Ever since the beginning of 20th century, the world has witnessed a trend of global urban population growth and rapid urbanization. Today, the world is experiencing unprecedented population changes that have resulted in a remarkable wave of urban sprawl. Since urbanization is regarded to be the primary catalyst of today’s global economy, most people continue to get lured with the ideas of migrating to the urban areas as they hope to experience positive life transformations as exhibited by the wide range socioeconomic opportunities present in the suburb regions. A vast majority of people have also been captivated by the fast-paced technology advancements and the current state of industrialization portrayed by the urban centers. However, amid the positive ramification of opportunities that have been presented by urbanization, lies a myriad of challenges. Indeed, the urban population increase has created prime concerns among the experts who foresee an array of problems emanating from urban sprawl. Most of the problems that have been initiated by the urban sprawl cycle around the issue of limited resources which are dire for human survival and living standards. Such resources include shelter, food, and water which are some of the most basic and precious human need. In addition, urbanization has exacerbated social, environmental and economical problems which threaten the entire ecosystem. The uncontrolled or unplanned urbanization poses grave harm to the ecosystems due to the sprawling conditions that have mounted a lot of pressure on the universal ecology (Ngoran et al. 3).
Transformation of urban areas
The urban areas are today faced with rapid transformations as a result of the many buildings that are being constructed and erected in any available space. The face of the urban centers is evolving rapidly due to the current housing trend that is undeservedly influenced by the commercial industry that’s filled with experts whose eyes are focused on the market value of the buildings. The construction industry currently thrives in terms of the lump-sum profits made as a result of the high demand for houses. Even though many erudite urban planners seek to ensure that the current design and structure of any building matches with today’s advanced technology, many have failed to recognize the negative implications that emanate from these transformations. It is with this profound reason that this paper discusses the social, economic and environmental implications caused by the current soaring rate of urbanization.
Social impacts of urban sprawl
The term ‘urban sprawl’ is simply defined as the fast geographic growth of cities and towns as a result of the growing urban population. However, Squires describes urban sprawl as a pattern of urban growth that reflects low-density, automobile-dependent, exclusionary new development on the fringe of settled areas that often surround a deteriorating city (Squires 2). It is certain that the urban population is plagued with a wide range of social problems resulting from urbanization. Thus, urbanization is today a prime concern as it is viewed with lots of uncertainties due to the serious negative social implications it has on the lives of many human beings. The social consequences of urban growth and development include; loss of agricultural capacity, isolation of people with regards to social status, traffic jams due to increased car dependencies, and poor health.
One of the problems emanating from urbanization is social segregation that is characterized by social exclusion. Most of the people who face this problem are those who live in the regions that are adjacent to the sprawling areas. The root cause of social exclusion is due to the segregation of population according to financial or racial differences. However, these differences have been stimulated by the current state of urban sprawl. It’s no surprise that most of the people living in urban areas need to be financially stable so as to overcome the harsh economy times. Living in areas urban areas demands one to have his/her own home which of the same design as those found in the urban suburbs. In addition, a person has to own and use a vehicle as his/her primary means of transportation. These high demands basically exclude the poor from living in the urban suburb areas. The skyrocketing cost of livelihood and the inability of poor people to obtain mortgage loans is what drive the development of slums in the outer regions of the urban areas. Surprisingly, most of the people affected by the social segregation are mainly the Blacks and those belonging to certain minority ethnic groups (Squire 35). The socially isolated population is forced to face a plethora of problems as a result of poor infrastructure and limited resources that are found just outside the sprawling areas. Some of these problems include insufficient water supply, poor roads, poor waste management practices and poor infrastructures such as schools and roads. However, the populations living in suburb parts of the urban areas are endowed with stellar gated homes, better security and excellent infrastructures.
It is evident that urban sprawl has ignited people’s need to construct more houses, roads, and other many infrastructures. It is with this profound reason that most of the previously available spaces are today encroached with the intent of building more offices and home houses. This has negatively affected agricultural practices as a result of absences of land that could have been used for agricultural practices. It is for this reason that food has become a limited basic commodity in the country. Therefore, more pressure is put on the rural people who practice farming as their only getting means of financial stability. However, the food produced in the rural areas is not enough to feed the nation’s population which continues to increase at an alarming rate. Thus, the only option by which the government can sustainably feed its citizens is by allowing the importation of food from other countries. However, the government could have been alleviated from spending too much of money on food importation by amending a bill that will halt the encroachment of land so as to use the land for agricultural purposes.
