Amongst the first countries to become urbanized were Great Britain and some European countries. Their urbanisation was relatively slow, allowing governments time to plan and provide for the needs of increasing urban populations.
Urbanisation is most rapid in Third World countries, where the world's largest cities occur. Mexico City, the world's largest city, has a population of more than 18 million, estimated to grow to over 26 million people by the year 2000. Sao Paulo, Brazil, has more than 16 million people and will have 24 million in the year 2000.
Not all people living in cities enjoy the same standard of living. Some live in grand houses with many rooms and plenty of ground, others live in modest houses on very small pieces of ground. Many urban people live in closely built shacks made of packing cases, sheets of plastic and corrugated iron.
Some urban people have a good supply of water and electricity and the waste from bathrooms and toilets goes directly into the city's sewers. Squatters, however, lack these benefits and are forced to use open drains and pit toilets. These can create health hazards.
As employment opportunities remained in the "white" cities, many black people, mainly men, moved to the cities in search of work, leaving their families in the "homelands". Separation of families created many social problems. In addition, pass laws made it illegal for many black people to live in the white cities. Their illegal status made it impossible for them to rent a house so they often lived in a shack in the backyard of a friend.
As migrant workers do not own land they often settle or squat on vacant land owned by somebody else. Although squatter settlements are seen to arise out of desperate need, the landowners are often unhappy that squatters are living on their land. Quite often conflicts arise. The state will have to make provision for future emergency housing for poor people.
* Rapid urbanisation means rapid increases in the numbers of urban people who need land, housing, water, electricity, health care, and schooling.
* Urban conflicts will be greatest where urbanisation is greatest.
* In South Africa the most rapid urbanisation is occurring around the largest cities: Johannesburg, Durban, Cape Town, Pretoria, Port Elizabeth, Pietermaritzburg, East London, Bloemfontein, and the towns of the Orange Free State Goldfields.
If the problems of urbanisation are not solved social unrest and environmental pollution will get worse.
THIRD WORLD: POLICY PAPERS FOR SOUTH AFRICA. Available from P.O. Box 128, Wits, 2050, South Africa.
URBAN DEBATE 2010 (especially numbers 1 and 2). Urban Foundation series on policies for a new urban future. Address below.
THE POOR DIE YOUNG - HOUSING AND HEALTH IN THIRD WORLD CITIES. J.E. Hardoy (ed), Earthscan, London, 1990.
SQUATTER CITIZEN - LIFE IN THE URBAN THIRD WORLD. J.E. Hardoy (ed), Earthscan, London, 1989.
UPROOTING POVERTY - THE SOUTH AFRICAN CHALLENGE. F. Wilson and M. Ramphele. David Philip, Cape Town, 1989.
The Black Sash Urban Removals and Homelessness Group. P.O. Box 2827, Johannesburg, 2000. Tel.011-8348361. Several regional offices.
The Institute for Race Relations. P.O. Box 31044, Braamfontein, 2017. Tel.011-4033600
The Urban Foundation. PO Box 1198, Johannesburg, 2000. Tel. 011-403 5500.