How urbanisation increases climate risks

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By Maduka Nweke, manweke@gmail.com    08034207864

Populationexplosion in cities and towns from rural areas has continued to dwarf government’s efforts in provision of critical infrastructure. Some studies trace urbanisation to the industrial revolution era, when workers moved towards manufacturing hubs in cities for jobs in factories as agricultural jobs became less lucrative and commonplace.

Today, human population growth, has made urbanisation a necessity, along with associated development of infrastructure to support it. One of the major trends we see in developing nations like Cambodia is an increase in urbanisation, as people living in rural areas move to cities where there are more opportunities to earn a living. The increase in farming technology has decreased the number of farmers needed to produce food, leading to rapid urbanisation in modern-day America.

More than half of the world’s population today live in cities, and another 2.5 billion people are expected to join them by 2050. But the frequency of torrential rain and storm which is on the rise in big, densely populated cities like Lagos, New York, Mumbai and Jakarta thereby, is hitting those living in marginalised, informal settlements like slums the hardest. Desertification also swallows arable lands needed to feed swelling urban populations. This was as rise in sea level continues to threaten everyone living in coastal areas, delta regions, and small-island countries. 

Urbanisation in the developing countries has affected the structure and functions of the various social institutions, which include the family, economy, polity, religion, health and education. Industrialisation and modernisation which are intertwined with urbanisation have led to the diminished functions of the various institutions in Nigerian urban centres. It has increased the poverty level in cities due to the alarming population growth of urban centres, and this is further aggravated by unemployment, underemployment, a decrease in real wages due to persistent inflation and uncontrolled migration according to a report by Celia V. Sanidad-Leones, in 2006. The challenges of urbanisation are felt in almost all aspects of urban centre. 

To combat these threats to sustainable development, most cities have taken steps to build resilience to address the growing climate-related risks posed to inhabited areas. Through initiatives such as 100 Resilient Cities and the Global Covenant of Mayors in USA and U.K., leaders of cities have shown commitment to work together to address climate change and its impacts. Support from global organisations such as the World Bank, ICLEI, UN-Habitat, have also made various resources available to policy-makers, practitioners and even individuals willing to take action.

The authors of the report “ Initiatives in Area of Human Settlements and Adaptation” Taylor A. Carson & Co. compiled a summary of some of the most prominent global and regional initiatives that support adaptation and climate resilience in cities, towns and villages. The study is structured around the five opportunities for action offered by those initiatives: learn, access technical support, commit, finance, and unite. The report underscores the diversity of those initiatives, as well as the evolution of the services they have provided over the past decade.

According to a report by Jelili in 2012, the future of the population of the developed world will stop growing and the population of the rural areas of the developing world will soon stop growing as well. That means the next three billion people added to the planet are mostly going to live in the urban centres of the developing countries where Nigeria is not excluded. As more people are predicted to inhabit urban centres majorly in developing countries in the next decades. 

The following challenges are hereby predicted to be prominent as the outcome of the pace of urbanisation in Nigeria and other developing countries, if proper measures are not put in place starting from now. As more people will inhabit cities in few decades to come, the by-product of photosynthesis which is the major source of human life will be greatly depleted. More green will give way for physical development, and thereby reducing the quality of the already polluted air in major Nigerian urban centres, due to industrialisation and other city-related activities.

This condition may likely increase incidence of chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases; chronic bronchitis, asthma, and cardiopulmonary diseases among others. Carrying capacity may collapse in the next decades, if the population continues to increase sporadically in the urbanisation process, whereby the available resources in the future may not sustain the population of urban centres in the next decades.

Lagos in Nigeria for example, the population of Lagos was 665,246 in 1970 (Ajaegbu, 1976), 10.3 million in 1995 (United Nations, 1995), estimated to be 12.09 million in 2013 (Demographia World Urban Areas, 2013) and 24.4 million by 2015 (United Nations, 1995).

The population increase in many urban centres is mainly caused by rural-urban drift and not by natural increase which is impeded by death. The resources available may not sustain the future generation, as the resources are reducing, while the population is increasing.

There is imbalance in the proportion of the change in resources and change in population. There is danger of high competition in the future to access the limited resources that will be available, which may tend to an extent of killing one another. 

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