It is without any doubt that the main means of transportation in an urban area is by the use of cars. With almost each and every individual owning a car, traffic jam has become part and parcel of and urban life. A vast majority of people who are obliged to attend work every day often get engulfed in a tide of commuter traffic (Ngoran et al 54). In addition to this, pedestrian freeways are countable as the urban planners fail to recognize a population of people who prefer to walk than to drive a car. Thus, people are restricted to driving as opposed to walking. According to Squire, untold numbers of parks have been destroyed and millions of city residents have been forcefully displaced to make way for new highways, parking lots, and car service stations (Squires 40). This has severely affected the practice of recreation activities because of the limited availability of recreational centers.
Health remains to be a vital aspect of human life. However, a vast majority of people’s health continues to deteriorate due to the present state of urban life. Heavy reliance on vehicles as the primary means of transportation has led to an intensified pollution of air. In addition, due to an increase in constructed industries within the suburb parts of the urban area, most people get exposed to the toxic industrial wastes and chemicals. Due to the population being constantly exposed to toxic materials and polluted air, most humans are at risk of acquiring the fatal cardiovascular and respiratory illnesses. To add more to this, urban sprawl has resulted in the development of more highways thereby living insufficient or no room for walkways or paths. It is with this profound reason that many fail to exercise by walking as the only means of locomotion are by driving a car. Thus, a vast majority of people living in the suburb areas are at risk of developing lifestyle diseases such as obesity, muscle cramps, heart congestion among other diseases that are related to one’s failure to do body exercises (Squires 36).
The construction industry is today filled with businessmen who are in a rush to earn more and gain more. Most of the housing experts fail to recognize the specific needs and wants of their customers by building houses that are no different from other houses in the suburb parts of the urban areas. The erudite businessmen utilize the growing people’s demands on houses by targeting the money value as opposed to meeting the evolving consumer’s needs. It is for this reason that man is left with a limited narrow choice of house designs as their homes (Ngoran et al. 36). In addition, quite a large number of buildings with historical significance are today at risk from being demolished. This is because of the rising need for constructors to build houses that match the current trend of buildings. Thus, the preservation, protection, and conservation of historic buildings remain remains to be a challenge as more and more buildings continues to be demolished. As opposed to repairing and healing the underutilized historic buildings, most of these buildings end up getting demolished and constructed in a manner that results in loss of our own historic heritage and culture.
Environmental impacts of urban sprawl
It is evident that urban sprawl has resulted to the overcrowding of industries and business organization within the suburbs parts of the urban areas. The rise in the number of industries has resulted in a series of problems that come along with grave consequences. Pollution is one of the primary problems that continue to affect the entire ecology and ecosystem. The gasses produced by the different industries result to pollution of air that poses as a risk factor for the health of the people living in the urban areas. In addition to this, the aspect of waste management is wanting due to the pilling of wastes by the industries which continue to increase in number. Most of the toxic substances and chemicals that are released from the industries find their way to rivers and other water reservoirs. This results in water pollution which puts man at risk of facing health consequences as a result of utilizing the water for domestic use. The growing numbers of vehicles among other automobile devices also result in an increased rate of air pollution due to the release of combusted fuel. In essence, the release of gasses from vehicles results in a significant emission of Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. On the other hand, most of the industries are known to emit gasses that are in form of nitrogen oxides, nitrate, sulfur dioxide and carbon dioxide. These gasses are known to result to acidic rainfalls which cause destruction to crops as well as iron sheets that are commonly used as roofing materials. The growing percentage of CO2, nitrate and sulfur dioxide gasses in the atmosphere also result in severe consequences on our own climates (Squires 75). This is due to the fact that these glasses are classified as greenhouse gasses which contribute to the worsening state of global warming. Today, the world is faced with a great challenge of containing the effects of global warming. However, with urban sprawl and growing number of industries and automobile devices, global warming may as well be a permanent problem for the world. Some of the serious fatal consequences of global warming include; drought, flooding, poor health and cancer-related illnesses as a result of man being exposed to UV radiations that freely pass through the atmosphere to the earth surfaces.
