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Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Problems in the urban environment

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As per an assessment, about 600 million people inhabited urban areas of the world in the year 1950.But now urban areas have been recorded to be inhabited by about half of the population of the world. On the basis of current rate of growth of human population, it has been assessed that the population of cities may get doubled within the period of coming 28 years. Rise of population in urban areas at current rates is feared to raise the consumption of resources in the same proportion. Since resources are fixed, crises in all walks of life are bound to follow making lives more and more miserable. Some of the major problems of urban areas are associated with - pollutions of air, water and land; housing and congestion; land use; waste disposal; common social facilities etc.

Problems of pollutions of air, water and land

Since cities are heavily populated areas with a large number of workshops, industrial units etc. these bear a severe problem of pollution of air, water and land. Various types of gases and fumes that come up into atmosphere from fuel burning sources from municipal areas, transport sectors and industries cause severe air pollution. Principal pollutants of air in urban areas comprise dust particles, particulates of various compounds and gases like water vapour, smokes, carbon dioxide, Nitrogen oxide, sulphur oxides and Chlorofluorocarbons etc. SO2, NO2, H2S, CO2 etc can form acids on combining with water vapour in the sunlight. These acids get deposited on dust particles in the atmosphere and on anything else. This process is called as Acid Deposition.

Acids in the atmosphere are formed due to the combination of acid forming gases( Sulphur dioxide, Hydrogen sulphide, Nitrogen oxides etc.) with water vapour in the presence of sun light. These acids come down on earth during rains. This process is known as Acid Rain. The accumulation of heat absorbing gases like Carbon dioxide (CO2) and Methane (CH4) in the upper atmosphere causes Green House Effect or the Global Warming. What is global warming? The thick layer of heat absorbing gases in the upper atmosphere allow the heat producing radiations of the earth to come in but they do not allow the heat of the earth’s atmosphere to go out. This condition causes an increase in the temperature of the earth. This condition is called as the Green House Effect. When the concentration of green house gases (GHGs) rises up to greater extent in the upper atmosphere, it causes a considerable rise in the temperature of the earth. This condition is called as Global Warming. A rise of about 26% of carbon dioxide has already been recorded in a period of 200 years. The global warming is causing changes in the global climates. It is also causing the melting of polar ice- caps which is contributing to the rise in sea level. The carbon dioxide has been responsible for a gradual rise in the global temperature. The rise in the mean global temperature has been shown in the figure below.

When pollutants like Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), aerosols, Carbon tetrachloride, Chlorine etc. accumulate in the stratosphere, these react with the Ozone of the Ozone Layer found there as a protective umbrella of the earth. The Ozone Layer is called as the protective umbrella of the earth because it does not allow the Ultraviolet Radiations of the sunlight to cross it and to reach to the earth. The Ultraviolet radiation, if allowed to reach to the earth, it may cause skin cancer, cataract, hereditary diseases, loss of marine life and loss of terrestrial plants.

The Chlorofluorocarbons are a family of synthetic chemicals that are compounds of the elements-chlorine, fluorine, and carbon. CFCs are stable, non-flammable, non-corrosive, relatively non-toxic chemicals and are easy and inexpensive to produce. During the 1970s, scientists linked CFCs to the destruction of Earth’s ozone layer. The manufacture of CFCs has since been banned in most countries. These chemical compounds are usually released into the atmosphere from pressurised aerosol cans. In stratosphere these chemicals react with the ozone of the ozone layer, make it thin and tend to cause a hole in the ozone belt. The third world cities are facing a number of problems due to air pollution. It has been reported that about 60% people of Kolkata, India, suffer from respiratory diseases related to pollution.

Water pollution has emerged as a major issue in urban areas over the years. Water pollution and water scarcity are major problems faced by many cities and towns of the world. Municipal wastes, hospital wastes, industrial wastes, wastes from slaughter houses and pathology centres are routinely mixed into the water sources like lakes, ponds, oceans etc. Surface runoffs from mine areas join water bodies and contaminate their waters with a number of pollutants. The surface run offs from Bachra and North Karnpura areas of Ranchi district of the Jharkhand state of India has been reported to contain Cyanide and Arsenic which join the river Damodar. A number of closed water bodies in different areas of India are facing Eutrophication. Water pollution in the Third World Countries has been reported to be higher than air pollution. India has 3120 towns and only about 210 out of them were having sewage treatment plants by1980s.
Varieties of solid and liquid wastes in huge quantities are routinely produced in urban areas. Money, energy and labour are required to dispose these wastes. Much of these wastes are disposed off in rivers, streams and lakes as untreated sewage. Industries produce lots of toxic wastes. These wastes besides being toxic gases are solids and liquids as well. Wastes from municipal and industrial areas are mixed with water where they cause serious water pollution. Ganges, the holy river is severely polluted by dumping of sewage by 114 towns and cities. Industrial effluents joining our water bodies contaminate water with heavy metals which produce toxic effects.

