What are the problems faced by urban Centres?

The majority of the World’s population now lives in an urban area. Critically evaluate the impact of this change both globally but also for the countries of the South.
UN-Habitat Report ‘State of the World’s Cities 2008-2009’ pointed that, more than half of the world’s population are people who live in the cities. Over 90 percent of urban growth is occurring in the developing world. Asia will retain the majority of the world’s urban population, account for 63 percent by 2050. During the next two decades, the urban population of the world’s two poorest regions—South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa—is expected to double.

A number of Asian countries, such as the Philippines and Indonesia, also have very high rates of urbanisation; by 2020, Indonesia is expected to have five mega cities: a metropolitan area with a total population in excess of 10 million people, and by 2025, its level of urbanisation will reach 68 percent. This global phenomenon is the result from the process of urbanisation.
The trend and pace of urbanisation is compounded with various factors and marked by regional disparities. The primary factor is natural population growth, whereas another factor is the combination of rural-urban migration, infrastructure development, and other powerful socio-economic and political processes, including globalisation which drives urbanisation across worldwide (Williams, 1983). Urban growth is the rate of growth of an urban population. It is different to urbanisation which is the process by which there is an increase in proportion of a population living in places classified as urban: the movement from a rural to urban area.
Population growth and city size are underpinning urban growth; which is integrated and dynamic process bringing parts into a whole. The data from UN-Habitat can be implied that half of the world’s population will be settle in urban area, especially cities. This trend led to urban transition or urban change that much involve with the scale and rate of urban growth, global economy and development issue.
This essay will define the characteristic of urbanisation; examine its changing trend in both positive and negative impacts that resulted from this change. It will also critically evaluate the important urban issue that should be addressed firstly on a case study of Bangkok, Thailand, then conclusion.
Urbanisation is inevitable change
Urbanisation or urban drift is the physical growth of urban areas as a result of global change. This term is defined by the United Nations as a movement of people from rural to urban areas with population growth equating to urban migration (United Nations, 2004). Urbanisation is inevitable for development and rural to urban migration can serve as a form of poverty alleviation, provided governments support and facilitate the initiatives of the migrants in both the place of origin and destination. Owing to improvement in transport and better communication, rural to urban migration is no longer a one-time move by and entire family to an unfamiliar destination. This improvement also facilitates contacts by migrants with their place of origin and circular and return migration. As countries develop, rural to urban linkages tend to become stronger (UN-HABITAT, 2003). Small cities and towns can play an important role in regional development and better population distribution, it governments support local initiatives by developing basic infrastructure and services.
Rapid urbanising countries are spread across the world, and represent a wide range of social, economic and geographical contexts. It resulted in term of urban growth which is attributed to both population growths; refers to natural growth and rural and urban migration, and city growth; refers to infrastructure improvement and city size expansion (Henderson, 2002). Urbanisation contributes to sustained economic growth which is critical to poverty reduction. The economics of scale and agglomeration in cities attract investors and entrepreneurs which is good for overall economic growth. Cities also provide opportunities for many, particularly the poor who are attracted by greater job prospects, the availability of services, and an escape from constraining social and cultural traditions in rural areas. However, urban population growth does not always ensure urban economic growth. The urban poor are often rely on the informal sector for their survival and therefore undertake casual or unskilled labour, or even unregistered and illegal work (Amis, 2004). This weakens their rights and benefits, and constrains their capability to escape poverty.
The relationship between urban change and urban poverty
A number of Asian countries have very high rates of urbanisation; 15.4 percent of total population lived in urban areas in 1950 and will have increased to 49.7 percent by 2025 (Asian Study Centre, 2010). The mega-urban regions of Manila and Jakarta have a number of population over 21 million each, while Bangkok has more than 10 million.
Population density can help ensure lower per capita costs for delivery of basic services and easy access to information. Citizens may find it easier to mobilise around shares problems and pool resources to find solutions (Overseas Development Institute, 2008). Urban centres provide economic advantages and job opportunities. Urbanised countries tend to have higher incomes, more stable economies and institutions and are better able to withstand external economic shocks and volatility. Unfortunately, the global economic downturn is seem to increase the number of jobless in the urban migrants who have involved in unskilled labour firm or unregistered and illegal work. There are also pressing environmental concerns associated with urbanisation, evidenced in most of the world’s energy is consumed by urban settlements. Moreover, they are also generates the bulk of the waste in urban areas.
It can be said that urban refers to a context, not a specific area or sector; urban issues are multi-sectoral and require integrated approaches that address a wide range of human needs for people living in urban settlements. It has special relationship between urban growth and poverty in term of development (Asian Development Bank, 2004). Urban change has some particular features. Firstly, the scale of change is unprecedented. Secondly, the rate of change is rapid. Finally, the nature and direction of change is more dependent on the global economy; the capitalist context (Sassen, 2001; Yeung, 2000). It can be said that urban change is resulted by urbanisation; which is driven by globalisation. Many of these factors are obviously related.
Urban change refers to a context, not a specific area or sector; urban issues are multi-sectural and require integrated approaches that address a wide range of human needs for people living in urban settlements. It can be cause of urban trend; which is linked to some particular aspects of development both socially and economically as following:
– Unemployment; a large number of workers in developing countries, including a high proportion within urban areas, operate within the informal sector, which often entails casual or unregulated labour that can be illegal or even dangerous (Amis, 2004). The global economic downturn is in creasing the number of jobless worldwide and the urban poor are likely to be affected (DFID, 2009).
– Social exclusion; urban poor face social exclusion on various levels. The marginalisation stemming from status as a slum dweller may be compounded by discrimination based on gender, ethnicity, religion, disability, and HIV status. The specific groups such as street children and HIV/Aids are particularly vulnerable (UNICEF, 2002).
