2015 challenges: urbanisation

Increasing urban populations put a strain on resources and leave many on the fringes of society. What can NGOs do to give them a voice?

More people now live in cities than in rural areas around the world, and that number is climbing. Today 54% of the world’s population lives in urban areas, but by 2050 the urban population is expected to rise to 62% in Africa, to 65% in Asia, and to 90% in Latin America.

Why are people moving?

While rates vary from continent to continent, the causes of rural to urban migration are pretty much the same across the world: people believe there’s the chance of a better life in the city. “People come [to the city] to find economic opportunity, modern amenities, access to education and to make a shift from working in agriculture to working in the service industry,” says Shirish Singh, head of Practical Action’s urban water, sanitation and waste programme in south Asia.Advertisement

Climate change is another factor, while in Latin America – the most urbanised continent in the world, with 80% of the population living in cities – the growing industrialisation of farming means that rural communities have been driven off their land and into the cities, where one in four live in slums. In fact slums around the world are swelling rapidly. The number of slum-dwellers reached 863 million in 2014– an increase of more than 200m since 1990.

The result is ever more competition for space, jobs, water and energy: “There’s traffic and water pollution, poor sanitation and even the buildings don’t have efficient designs,” says Singh. “Another problem is waste management.”

Read the full article: 2015 challenges: urbanisation

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