1991. The process of urbanization in
India reflects a certain degree of abnormality because of the fact that more than 60% of the urban
population of the country lives in Class I town alone and remaining below 40% urban population
lives in the smaller sized townsman unremitting increase has been noticed for percentage of total
urban population in Class-I city over the decades (1901 to 1991), while class IV, V and VI towns
have experienced a continuous decline. However, class II and III towns have almost constant
percent of total urban population over the decades. About three-fold increase has been found in
the percentage of total urban population in class one city, from 23% in 1901 to 65% in 1991.
This depicts a huge concentration of urban population in large cities. The urbanization in India
shows the pattern of inverted triangle where majority of the urban population resides in the
Class I cities.
(iii) Growth in the Number of Million Plus (1,000,000 Population or More) Cities in India during
1901-200: The number and population of million plus cities in India during 1991 to 2001. There
was only one million plus city (Kolkata) in 1901 in India. It became two in 1911 (Mumbai
added) and was constant during 1911 to 1941. Million plus cities increases to five in 1951 and
continuously increased after this decade and became 23 in 1991 and currently it is 35 in 2001
census. Total population also increased in the million plus cities from 1.51 million in 1901 to
107.88 million in 2001, almost a fifty fold increase. The percentage decadal growth rate in the
total population of million plus city was noticed highest (121%) during 1941
Impact of Urbanization on the Environmental Quality in the Metropolitan Cities of India
Urbanization and its allied process have made a profound impact on the environment of the
metropolitan cities of India. It has been accepted by the United Nations that it is quite impossible
for developing countries to provide in advance the urban planning and design because it is not
possible to accurately project the urban growth.
(i) Slum Situation in India and its Metropolitan Cities: The Govt. of India Slum Areas
(Improvement and Clearance) Act of 1954 defines a slum as any predominantly
residential areas, in which light or sanitary facilities or any combination of these
factors are detrimental to the safety, health or morals. The vast majority of the people
who migrated to the city were attracted by opportunity and comforts offered by
modernization. They belonged to the working class and found it difficult to secure
accommodation within their means. So, they squatted on every open space available,
as near their workplaces as possible and put up huts with cheap building materials. In
this way slums grew in number and population.

(ii) Composition of Solid Wastes in the Four Metropolitan Cities of India: The
composition of solid wastes generated by four metropolitan cities in India. Among the
different solid wastes generated like paper, textiles, leather, plastics, metal, glass, ash
etc. and other compostable matters the percentage of ash etc. is the highest. Delhi
exhibits the highest percentage of ash, which is about 52% of the weight of all the
solid waste, followed by Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai. The reason that Delhi has
the highest percentage of ash as solid waste may lie in the fact that Delhi is a large
industrial centre with mainly metal industry, which uses coal as a source of power
and the number of industries is growing day by day because of the growing
urbanization.
It is evident that, each and every environmental and social parameter of the Indian metropolitan
cities is very much deprived. In case adequate steps are not taken to prevent pollution and to
improve the quality of life by providing more social amenities, the life of the urban dwellers of
India may become more miserable this may be the cause of health hazards and worst devastation.
To achieve this, the urban population must be controlled. Also the number of people living in the
metropolitan city demanding the resources land, air and water apart from other biological
resources must be limited. Vehicular pollution control in metropolitan cities and other cities
deserves top priority. Urgent attention should be given to reduce the generation of solid waste at
the sources through mandatory standards and regulation fee and tax incentives, and education
and voluntary compliance. Improved technologies should be developed for waste collection,
treatment, and disposal in order to ensure proper solid waste management.
The maintenance of high quality of life in metropolitan cities requires the innovative economic
growth potential as well as our urban population in the metro cities should be stabilized at
sufficient level in lieu with the resources available and the protection of environmental quality
leading towards sustainable development. Serious attention should be given to the need for
improving urban strategies, which promote efficiency in resource use. There is an urgent need to
tackle the problem of population growth in the metropolitan cities in a rational manner.
SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT
Development is about improving the well-being of people. Raising living standards and
improving education, health, and equality of opportunity are all desirable and are essential
components of economic development, which were fully practised in India after independence
was won. But 5-year development programmes and the establishment of industrial development
institutions helped to promote economic growth which led to environmental deterioration in the
absence of an effective national environmental management programme. Also, such growth took
little notice of the social aspects of development, urban or otherwise; and the neglect of human
welfare was felt at all levels of society.
Sustainable development, on the other hand, is development that lasts, because in addition to an
economic component, there are social and environmental components. So that sustainable
development must be a pro-active strategy to develop sustainability. As it was proposed initially
by the World Commission on Environment and Development (1987) sustainable development
must meet "the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to
meet their own needs. Sustainable development requires mobilizing governments, the private
sector, and the general public toward sustainable communities. And "sustainable urban
development is ultimately a cultural statement about ourselves, how we want to live, and our
ability to manage our needs, desires, and dreams in ways that are effective and caring.
HUMAN SETTLEMENTS AND SUSTAINABILITY
Environmental Needs and Impacts
The most critical urban environmental needs by people in developing countries include:
Provision of healthful housing and other built environments (e.g. schools, workplacesetc.)
Access to environmental infrastructure systems and services (e.g. water supply, sewerage,
solid
Waste management, storm drainage, urban transport, etc.)
Availability of open spaces in terms of properly designed community parks and other green
areas.
Environmental surveillance and cleaning services for public buildings and outdoor areas.

