This article throws light upon the four major effects of urbanisation in India. The effects are: 1. Settlements and Psychosocial Health Problems 2. Garbage Collection and Disposal 3. Noise Pollution 4. Road Accidents.
Effect # 1. Settlements and Psychosocial Health Problems:
Particular populations or age groups within specific urban or rural settings are likely to have a particularly high degree of social pathology. Deteriorating inner city areas or urban centres with declining economies are characterised by social disorganization and disintegration and create scores of high-risk populations, migrants, children, women, the handicapped, the elderly, the homeless, street children.
The physical and economic deterioration is also accompanied by a feeling of entrapment among particular income, age, and ethnic groups, which can make the problems more difficult to resolve. Urban life may have more pernicious consequences for child behaviour because of the increased likelihood of family disintegration and negative peer and environmental influence.
The psychological development of children may become a major problem in areas characterised by poor quality housing and basic services and low- income inhabitants. Its cognitive, sensory motive, and social development is prevented or hindered, it may take a lifetime to reverse the consequences.
The approach of these problems must be specific, since there are inner city areas and declining urban centres which, although poor, are neither degrading nor destructive of human health. Social processes rather than geographical residence may be the critical factor.
Children are especially vulnerable to deficiencies in the provision of space, facilities, and services. For instance, children’s play is known to have a central role in learning, motor and communication skills, problem-solving and logical thinking, emotional development and social behaviour.
In most urban centres the public provision for safe and stimulating children’s play is very inadequate especially in poorer districts. In most countries, indeed, there are great inadequacies in the provision of services and support for children in difficult circumstances, for instance, street children and the children of migrant workers.
Effect # 2. Garbage Collection and Disposal:
Garbage collection services are inadequate or non-existent in most residential areas of developing cities; an estimated 30-50% of the solid waste generated within urban centres is left uncollected.
It accumulates in streets and in open spaces between houses, causing or contributing to serious health problems. The poorer households suffer most, since it is overwhelmingly in the poor areas of the cities that there are no services to collect garbage or the services are very inadequate.
Garbage left uncollected encourages fly breeding, the flies promoting the transmission of infection. It can also promote diseases associated with rats such as plague, leprospirosis, salmonellosis, endemic typhus, rat-bite fever, and some arbouiral infections.
Uncollected garbage can be serious fire hazard and a serious health hazard for children playing on the site. Uncollected garbage also blocks drainage channels, increasing health problems related to flooding and waterlogged soils.
Effect # 3. Noise Pollution:
Background environmental noise levels in direct proportion to the population of a given area. Thus noise appears to be endemic in urban conditions. In the city the main causes of traffic noise are the motors, tyres, and exhaust systems of automobiles, trucks, buses, and motorcycles. To this noise are added the sounds of compressors and drills used in road and construction work, railroad engines, horns, whistles and aircraft.
Effect # 4. Road Accidents:
Every year some 500000 people are killed in automobile accidents according to World Bank estimates. Of these, roughly 350000 are in developing countries where, although the number of motor vehicles relative to the population, is generally much lower, the available statistics suggest a higher number of road fatalities relative to the number of vehicles. Two-thirds of the accidents involve pedestrians, most of whom are children.
Two-thirds of accidents occur in cities or in surrounding areas. Given the rapid population growth in urban areas and the growth in the number of motor vehicles the number of deaths from automobile accidents, is likely, in the absence of effective intervention, to continue growing.
The number of injuries is many times the number of accidental deaths. Studies in different countries confirm that there are 10-20 times as many people injured as killed. Many have serious injuries and lasting disabilities.
Road accidents represent one of the most serious health problems in many countries, especially if the health effects are assessed taking into account the loss of productivity from premature death or disability. It is mostly young persons who are killed and disabled. In the age group 5-44 years, automobiles accidents are the second most important cause of death in the world.
A central feature of a strategy for the improvement of conditions in human settlements is the development of a partnership between public authorities, the private sector, and community or neighbourhood organizations.
Such a partnership will permit agreement to be reached on the main health problems and the best use of existing resources for solving them. It also makes possible within each locality specific action to deal with health problems.
