The Impact of Urbanization on the Environment

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Urbanization has become the world’s most important phenomenon. The rate at which societies are becoming urbanized is astounding, and the trend is not expected to stop continuing. In Africa, the Middle East, and Asia, urbanization is growing more rapidly and at an unparalleled pace. In the past, rural areas had much higher concentration of people as compared to urban regions. In the XXIst

century, cities have become the default habitats for humans. The trend is not expected to slow down because statistics show that in the year 2050, 3 billion people will be living in the cities, while in 1950, 3 billion was the total world population (Cilliers and Siebert 7). Such figures explain why urbanization is considered a “phenomenon."

Emerging economies, particularly India and China, need an endless supply of labor required for the work of their industries. The laborers need to reside near their working places, contributing to the need to build appropriate transport systems. Industries, suppliers, and customers have to be closely located to ensure convenience for all elements of the chain. Human society is firmly becoming urban in its nature and will continue existing in such form in the nearest future.

With the outbreak of urbanization, the emergence of megacities has become the leading trend, in which environment plays the paramount role. There is a growing need for amenities like infrastructure, residential facilities, factories, health centers, recreation places, and office buildings. Urbanization interconnects with several issues related to ecological security, particularly global warming, fresh water supply, food chain imbalance, pollution, deforestation, endangered species, and the loss of natural habitat (Cohen 8).


Industrialization largely facilitates the advancement of countries. For example, the Chinese economy has been growing at a staggering pace. Such phenomenal growth is primarily credited to manufacturing and has a momentous effect on the environment. In most Chinese cities, residents can be currently seen wearing masks to shield themselves from the toxic industrial emissions. Pollution has an adverse effect on both the ecosystem and its dwellers. Many cities with high concentration of industries have alarming number of people with respiratory problems. Furthermore, due to malfunction of the ecosystem resulting from the use of pesticides, oil spills, and carbon emissions, the local animal species slowly face extinction.

Freshwater Supply

Any country’s natural water resources depend on the stability of the local forest cover, which serves as a water tower. The high demand for timber brought about by urbanization has contributed to binge deforestation. As a result, numerous significant rivers, which were the main source of drinking water in the upcoming towns, have dried up. Consequently, water authorities have to ration water due to the scarcity.

In some African countries, the governments had to temporarily ban logging due to the rate at which water catchment areas were turning into deserts. There is an ongoing conflict between the charcoal banners, timber sellers, and the authorities.   

The conflict does not end at this stage; the natives start opposing the county authorities because the majority of them primarily depend on charcoal burning and selling timber to the builders to sustain their livelihoods. Another fact to take into consideration is that furniture producers are a similarly influential element of the chain, and therefore, the logging ban, which has led to the complication of scarcity and escalation of furniture prices, has consequently lead to low sales.

Biodiversity Loss

The expansion of industries to animal habitats is causing a profound harm to flora and fauna. Indigenous animals are facing extinction due to the incursion of their habitat, becoming endangered due to the devastating expansion of infrastructure to their environment. 

            The above picture depicts the consequences of meeting human needs at the expense of animal species, which are bound to venture into dangerous highways out of curiosity; therefore, run-overs by motorists are inevitable.

The picture below demonstrates the effect of urbanization on the ecosystem.

When animals’ natural habitat is destroyed, they can be met in direct proximity to human residences. An encounter with a bear, a tiger, or a lion cannot be considered safe since death or life-long injuries are guaranteed.

Food Chain Inequity

Industries bear the primary responsibility for the occurrence of food chain inequity. More specifically, arable land is considered one of the most critical issues since the use of toxic chemicals by companies is leaving a trail of useless farmlands.


Numerous farming communities depending on farming solely are facing starvation. There is a conflict between industries and the neighboring farming communities. Toxic emissions and industrial wastes affect both the health and livelihoods of the communities. All stakeholders, including the farmers, the industry owners, and the government, ought to jointly find an amicable solution to such problem. People living in emerging city are in the need of food supply, and the land offers the essential resources. Therefore, accommodating growth and averting future conflicts, the government should involve all the players for a long lasting solution through consulting and dialogue.

International Conflicts

The economic expansion of cities has frequently provoked international territorial disputes. An example of the most infamous and ongoing territorial conflict is the dispute between the Israeli and the Palestinians. The former have been building modern residential houses and recreational places for their citizens in the land that Palestinians claim to be theirs. The conflict between the two countries has been lasting for a long time, and even currently, numerous young Palestinians are losing their lives, while environmental degradation is rapidly getting complicated.

