Urban Population Growth and Compact Development

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  • 0:06 Urbanization
  • 1:07 Problems with Urbanization
  • 3:57 Compact Development
  • 5:08 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Margaret Cunningham

Margaret has taught many Biology and Environmental Science courses and has Master's degrees in Environmental Science and Education.

The population growth rates in urban areas are on the rise, and as more people move to cities, there are many problems that can occur. We will discuss several issues associated with this growth and also a potential method for minimizing the effects.


Think back on the last trip you took to a big city. How would you describe the city in terms of the size of the human population? Many of us would describe a big city as crowded with a very densely packed population.

Cities were not always so crowded. It wasn't until around 300 years ago that the population size began to rise due to urbanization, which is the shift from rural to urban living and the increased concentration of the human population in densely populated cities.

In fact, in the mid-1800s, only around 2% of the entire human population lived in cities. By the 1950s, the percentage of the human population living in urban areas was up to around 29%, and by 2009, that number had reached 50%. This number is expected to increase rapidly, and by 2050, it is predicted that over 70% of the human population will live in urban areas.

Problems wth Urbanization

Although we often think of a city as a busy and productive place, many problems have arisen in cities due to the rapid population growth rates. One major problem is the lack of adequate housing. As more people move to cities, the amount of housing available decreases. The increased demand for housing can often lead to inflated real estate costs. As a result, many people end up living in cheaper neighborhoods and rundown areas or becoming homeless.

In many cities, the lack of adequate housing has led to the creation of slums and shantytowns. The term slums is often used to describe areas with multifamily tenements that are inadequate in size and function. Shantytowns are illegal settlements in cities that are created when people move onto unoccupied land and build their own houses or shacks.

The most extreme result of the lack of adequate housing is people becoming homeless. In 2011, it was estimated that nearly 100 million people worldwide were homeless. In addition to a lack of adequate housing, insufficient sewage systems are also another major problem faced by growing cities. Many cities built their sewage systems to handle a certain population size, and as the population increases, the systems are overloaded and cannot properly function.

For example, the city of Cairo, Egypt, built its sewage system over 50 years ago to handle waste from around 2 million people. In 2011, the population of Cairo was over 10 million people, and the system had been overwhelmed.

The major problem associated with insufficient sewage systems is that it often leads to water pollution. When water sources are polluted with human waste, it can lead to outbreaks of diseases, such as dysentery, typhoid and cholera. It can also cause economic problems for people because if the water is contaminated, people may be forced to purchase bottled water. Another major problem occurring in growing cities is the increased abundance of cars. When you visit any city, you see many cars lining the streets. As more people move to cities, they bring more cars with them.

One problem with the increased abundance of cars is that it increases traffic congestion. The city of Bangkok, Thailand, has extreme traffic congestion, and it is estimated that each year the average resident spends the equivalent of 44 days sitting in traffic. Not only does the person have to waste time in traffic, they also use up around 20% of their fuel while sitting. This burning of fuel leads to increased air pollution and can cause respiratory diseases.

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