It is now a universally recognized fact that the progress of man depends upon social planning, upon a perfect harmony between man and his total environment. Till comparatively recently, men lived in village communities and their culture, mode of living, food and social organization were adjusted to their surroundings. Modern urbanized life has produced a new environment, creating new problems of adaptation.
Urbanization is a problem which has assumed gigantic dimensions in some of the technically and industrially advanced countries of the world. It means the concentration of population in the economically developed and industrialized centres and other big cities. This leads to much congestion and many social and economic problems.
The most noticeable evil associated with over-urbanization is the marked deterioration in the environment of the city and the appearance of slums. Modern cities have grown in a haphazard and unplanned manner due to fast industrialization. Cities in developing countries become over-populated and over-crowded partly as a result of the increase in population over the decades and partly as a result of migration of persons from the countryside to the big industrialized cities in search of employment, or in search of a higher standard of living and better living conditions. As decent habitation is not possible for them to afford, the poor are driven by necessity to living on foot paths or in slums under most intolerable conditions of incredible squalor, dirt and disease, in fact, they are unfit for habitation, a disgrace to the community. Being devoid of hygienic and sanitary considerations, they breed all kinds of epidemics. They become the nerve centres of all the worst vices and crimes, for all kinds of persons earning their livelihood by dubious means—beggars, thief’s, pickpockets, prostitutes, chromic drunkers, vagabonds, gamblers and drug pedlars and the like come to live in slums.
Urbanization has created another vital problem, that of population of the environment. According to a biologist, the price of pollution could be the death of man. Pollution is the direct outcome of the application of science and technology to human problems. The invention, preparation and experiments of nuclear weapons, the increasing use of science and technology in industry and agriculture, the carbon and smoke emitted by chimneys and motor-cars, and chemical wastes and poisonous exhausts—this has been causing disastrous environmental pollution in big industrial cities.
Another serious and insurmountable problem is that of housing the ever-growing and migrating population in big cities. Due to the paucity of houses to accommodate the people, the once beautiful cities are being reduced to slums. This pressure of population has led to the construction of vertically rising sky-scrappers to accommodate the maximum number within the minimum space. But they have themselves given birth to many problems such as fire hazard, in sanitary conditions, lack of civic amenities like parks, playgrounds and parking space, congestion, traffic jams.
Urbanization consequent upon industrialization has denied to a large section of the people even elementary civic amenities—pure drinking water, underground drainage, electric supply, hospitals and dispensaries, well-built and well-run schools and colleges and pucca roads. The absence of these amenities raises the incidence of personal and social pathology —delinquency, crime, prostitution, mental illness, alcoholism, drug addiction etc.
Urbanization disturbs the equilibrium between demand and supply in the economic market, resulting in larger demands and lesser supplies. It is very difficult to get pure food, milk and other commodities, even pure drinking water. Everything is cither impure or adulterated or spurious.
Sociologically, urbanization has led to the breaking of joint families and the establishment of ‘nucleus’ families. People in the cities forfeit the ancient ideals of corporate living; they tend to become self-centered. They live in their own grooves and flats without having any social contacts with their neighbors, or other fellow beings.
Last, but not the least, the defence of the country is very much handicapped if the armed forces have to consider the suffering and loss involved if metropolitan cities are subjected to aerial bombardment in the event of a war. Cities which are highly urbanized and densely populated are more valuable than those in which the population is diffused and decentralized.
The most effective way to tackle the problem of urbanization is to make the economy of the villages and small cities fully viable. It can be revitalized if the government undertakes a massive rural development programme. Surplus rural manpower should be absorbed in the villages themselves. In this way the village economy shall become self-sufficient and autonomous. Then, old1 cities should be made cleaner and fit places for poor man’s habitation by demolishing slums and ‘Jhuggis’ and by constructing neat and spacious houses for the poor at subsidized rents. Expansion of buildings should be horizontal and well-spread over. All civic amenities should be religiously provided and ensured. Thirdly, the Government should not allow any new industries to be set up in the already congested big industrialized cities. Industries, Government offices and headquarters should be diffused and decentralized and shifted at smaller centres. It is within the power of man to create a healthy environment for the human race. What is needed is a re-adjustment of social and moral values.