The world has a variety of urban areas and with increasing population, urban areas are bearing the negative impacts of such growth. In developing countries like those of Asia and Africa, urban areas offer solution to rural unemployment and people migrate to the urban centres in large numbers. But this has led to extreme problems for many cities and towns (which are often unplanned) such as a lack of jobs, homelessness and expanding squatter settlements, inadequate services and infrastructure, poor health and educational services and high levels of pollution.
Rapid population increases and unplanned growth in the cities of developing countries create an urban sprawl with negative economic, social, and environmental consequences.
a) Economic problems – lack of profitable employment opportunities in rural and semi-urban areas cause the migration of unskilled and semi-skilled labourers to urban areas. These labour pools are often saturated in urban areas and the extra population increases pressure on the standard of living ultimately lowering it. Dharavi, the largest slum in Asia is mostly made up of migrant workers who fail to access gainful employment in the city of Mumbai.
b) Socio-cultural problems – economic drawbacks and pressure on social infrastructure as mentioned in the above point create a variety of socio-cultural problems in the cities of the developing nations. Lack of social infrastructure like proper sanitation, access to drinking water, education facilities create more urban poor who get stuck in a vicious cycle. Crime rates increase in urban areas. Demarcation of living areas on the basis of economic capability often creates further division among the communities based on economic identities.
When people move away from congested urban areas to cleaner urban areas outside the city, it creates a trend of suburbanisation. It is an outward growth of a certain city and often creates an urban agglomeration by merging the rural and semi-urban areas surrounding the city. It develops when the need for a cleaner living environment is required by the general populace. Often when the main city is under pressure because of the growing population and limited land and infrastructure, people move out to the nearby suburbs which have more land. People living in the suburbs commute on a daily basis to the main city for economic purposes. Suburbs are mainly residential in nature, though in recent years, industries are being relocated in the suburbs to reduce pollution levels in the main city.
Towns are multi-functional but are often categorized as per the main function they perform. Based on their functions they can be categorized into different types, some of which has been described below:
Administrative towns – These towns house the administrative offices of central or state governments. National capitals fall under this category. New Delhi, Canberra, Washington D.C., Beijing etc are examples of national capitals that are administrative towns. Provincial towns which house the state or district administrative centres like, Kolkata, Chandigarh are also under this category.
Trading towns – These towns have trading or similar commercial aspects as their main function. Agricultural market towns (Winnipeg, Kansas City); banking and financial centres (Frankfurt, Amsterdam); transport nodes (Baghdad, Agra); large inland centres (Manchester, Siliguri) are examples of this category.
Cultural towns – These towns are of great religious importance and are pilgrimage centres. Puri, Varanasi, Mecca, Jerusalem etc are examples of this category.
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