Urbanization in The Developing World

The trend of rural populations moving toward cities has created huge problems in the urban societies of developing countries. In the year 2005, half of the world’s population was living in urban areas. In 1994, there were fourteen mega-cities (the cities that had at least ten million inhabitants). This number increased to thirty-seven in 2017.

Due to this influx of population, cities are unable to provide amenities to all their residents and as a result, the growing slums have become centers of crime in the cities.  A report by the United Nations Human Settlements Program (UN-HABITAT) says that some 96,150 housings units per day are required to avoid the urban crisis in the near future. Under the title “Financing Urban Shelter,” the same report says that more than two billion people would be added as city dwellers by 2030. To provide housing to these additional people, more than 35 million units would have to be built every year. If adequate financial resources are not provided, billions of people will be trapped in poverty, slums, poor health and low productivity.

Photo by Leonardo Mazo on Unsplash

Population increase has multiplied the problem. There are many more births in the poor strata of the population than in the middle and higher income groups. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, “The world population increased from 3 billion in 1959 to 6 billion by 1999, doubling that occurred over 40 years.” The Census Bureau’s latest projections imply that population growth will continue, although at a slower rate. 

Photo by Roland Denes on Unsplash

The Population growth rate was 1.5 percent in 1950-51, and accelerated to 2 percent in the 1960’s due to reductions in mortality. Growth after the 1960’s started to decline due to the decline of the tradition of early marriages and the availability of effective contraceptives. But the declining growth rate did not affect population growth in any considerable manner, since the total number of reproducing couples was much more than before. Though there was a decline in the rate, the rate itself was based on the population pool that was much larger than before.

There is a considerable increase in the poverty-stricken population due to an increase in the overall population of the world. This increase in the population has considerably increased the gap between rich and poor as the number of people living below and just above the poverty line has increased considerably.  Ignacio Ramonet writes in The Politics of Hunger, “In 1960 the income of the 20 % of the world’s population living in the richest countries was 30 times greater than that of the 20 % in the poorest countries… in 1995 it was 82 times greater … In over 70 countries, per capita income is lower today than it was 20 years ago. Almost three billion people – half the world’s population – live on less than two dollars a day.” 

Though food resources of the world have increased considerably and the number of goods for daily use has increased, there is also a considerable increase in the number of those people who are starving and have no shelter.  Is it possible to salvage this situation and help an exhausted humanity? According to the United Nations, it requires only 13 billion dollars. This is less than the cost of cosmetics used by the people of the developed world in one year. It is also much less than the aimless wars that humanity has engaged in over the last 50 years.

In megacities like Mumbai, Karachi and Mexico City, a small portion of the population has all the facilities that elites of the developed world have. In fact, they have much more than that, as they can afford to have an army of domestic workers due to cheap labor. On the other hand, a large population is starving and has no shelter. A large percentage of these people live on the streets and under bridges. Though the middle class is rising in the developing countries of Asia and Latin America, the income gap between rich and poor is also rising and most of the benefits of today’s technological world are concentrated at the top 2% of the world population. The hope to eliminate poverty that humanity aspired in industrial revolution has been lost in today’s technological world as a large population of the world is still living below poverty. It is a pity that all the technological advances of our space age have not been able to provide the relief to the poor. Greed and apathy are the hallmark of our age.

The countries that have large populations that live in poverty feel that they have been robbed of the world wealth and have become hostile to the notions of ‘free world’ and ‘open markets.’  They feel that the rich nations are only interested in exploiting their resources and the notions of ‘free market’ and ‘open market,’ of the developed world are only to get raw materials from the third world countries and sell the finished goods back to these countries. This creates a lot of uncertainty and mistrust in their governments. This is either because the people feel that their governments have no control over the economic issues of their countries or they are powerless in the face of the strong market forces created by the rich countries.

It is easy to figure out what happens to the youngsters who are uneducated and live on the streets: all too often they become criminals and are recruited into gangs. After all, to be in a gang is better than living alone on the streets.  Most of these gangs are involved in illegal drug trafficking and work for drug cartels. Our insatiable appetite for drugs invites these cartels bring them into US, and they use a considerable amount of their profits to buy sophisticated military grade weapons from a market that is eager to serve anybody who wants to buy a gun. These guns, back at home, make the cartels more powerful than the law enforcement agencies in their own countries. Mexico is the current example, and Columbia is one from the recent past.

Photo by Tim Marshall on Unsplash

These cartels are getting more and more powerful as the third world governments are becoming more and more vulnerable due to weak economies and a decline in resources. In some countries these cartels actively participate in the politics of that country and favor candidates that can broaden their control. They finance these candidates and use their terror on the population that is in their control to vote for these candidates. Their control of a part of the government of a nation gives them the opportunity to expand their activities beyond the borders of their countries. According to the summary created in the seminar Gangs in the Global City, held by The University of Illinois, “In the Third World, gangs changed in two directions. Some, like in Jamaica, moved from politics to the world of international drug sales…. other gangs became politicized, like those in New Guinea and emphasized ethnic and national traditions as a way to resist globalization.”

The irresponsible attitude of the human race has created immense problems for the environment. It’s not only greenhouse gas emissions but also the growing population that is participating in ruining the environment for future generations. The United Nation maintains that the world population for the year 2050 could range from 7.9 billion to 10.9 billion, depending on the actions we take today. One can imagine what sort of environment future generations will have when we can clearly see deteriorating environment all around us today. 

Photo by Kouji Tsuru on Unsplash

All these problems are interconnected. Economics makes people migrate to cities, migration results in slums, the bad living conditions in slums and lack of opportunities give birth to crime and gangs, and crime highlights the class differences. Class differences in turn increase social strife and unrest and so on. In the 21st century, when we are trying to make contact with intelligent beings in space, looking for new galaxies with our powerful telescopes, and debating whether Pluto is a planet or not, the conditions of our own planet are deteriorating and a large number of humans are trapped in deprived conditions.  The number of young people is decreasing in Europe and the States, whereas the number of individuals over 60 is increasing. But in Asia and Latin America, there are more young people that are staved and uneducated or involved in criminal activities.

The world has contracted due to the technological advances and now we call it a global village. Something that happens in one part of the world affects the other part sooner or later. Covid-19 occurs in China but we ended up losing thousands of lives and billions of dollars. It reached here through an airplane within a few hours. Narcotics made in Mexico, Columbia, and Afghanistan end up in the U.S. American elections affect its enemies, allies and its wars, and the enemies orchestrate the world forums to achieve their means. The world is becoming more and more complex, and in this complex world who should take the responsibility for saving it? If the developed nations continue to hesitate to save the rest of drowning humanity in the developing world, then this human dilemma may extend to their borders. It is high time that we take heed, and take practical measures to tackle the problems humanity is facing.

University of Illinois. Gangs in the global city. Retrieved November 20, 2006, from http://gangresearch.net/Globalization/global%20era/glconfcall.html

Ramonet, I.  (1998).   The politics of hunger.  Le monde diplomatique.  Paris




Author: Imran Omer

I am an author and educator, who loves fiction and art. My blog will be on topics related to Literature, Art and Education.

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