Major development over the last 20 years in the application of new or revised older techniques in water supply, sanitation, drainage and solid waste management have produced a range of cost-effective solutions appropriate to local conditions, cultures, and circumstances that will greatly improve health and environmental conditions for those currently ill-served.
They have also produced more cost-effective techniques for preventing, controlling and treating the diseases and injuries and injuries associated with poor housing, living, and working environments and the development and refinement of primary health care systems have lowered costs and widened the coverage.
Experience of over the past ten years suggests that greater impact and cost-effectiveness can be achieved through multi-sectoral intervention, for instance by improved water supply and sanitation combined with health care, hygiene education and, where needed, drainage.
Effective promotion of health needs stronger links between the health care and social services and often between the health, justice, and education sectors. Health personnel should have the knowledge and skills to work with other social services, for instance, in the provisions of reliable child, for working and sick parents, shelter for the homeless, care for the handicapped, and services to cope with the consequences of alcohol and drug abuse and family violence.
The health services need to break away from their traditional concentration on limited curative care so as to provide care that meets other pressing needs in the community, such as mental health. The health services should be able to provide advice and assistance that is more social than medical.
This implies a change of emphasis in the role of government, with more attention given to its role as enabler and promoter, than to its more established roles as regulator and provider of an infrastructure and services. This is a change recommended by development specialists from many different sectors.
Over concentration by governments on provision and regulation rather than on the strategic framework within which the contributions of other actors are optimized is seen as a key factor in the poor performance of housing policies in many developing countries.
A comparable change from control to enablement is also under way in urban policy. Government programmes to slow down rapid urbanization by restricting rural-to-urban migration or urban investment are now recognized as of limited effect. They often have a high cost and they bring few benefits to poorer groups.
They rarely tackle the underlying causes of rapid city growth, especially macroeconomic and pricing policies and centralized government structures, which are among the root causes of rapid urbanization. Urbanization is increasingly understood as an important part of the development of more productive economies.
Strategic long-term policies can mitigate the negative effects of urbanization on health and the environment without high economic costs. Moreover, concentrated populations provide many economies of scale in the provision of most health-promoting infrastructures and services and in the control of pollution.
The growth of cities can be solved down and urban problems lessened by more realistic of prices charged to the consumers and business that use public services; by more effective pollution control preventing the polluters from passing on costs to others; and by the increased competence of local governments.
Many smaller urban centres in developing countries have been successful in attracting new investment away from major metropolitan centres as they have for decades in many developed countries.
Competent local governments in these smaller urban centres are a major factor in such urban de-concentration. New approaches should be developed to improve housing, infrastructures, and services so that a far higher proportion of those in need are reached at a cost affordable both by the users and by the government.
1. Increasing the capacity of local governments to act and invest and to work with local populations in identifying local problems and devising the most appropriate local solutions.
2. Changing or adjusting building and planning codes and norms so that they support and encourage local action that is health promoting and does not lead to environmental degradation.
3. Developing new ways for government agencies to work with community organizations to ensure that a basic infrastructure and basic services are provided and maintained and that provision for health care meets the most pressing needs.
A major programme promoting such new approaches is the Global Strategy for Shelter to the year 2000, developed by the United Nations Centre of Human Settlements and adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations in December 1988.
To function effectively in health promotion and environmental protection, local authorities need broad, financially sustainable revenue bases, including the power to raise taxes and borrow from money markets to meet their responsibilities.
The operations of local governments should not only be seen to be honest but should also be regularly subjected to auditing. Suitable staff should be recruited, trained and well remunerated to enable the local government tackle environmental health matters and handle the appraisal and monitoring of projects, budget and accounting systems, and urban management.
Health staff must have the ability to identify environmental factors causing poor health and communicate information to non-health staff.
Waste reduction, reclamation, recycling, or reuse should be encouraged by using participatory community-based schemes of the kind recently initiated in a number of developing countries. When these bring personnel into close contact with wastes, special provision is often needed to limit the health risks and prevent or cure specific diseases.