Problems in rural areas are forcing people to flee to big cities which are already loaded to saturation point and this as a result is putting pressure on the ecosystem.
The pressure continuous intensifies because big cities offer employment opportunity and a few basic infrastructural facilities which attract people from the rural areas. The urban population almost doubled over the past decade and it will continue to do so.
The big cities came into existence after apartheid times. The apartheid government concentrated on smaller urban centres and created infrastructures there. Such cities grew rapidly after South Africa gained it’s freedom and has joined the world of democratic nations and all economic activities were carried on here.
Due to the massive business and industrial areas in and around mega cities such as Cape Town, Durban and Jo’burg, a continuous inflow of rural people took place giving the city planners a massive headache.
Urbanization is an economic necessity and hence a positive factor in national economic development. However, South Africa’s urbanization so far has resulted more from a push factor of depleting rural incomes rather that the pull factor of assured urban jobs. The most disturbing aspect is that the cities are not generating jobs fast enough to keep pace with the rural influx.
This is evident from the increasing unemployment rate, low per capital incomes, increasing number of the urban poor, decaying environment, slum settlement, housing shortages and above all, the poor quality of life of the majority of the residence.
The growing ecological and environmental concerns would have a profound influence on the emerging urban pattern and settlement form and structure. The built environment of a city is an inevitable imposition on the natural environment and ecosystem. A larger and stronger urban concentration makes a heavier impact on the urban ecosystem.
The ecological threshold for different intensities of urban concentration should be established for varying situations based on key environmental attributes, viz topography, vegetation, water bodies and drainage, groundwater, soil, climate, settlement and land utilization.
The urban environmental problems can be summed up as following:
(01) Theirs is a high level of water pollution of a poor waste disposal system, inadequate sewerage and drainage and improper disposal of industrial effluents.
(02) There’s a high level of air pollution resulting from congested streets, poorly maintained vehicles, fuel burning and industrial activities.
(03) Toxic or hazardous industrial and commercial waste disposed of in water bodies and land sites without proper treatment.
(04) Solid waste (refuse) is dumped in low-lying areas contributing to land and ground water population.
(05) There are high levels of noise pollution due to loudspeakers, construction work, traffic, industrial operation and aircraft.
(06) There’s a heavy loss of fragile ecosystem such as wetlands, mangroves, agricultural land and vegetation.
(07) There’s congestion along roads and transport corridors due to the rapid expansion of transport services in urban cities.
(08) Slums are burgeoning in and around the metropolitan cities of South Africa adding it’s problem of overcrowding, poor sanitation environment and leading to more cases of respiratory and water borne diseases such as tuberculosis, bronchitis, typhoid, meningitis, intestinal parasitic infection, cholera, malaria etc.
(09) More solid waste are being generated in urban cities which include domestic solid waste from house-holds, restaurants, commercial and industrial solid wastes of a non hazardous nature and hazardous wastes from industries, hospitals, research laboratories.
(10) It is estimated that 47% of the urban households utilize firewood and coal for cooking while for another 40% of the households use gas and kerosene are the primary source. These forms of fuels also serve to breed respiratory diseases particularly among the urban poor who live in slums.
(11) The risk arising out of industrial accidents are increasing.
Unfortunately nobody is concerned about these factors, despite the huge manpower trained to tackle such problems.
Our city planners should realize that the fact that a growing number of large cities is just disastrous for ecology, energy, agriculture and national health. The economic upliftment of rural areas and small cities and town would attract a faction of the work-force there and mercifully ease out the metropolitan population.