When the United Nations condemned such expansions, the Israeli government has ignored the calls to cease industrialization and urbanization, which are fueling the never-ending conflict between the two countries. In addition, the conflict largely contributes to water supply disparity since the Israeli water department continues over-pumping the commodity, causing an adverse effect on the Palestinians (Hongxiang and Edwards 5). The use of deep wells to extract water has a long-term effect on the quality of the resource. The deep well technique leads to drying of the more shallow water wells used by the Palestinians. Israel has stringent laws that protect the environment from dumping. To avoid prosecution, Israeli companies load lorries with toxic and hazardous wastes, which are ultimately unloaded in the occupied lands of Shuqba in Palestine. Medical wastes, dead chicken carrying avian flu, and x-ray films containing carcinogen agents are released in the Palestinian environment.

Global Warming

The emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases have blanketed the Earth’s atmosphere, which regulates the heat, hence causing an increase in global temperatures. Global warming was an issue of emergency even to the scientific community. The emergence of industries has improved the standards of living, but has lead to the slow destruction of nature. However, it is important to note that even a slight change in temperature would have a considerable impact. Apparently, a minor average temperature increase is sufficient to cause dramatic changes of the planet. The catastrophic consequences include droughts, torrential downpours, heat waves, and floods. The case when Missouri river broke its banks and destroyed homes in Sioux City, Iowa, in 2011 can serve as a demonstrative example.

Industrialization is the primary factor determining spear-heading economic growth. The industrial revolution has transformed a lot of lives and countries. However, such profound prosperity has brought about a lot of adverse changes in the environment. The advancement of human activity, which can be obviously attributed to urbanization, has led to the concentration of greenhouse emissions in the mesosphere and significant climate changes. The use of indigenous resources extracted from nature creates an imbalance in the ecosystem, which in turn leads to the development of a disastrous environmental situation.


In the quest for governments to urbanize, stakeholders should establish a link between the economic expansion, city development, and housing. Most of the emerging economies have ignored housing in favor of the explosion of slum dwellings in the city, which house the poor and inferior citizens and are problematic to both the government and the environment. Due to their unplanned nature, the slums pose a threat to the dwellers themselves and their environs. Moreover, due to the lack of working sewer systems, raw sewage flows freely anywhere. The wastewater is hazardous to the environment and poses a health threat to the residents. The government might be expected to use such trend as a way of eliminating slums, but in such case, it would not be possible to avoid severe conflicts with the slum dwellers, who do not have any other home and will do anything to survive (Kharel 33). In most African city slums, young people collect used plastics and other wastes and create dumping sites to sort and sell the materials to the recycling companies. The dumping sites have destroyed the ecosystem, with the photo below providing an illustration.

Crime is another scourge the government has to deal with; the slum people have no skills to get a decent job, which drives them to take extreme measures to make a living, including murder, muggings, and hijackings. Unless the authorities find a lasting solution to the housing problem, it will get worse, and any efforts to mitigate the situation later will be even less effective.

Endangered Species

Africa and Asia are among the top the continents that are urbanizing. Despite posing a threat to ecological development and public wellbeing, urbanization  affects animals in the first place, changing the entire communities of species forever. The natural habitats of animals are being destroyed by new industries and residential buildings, making many species slowly disappear from the environment. Animals differ in their needs for the specific food and climate. However, if a specific area has been marked for urban development, most local animals are forced to migrate to other areas in search of food and water. Those species that cannot adapt to the urban growth speed will eventually disappear. Some birds like doves can live in cities in large populations. However, such birds can become a menace. For example, in the sphere of aviation, there have been cases when pilots had to delay flights due to visibility issues caused by the birds that were causing traffic problems due to their large numbers. Physical and ecological limitations distress organisms directly, changing host-parasite and predator-prey contacts (Izakoviˇcová,  Špulerová and Petrovic 10). Planning new cities, the governing authorities should seek advice from conservation experts on how to protect the natural ecology for the sake of the animals.

            In conclusion, to avoid conflicts in future, new cities should be well planned and involve all stakeholders for the purpose of reducing the adverse effects of urbanization. The government should also find a permanent solution to rural areas, providing jobs, better housing, energy supply, and advancing infrastructure. Thus, the migration of citizens to urban regions will be significantly minimized, and the population pressure faced by most modern cities will be reduced. Each person is able to become an ambassador of environmental preservation for both the present and future generations.

Works Cited

Cilliers, S. S. and S. J. Siebert. "Urban Ecology in Cape Town: South African Comparisons and Refrections." Ecology and Society 17 March 2012, pp. 1-12.

Cohen, J. E. Population Problems. New York: W.W. Norton 2000, pp.3-11.

Hongxiang, Y. and Edwards, F.G. "Effects of Land Use Change on Hydrologic Response at Watershed Scale." Journal of Hydrologic Engineering, vol.18, no.12, 2013, pp.1-7.

Kharel, G. Impacts Urnbanization on Environmental Resources: A Land Use Planning Perspective. The University of Texas at Arlington, 2010, pp.31-33

Izakoviˇcová, Z., Špulerová, J. and Petrovic, F. Integrated Approach to Sustainable Land Use Management. Environments, 2017, pp.1-15.

August 01, 2023


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Global Warming Pollution

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