Urbanization – causes and consequences

Ashenafi Zedebub

“Is urbanization harmful as far as good health is concerned?”- This is what several people nowadays ask. Urbanization, or the movement of people to urban areas, started as a “population drift that has fast become a stampede” as one authority put it.

According to experts in the field, urbanization has quite several reasons and the consequences are not yet realized. Investigators are of the opinion that a thorough investigation into the matter has to be conducted in order to be fully aware of the consequences and also as to find the lasting solution. Nevertheless, there are still some researchers, who happen to have few points to say as regards the motivation of urbanization.  As one research paper outlined, motivating some of the movement is the mechanization of agriculture; the reduction of job availability in rural areas; and, of course, the industrialization around urban centers, which creates jobs.

It is, however, worth noting that the necessary infrastructure, which is essential to balanced growth, has been missing, resulting in the sprouting of “shantytown conditions” in cities of many developing countries, which is underlined as “very unfortunate.”  As far as the so-called “developed cities” come in question, experts indicate the overpopulation and resultant stress on aging infrastructure are also not by any means to be ignored.

Professionals in the province have reportedly been carrying out researches as regards the health consequences, which vary geographically, “although being very distinct.” The current epidemic of obesity predominantly in –although not limited to- developed countries, typically involves the less affluent. According to some authorities, “the inner cities have often very few stores selling fresh produce, while fast-food outlets, which encourage obesity, proliferate and predominate.” It is also noted that social interaction may typically be reduced among city dwellers with an increase in loneliness and isolation. “Mental health is less robust with an increase in anxiety, depression and suicide among the youth” as experts noted. It is indeed very tragic to hear that societies of North America are experiencing a marked increase in mental disability.

Health professionals have stressed that urbanization is of great concern in less developed communities. They have indicated that a rise in infectious disease may be expected, as the public health measures of appropriate sanitation and hygiene fail to be maintained or are never developed. Inadequate sanitation, a lack of clean, potable water and crowded living conditions are causative factors in outbreaks, such as the one in Haiti in which thousands have suffered from cholera during the last summer season.

Furthermore, densely populated large cities with their “ghettos” breed a climate to drug dealing, prostitution and sexually transmitted disease. They fear that crime and social unrest will then scar such neighborhoods if the appropriate measure has not been taken on time.

The other concern is also worth noting; which is pollution.  A recent paper underlined that China, the most populated nation under the sun, has seen massive industrial development, huge population shifts and, of course, associated environmental pollution.

As a result of pollution, it has been known for a very long time that city dwellers have more respiratory disease including lung cancer.

Recent findings in France have confirmed declining sperm counts in the mainly urban male population. As physicians noted, it may be difficult to find out the specific potential pollutants, but, as one man of medicine put it “something is definitely going wrong.”

What about birth defects?- this is also another point, which may not at all be overlooked, as birth defects have recently been tied to traffic pollution. In an analysis of data recovered from two large studies in the State of California, it was shown that “mothers-to-be residing in areas of the highest traffic pollution, with elevated carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxide concentrations, had almost double the risk of delivering a child with a neurological birth defect, such as spina bifida.” The data is, however, said yet to be confirmed properly, but gives “much food for thought” as one commentator emphasized.

As far as our society is concerned, I don’t know whether the appropriate studies have been made as regards this particular issue.  But urbanization may, on the long run, be our problem as well, or such difficult matter requiring solution has already started, although we have not been fully aware of the very existence of it. I, myself, do not have any such tangible material. What about you? n


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