– Climate change and the environment; poor people living in cities in developing countries often live inadequate areas such as flood-prone or water-logged areas and are vulnerable to losing their houses due to rising sea levels or natural disasters. Some live without access to safe drinking water and proper sanitation and faced the environmental pollution (IIED, 2009).
These urban trends is challenge to urban development, it offers the chance for greater focus on the urban context. This challenge is heightened by the fact that adequate responses to urban change impacts are likely to depend on strong and committed local government and communities.
Urban environmental concerns: a case study of Bangkok, Thailand
The urbanisation process is an important force driving to urban growth in Southeast Asia region. It seems to have been accompanied by excessively high levels of concentration of the urban population in very large cities. Thailand is estimated to be about 43 percent urbanised by 2006, and will have 50 percent of the population living in urban areas by the year 2015 (NESDB, 1998). Bangkok is a megacity which has grown rapidly in its 200 years. As in many developing countries, economic development has been accompanied by severe environmental and social problems. Bangkok’s path of urbanisation has focus on economic development almost exclusively on Bangkok, which has grown as a primate city to more than 30 times the size of the next most substantial urban centre (BMA, 2009). Its growth related to uncontrolled urban growth both in term s of the spread of the city and of successive changes in land use within it. There has been little formal planning (Roachanakanan, 1999).
Ongoing environmental degradation and increasing pollution detract from the quality of life of urban Thai people. Urban environmental concerns are also spreading well beyond Bangkok to the broader Bangkok region and other urban areas. There is also a lack of capacity and often initiative to undertake the needed analysis, mobilisation, and action to tackle these emerging problems. With the ongoing focus on economic development at the local level, this situation can be expected to worsen (Poungsomlee and Ross, 1992).
Cities can be view as systems involving people’s interactions with one another and with the built environments they have created. The built environments interact with the natural ecological processes of their sites. Intervention in one part of a system inevitably affects other parts. This analysis will divide the impacts into two parts, firstly: the impact on nature; and lastly: the impact on city people.
Due to the growing population, demands for water, food, housing, energy, clothing, and consume goods are increasing alarmingly. Rapid population growth not only lesson available calorie supply from food per person but also risks the present food production with pollution (Brookfield and Byron, 1993). The production of these needs water and creates more pollutants. Many Western companies produce their products in Bangkok because of more flexible environmental law and cheaper production costs. This puts extra pressure on the environment of Bangkok. Of critical importance are problems associated with waste water, air quality, and solid waste. Public health is increasingly threatened by declining environmental conditions, especially air pollution in urban centres, about 39 percent of Bangkok residents suffer from respiratory diseases, a rate that is seven times higher than in rural areas (NESDB, 2005).
Only about 60 percent of urban solid waste is disposed of to a high standard, with even a smaller proportion being properly handled in the urban fringe areas (BMA, 2009). In the area of waste water, while vast slums have been spent on treatment plants in cities throughout the country, virtually none are operational. Linked to the underperformance of city planning is neglect of managing the built environment in most Thai municipalities, severely affecting quality of life and overall public health and safety.
Public participation in decision making is an important urban trend in Bangkok. Due to urban environmental issue, there has not been strong tradition of public participation in the decision-making process at any level. However, with the advert of the new Constitution in 1997, there are explicit provisions for public input into the local decision-making process, especially in managing the local environment and resources. While there is now a strong constitutional and legal basis for civic participation, the reality is much weaker. On the positive side, through the recent “Small-Medium-Large” programme, community-level planning is being introduced for the first time as a means of better integrating grassroots input into the development process. However, coordination within the municipal development plans is not being encouraged as funding is going is going directly to villages, bypassing the local administrative planning process.
Urbanisation or urban drift is the physical growth of urban areas as a result of global change. The important force underpinning the changing pattern; described as population growth and city expansion, is driven by globalisation process. Rapid changes are spread across the world, and represent a wide range of social, economic and geographical contexts, especially the developing countries.
Southeast Asia region is the significant model of urban growth, it has very high rate of urbanisation resulted in many megacities such as Manila and Jakarta which have a number of population over 21 million each whereas Bangkok has more than 10 million inhabitants. Overpopulation problem has been address to urban concern in some megacities, especially urban environmental issue in Bangkok. Ongoing environmental degradation and increasing pollution are directly affected to Bangkok residents. This put greater pressure on the environment of Bangkok. The critical problem brings about the relationship between people and city, and making them to be one system: intervention in one part of a system inevitably affects other parts. Linked to the underperformance of city planning is neglect of managing the built environment in most urban residents affected quality of life and overall public health and safety.
The important trend due to urban environmental issue in Bangkok is increasing public participation in decision-making. With the adoption of the 1997 Constitution and the 1999 Decentralisation Act (amended in 2001) made possibly change to greater public participation. However, the question still ongoing due to increasing concern on good governance of local authority.

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Asian Studies Centre. (2010) Urbanisation in Southeast Asian Countries. Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies.
Brookfield, H. and Byron, Y. (1993) South-East Asia’s Environmental Future: The Search for Sustainability. Tokyo: United Nations University Press.
Department for International Development (2009) Eliminating World Poverty: Building our Common Future. DFID 2009 White Paper.
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Williams, L.S. (1983) “The Urbanization Process: Toward a Paradigm of Population Redistribution”. Urban Geography, 4 (2): 122-137
Yeung, Y. M. (2000) Globalization and networked societies: urban-regional change in Pacific Asia. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press.
BMA Statistic Profile accessed on 02/04/2011
National Economic and Social Development Board http://www.nesdb.go.th/Default.aspx?tabid=92 accessed on 02/04/2011

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