The most important adverse impacts on the urban environment affecting people and caused by
man and nature are:
Water pollution and depletion
Energy use and wastage
Air pollution:
- Outdoor, by industrialization and motorization emissions, and
- Indoor, from household and occupational sources
Solid waste, especially hazardous waste, when improperly discharged by households and
industries.
Resource Losses:
- Groundwater contamination and depletion
- Land and ecosystem degradation
- Degradation of historic structures and cultural resources
Environmental hazards:
- Natural disasters (e.g. hurricane, earthquake, volcano, flooding, etc.)
- Man-made hazards (e.g. chemical spills and other industrial accidents)
Aggravating Factors
Factors aggravating urban environmental degradation or perpetuating the lack of appropriate
preventive and curative environmental actions are:
- Lack of public and political awareness
- Need for public pressure and political will
- Lack of effective public education and participation
- Inadequate governance (e.g. Weak institutional capacity, Poor inter-sect oral coordination,
Lack of effective public accountability, Inadequate regulatory policies, Unclear property rights,
Inefficient economic policies, Insufficient knowledge and information, Shortage of
environmental professionals).
Improving the Urban Environment
Efforts at improving the urban environment include the following:
(a) Focus on cost-effective approaches
- Seeking "win-win" situations when environmental and economic goals are complementary.
- Cost-effective approaches to carrying out environmental reforms
- Stressing economic efficiency and cost recovery through user charges, property business
taxes, and fuel taxes.
(b) Mobilizing Public Support and Participation
- Raising awareness by formal/informal education on environmental options, solutions,
enforcement and monitoring.
- Building constituencies of urban poor for upgrading of environmental services.
- Involving NGOs and the informal sector in championing local environmental concerns.

(c) Improving Governance
- Building local capacity to provide adequate operational management of urban services.
- Skills and capabilities - managerial, technical, regulatory and financial.
- Capacity building for key actors in the public and private sectors, as well as NGOs.
- Tools for capacity building include training, technical assistance, private sector technology,
public information and outreach programmes.
- Improving the operation of urban services, such as water supply, sewerage, drainage, solid
waste management, transport, land management, etc.
- Establishing public-private partnerships to deliver environmental services, stimulate
technological innovation and adaptation, and develop land.
Policy Issues and Instruments
For communities to move effectively toward sustainability, several issues should be identified, as
follows:
- Infrastructure that results in environmentally respectful use of resources;
- Minimization of waste and proper management of residues;
- Energy-efficient transportation;
- Compact land-use patterns;
- Integrated transportation and land-use planning;
- Local environmental assessments and audits;
- Cooperation with non-governmental organizations in the implementation of environmental
programmes;
- Reducing economic and social polarization; and
- Integration of marginalized people into efforts towards sustainable development.
Out of these general concerns some broad policy goals might include the following:
- Reducing per capita water consumption;
- Reducing per capita car use;
- Increasing the percentage of local land contained in parks; and
- Improving cycling and pedestrian infrastructure; etc.

To achieve these specific policy objectives the following policy instruments can be employed:
(a) Traditional regulations, such as laws, licenses, permits, standards, etc.
(b) Voluntary mechanisms, such as community information and education, NGOs, volunteer
groups, and technical assistance.
(c) Expenditure, through the use of public funds for contracting, monitoring, investment,
procurement, enterprise, and public-private partnerships.
(d) Financial incentives, an attractive alternative to traditional regulatory instruments and
includes pricing, taxes, charges, subsidies, grants, loans, rebates, etc.
SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT THE ROAD AHEAD
Development and Sustainability

Economic development pursued after the independence has shown up certain environmental and
social weaknesses that are the very basis for sustainability. It became clear that economic
development could only lead to sustainability if it is decentralized, carefully planned,
environmentally sensitive, locally-based, and focused on creating jobs and improving quality of
life in India. Development benefits must be maximized beyond industrial estates and business
centres, while the adverse impacts of development must be minimized in our residential areas
and our parks and beaches.
A comprehensive, integrated, and strategic approach which combines the local government role
as a service provider, its regulatory and legislative powers, and its internal economic policies can
have a remarkably positive effect on moving economic activities and development toward
improving socio-economic quality and achieving sustainability. This is why it is said that the
three core elements of sustainable development are:
Environmental considerations must be entrenched in economic policy-making.
Sustainable development must incorporate an inescapable commitment to social equity.
"Development" must not simply mean "growth". It must imply qualitative as well as
quantitative improvement.

In sum sustainable development must be different from economic development of the past. It
must be a pro-active strategy to develop sustainability. And its benefits must last well into the
next generation, and beyond.