Another consequence of urban sprawl is with regards to deforestation. It is without any doubts that urbanization comes along with the demand for space so as to construct more and more buildings. However, land remains to be a very limited resource that gets diminished with every utility. It is a nonrenewable resource. Worse, man has encroached the most delicate but vital resource of nature which is the forest as they search for space to erect more buildings. Deforestation is a term that is described as cutting of trees. The ongoing event of urban sprawl has made people be less concerned with the need to preserve and protect the forests. The endless cutting of trees in order to construct buildings has resulted in serious consequences such as drought and global warming. This is because trees are considered as the main factors that result in the formation of rain and thus the rainy seasons. However, when the land is bare and full of tall buildings, drought is what is foreseen in the future. In addition to this, trees are regarded as important carbon sinks as they absorb and ultimately reduce the amount of carbon dioxide floating in the atmosphere (Squires 100). Thus, it is inevitable to evade global warming after all the available trees have been cut and replaced with tall buildings, houses or even highways. Therefore, deforestation as an anthropogenic activity results in dangerous consequences of global warming and drought (Ngoran et al. 88). Removal or cutting of green vegetation also negatively affects the outlook of the environment which loses its aesthetic value. To add more to this, the effects of urban sprawl has led man to ignorantly encroach land that is meant for wildlife. This has caused severe wildlife disruption that has resulted in most wild animals losing what they would have considered being their own habitat. Thus, as a result of urban sprawl within the lands that were meant to serve as habitats for wildlife, most of the wild animals die due to the very limited resources and fatal situation that they are exposed to (Squires 92). It is with this profound reason that most nations end up not being tourist destinations to a vast majority of tourists who are always fascinated with the unique site of wildlife.
Even though more new buildings are constructed on a daily basis as a result of urban sprawl, there are other buildings that have been left unfinished. It is certain that there are quite a number of buildings that have been left half way during their construction. The aesthetic value of the environment is thus destroyed due to the growing number of abandoned buildings in urban areas.
Economic impacts of urban sprawl
According to several research studies that have been carried out to examine the effects of urban sprawl, it has been found out that urban sprawl costs the American economy more that $1Trillion per year (Ngoran et al. 119). The cost of building new residential homes and work offices was estimated triple its amount in the next years to come. In addition, the rate of taxation has skyrocketed due to the constant development of new public resources such as public buildings and houses. This has more so had a pinch on the victims living under the poverty line as they have to constantly struggle in order to cater for their taxes failure to which they would be liable. The cost of purchasing houses is also very expensive for many who are still under loan debts after having taken mortgage loans. The government is also faced with financial challenges as a result of catering to the unhealthy population who have acquired a wide array of illnesses. Most people acquire lifestyle related illnesses due to their constant reliance on automobile devices as the only means of locomotion. Others have been reported to have acquired cardiovascular and respiratory related illnesses due to the inhalation of polluted air. Furthermore, there have been cases where some people have acquired skin cancer among many other types of cancer due to their constant exposure to UV rays that pass freely through the atmosphere as a result of depletion of the protective ozone layer caused by global warming. These are some of the few health consequences of urban sprawl which has created a lot of financial pressure on the health ministry. Urban sprawl which is also regarded as a major catalyst of global warming has caused climatic problems such as flooding and drought. This has negatively affected the economy as the government is forced to spend a huge sum of money so as to provide for the affected victims and to later repair the damages caused by flooding and drought cases. Also, due to inadequate agricultural space, the government and different stakeholders have been forced to spend more as they import food from other nations. This has severely derailed the national economic growth and development.
In order to soar through the negative implications of urban sprawl, the government must impose new strict policies that forbid certain activities such as deforestation, encroachment of lands meant for agricultural, wildlife and recreational practices. In addition, the government should amend and pass new bills where a citizen will be required to seek the approval of government expert before building a home or work offices (Squires 205). One of the problems associated with urban sprawling is pollution. The government should thus set policies that ensure that the different industries manage their wastes in the most appropriate way possible. Furthermore, the government should budget to create more pedestrian pathways as this will help to limit the increasing numbers of vehicles within the city and thus ultimately help in reducing carbon emissions to the atmosphere. Development of walkways will also enable people to exercise by walking and this would be essential in curbing the growing number of lifestyle diseases such as obesity. In conclusion, it is essential for the government to set new policies that would assist in curbing negative effects of urban sprawl and instead initiate smart growth and developments.
Squires, Gregory D. Urban Sprawl: Causes, Consequences, & Policy Responses. Washington, D.C: Urban Institute Press, 2002. Print.
Ngoran, Suinyuy D, and Xue XiongZhi. Socio-environmental Impacts of Sprawl on the Coastline of Douala: Options for Integrated Coastal Management. , 2015. Internet resource.