Cities generate too much of solid waste that are usually dumped here and there in street corners and even in open fields. These conditions create pollution of land. The decomposable matter contained in these wastes act as fertile grounds for development of various diseases. During rains, these wastes contaminate nearby ponds and pools and contribute to water pollution. During summers, fumes and even minor particles of these decomposing wastes are flown towards human habitations cause different types of infectious diseases.

Problem of congestion

Urban areas are usually densely populated locations. People migrating from villages towards cities further increase the population burden of cities. Thus urban areas are suffering from serious congestion and traffic problems. All of the city dwellers need houses to live in but houses and the land are limited. Wet lands and agricultural fields of sub-urban areas are purchased by developers for building apartments on high prices and most of the cultivable land is being used for constructing houses. Thus urban areas are expanding on one hand and the rates of rent are increasing on the other. Labourers working in factories or other people doing minor business occupy government land, pavements, parks, monuments etc. and start living there. Jhuggi, Jhopari clusters are mushrooming around every city. These are called as slums. Slums are very unhygienic places as they don’t have proper civic amenities.

Many developing countries are clearing their forests for constructing dwelling units, airports, bus stations etc. Thus the problem of housing is very acute in cities. The United Nations Organization observed the World Habitat Day on October 6, 2004 and asked the world community to solve the housing problem of slums in heir countries. 6th October is marked as the World Habitat day across the world.The quality of housing improved in Urban India from 1981 to 1991. The increase in pucca houses was from 64.7% to 73.1% in urban areas between this period. The National Building Organization has however, estimated that there was a housing shortage of 75.7 lakh during 1997.

The govt. of India has formulated a comprehensive Housing & Habitat Policy in Aug 1998 having a long term goal of reducing homelessness, improving the housing conditions inadequately housed and in providing a minimum level of basic services and amenities to all. The National Co-Operative Housing Federation of India (NCHF) is the national apex organization which was set up in 1969. It is spearheading the entire co-operative housing movement in India. It promotes guides and co-ordinates the activities of housing co-operatives. Besides this Hindustan Prefab Limited, Housing and Urban Development Corporation Limited (in caption 1970 all the all the organizations inclined to solve the housing problem in urban area).

Problem of open space

The total surface area of the Earth is 5,000 million hectares, out of which only 29.2% is land and the rest 70.8% is under water. About 30% of the land surface is useless as it consists of Marshes, swamps, deserts and steep mountains. India covers an area of 32, 87,263 sq Km (31 March 1982) extending from snow covered Himalayan heights to the tropical rain forests of the south.

With the expansion of the cities more and more land is going under constructions of buildings, fly-overs, hospitals, railway stations, international aerodromes etc.. As such the cultivable green lands around the cities are under severe stress. Many developing countries are clearing their forests to grow cash crops and rear cattle for the production of meat. Many cities in India are unplanned. They neither have proper play grounds nor parks and green belts. These cities have become just the jungles of concrete and rain water cannot percolate into the ground to recharge the water table. As such most of the cities face water crisis during major part of a year. The water supply for these cities is maintained by bringing water through pipelines from a distant river usually crossing through some other state. It is again a matter of worry for two grounds: first, it often creates interstate disputes and, second, it puts stress on the resource of some other people.

Problem of waste disposal

Urban areas face great problems of waste disposal. Cities generate greater amounts of wastes of wastes of different types. Solid wastes generated from municipal and industrial sources contain large number of ingredients some of which remain toxic in nature.

Management of solid waste is one of the essential services which are to be provided by the municipalities or the corporations to urban people. It is an important and regular activity; hence it should be planned and executed properly so as to maintain a clean environment.

The disposal of solid waste from cities is an expensive activity. It involves money and man power. Hence practice of recycle; reuse and composting should be adopted to reduce the load of solid wastes from urban areas. Governments are trying to solve the problem of solid waste in urban areas with environmental management policies that include waste management and urban planning and by making Environmental Impact Assessment compulsory for large projects. Some of the major ingredients of solid wastes are biodegradable matter, green coconut shells, papers, plastics, metals, glass and ceramics, coal, inert materials and others.

Problem of common social facilities

Human beings need facilities to make their life comfortable on all fronts. More people require more facilities. But facilities may be limited so there may be a great rush and competition availing facilities. Thus considerable stress is imposed on them. Here are some examples-Roads, Parks, play grounds water supply, community wells, community halls, community hand pumps, schools etc. are some of the social facilities that people avail regularly. But these social facilities are neither managed properly nor taken care of by the local public. Roads often remain occupied by demonstrators of political parties or processions. Many times school buses are caught in the traffic jams causing agony to the students, parents, principals and teachers.

Grounds where people go for morning walks are often occupied by circuses, exhibitions, fairs and the like activities. The members of the management groups and the workers of these activities often damage the entire landscape and leave without repairing the same. Political parties organize the rallies and meetings and grounds and go after leaving banners, posters and different types of garbage in the open. Even parks in urban areas are often occupied by beggars and criminal people. People without civic sense throw garbage in community wells, ponds and lakes. Wherever we see, we see the abuse of social facilities by the careless public. All these problems are caused by the explosion of population and lack of the sense of social responsibility among citizens.

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