Area: Biodiversity and Ecosystem loss
Name: Syed Muhammad Raahim Absar
How is growing urbanization
detrimental to ecosystem and biodiversity?
What is Urban Growth?
In simpler words, urbanization is a
process whereby people move from rural to urban areas causing
them to increase in size. In today’s world, towns and cities have achieved a
greater social, political and economic breakthrough that causes rural
population to move into these developed areas with strong infrastructure. This
movement of people might seem to be of immense importance and benefit to them
however, the uncountable effects inflicted on nature due to this process
have no compensation.
According to the United Nations, in the year 2007, more than 50% of the
world population was living in cities. 1 Figure 0.1 depicts the
situation in 2015;
Figure 1.1: % of urbanization per country 20152
Developed countries such as Australia, United
States and Canada are on the merge of complete urbanization. Whereas
developing countries like Indonesia, Pakistan and Egypt
are facing transition process.
Causes of Urban growth:
1) Rise in population:
The most prominent reason for urban
growth is the increasing population in urban areas that occurs mainly due to
two reasons. Either due to;
(1) Natural increase in population,
(2) Migration from rural to urban
Natural increase in
population occurs when the birth rate exceeds the death rate that causes the population
to rise. Cities with largest population living in urban areas are listed below
in figure 1.2;
Figure 1.2 3
As the figure
suggests, cities such as Tokyo, Jakarta and Delhi have populations over
The second important
reason for population growth is rural urban migration. Rural Urban migration is
often elucidated in terms of Push factors and Pull factors. Some
important push factors include high unemployment; fall in agricultural output,
political instability, unavailability of basic necessities etc. Examples of
pull factors include job opportunities, better lifestyle and leisure
Figure 1.3: Projected
percentage increase in urban population 2000–2030 (United Nations 2002)
growth of urban population shall remain low in industrialized/ developed
countries since their birth rates are low and 80% of their population
already dwells in urban areas. Developing countries shall face this problem due
to transition process. According to United Nations report (UNFPA 2007) urban
global population will grow to 4.9 billion by 2030. 4
Similarly, many new industries set up
in the country side or at the edges of urban areas since the land is cheap and
closer to the main market where their finished products are sold. These
industries provide their employees with housing and recreational facilities
through which new societies emerge on the edges of urban areas that gradually
increase in number and size. Finally they become so large in size
that they merge with the urban areas and cause an increase in the size of the
city in all directions. .
The figure below shows a general over
view of the increase in the world GDP per capita over a span of 500 years.
The important point to note is that
after the industrial revolution , 18th- 19th century,
there is a sharp increase in the average GDP per capita that indicates a
rise in the income of individuals. Since their income rises, so does
their living standards. This creates demand for more housing space.
Figure 1.4 5
Effects of Urbanization on Ecosystem:
An ecosystem comprises of a biological
living community interacting with the non-living environments.
Urbanization has its induced effects on Ecosystems on a global, national and
Large areas of land need to be cleared in order to
provide the population with urban housing as well as food and other facilities
that lead to deforestation around the world. Tropical Rainforest have
received most of the consideration in connection to Habitat destruction .From
the approximately 16 million square kilometers of tropical rainforest habitat
that originally existed worldwide, less than 9 million square kilometers remain
Tree burning releases carbon di
oxide that contributes to global warming. It is estimated that more than 1.5 billion tons of carbon
dioxide are released to the atmosphere due to deforestation.
7 The average global temperature on Earth has increased by
about 0.8° Celsius 17 that has led to the melting of polar
ice caps and increase in sea levels. There is a reduction in biodiversity and
threatened extinction of species such as Siberian Tiger, Iberian lynx, and
Brown spider monkey. This imposes disturbances in the food chains finally
affecting the human population.
Indonesia is a country of over
3000 islands all of which lie closer to the equator. Indonesia’s rainforests
are one of the Earth’s most biologically rich landscapes that manifest over
3000 animal species including Sumatran tigers, pygmy elephants, orangutans etc.
9 However, deforestation of tropical rain forest is the main issue
Figure 1.5 8
There is a clash of
ideas in concerning who is most responsible for this issue. There is blame on government
and its development projects on a macro scale. Others blame the greed of logging
companies. Some also believe it to be the effect of rapid urbanization
and high population growth.
Causes of Deforestation:
of the government to move people from overcrowded big cities like Jakarta to
less populous areas of the country. Up to one million hectares of forests have
already been destroyed.8
Concessions have been
given to logging companies in 1998 which are run by influential political
Delay in legislation
to control illegal cutting of trees.
Indonesia is a
major exporter of wood and wood products that also encourages deforestation.
Money from exports is
needed to pay off international debts.
Around 700,000 people
work in the logging sector of the country where unemployment rates have
worsened due to high population growth.
1- Increased population
growth and rapid urbanization increases competition on natural resources
2- Slash and burn farming
practice is promoting use on unsustainable lines.
Effects of Deforestation:
1. There is a reduction
in biodiversity and biomass,
2. Loss of natural
habitats for animals.
3. More competition
within the food webs.
On Local people and Environment:
1- Degradation in the
quality of air causes breathing problems and diseases in respiratory tracts.
2- Conflicts between the
government and indigenous population living in tropical rain forests.
3- Increased soil erosion
due to lack of interception and infiltration
4- Siltation in the
reservoirs leading to lower water storage capacity and HEP generation
5- Forest fires;
sometimes lit deliberately by logging companies to clear large areas of land.
and Local Consequences:
Since the inception of Pakistan in 1947,
the rate of urbanization has remained on a growth as suggested in the table
Figure 1.6: Percentage population living in Urban/ Rural areas
The rate of
urbanization in Pakistan is greatest in all the SAARC countries 11.
Pakistan has encountered many problems such as housing shortages resulting in
the formation of slums. These areas contribute to land, water and air pollution
that inflict unavoidable impacts on the ecosystem.
According to a report, 23-32 million people in
Pakistan are slum dwellers 12. Lack of proper electricity and gas
supplies force these people to burn wood from chopped down trees and wastage
from cow dungs to provide them with fire for cooking and heating. Due to such
actions harmful gases like methane, nitrogen dioxide, CO2 are
released into the atmosphere.
Figure 1.7: Reduction in Forest area in Pakistan 18
Infrastructural projects to provide facilities to large urban
population contribute to deforestation and ecosystem loss. Due to the mega
project, China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), 13,784
trees measuring 200,000 cubic feet (cft) have already been cut down to construct the main highway in Upper
Hazara. Species cut down include pine, scrub and some fruit trees. Similarly, a
total of 10,075 trees were chopped down in 28 villages along the CPEC route
in Lower Hazara.13 Pakistan has almost 1029 known species of
animals out of which 3.5% exist in no other country.14 Thus these
species are endangered or near to be extinct. The average temperature of
Pakistan has increased by several degrees. In 2013, Zahid Hamid, federal
Minister of Science and Technology stated that glaciers in Pakistan are
continuously melting because of rising temperatures and by 2035 Pakistan
shall have no more water reserves in the form of glaciers.
According to the recent census
conducted in 2017, population of Lahore has reached 11.13 million 15.
There has been a significant reduction in biodiversity and trees such as
guava and jambolan. In an urban life, ecosystem has a great impact. Due to loss of
vegetation and trees, there has been degradation in the quality of air.
Similarly, there is a rise in traffic congestions, inequality and loss of
productivity. The green area in Lahore is only 3% which is continuously being
sacrificed to give room for roads and buildings. This green area falls too
below the world standard that requires a minimum of 25 to 30 per cent of green
open space in urban areas. 16
How to Combat Urban sprawl
and its Effects:
Urban sprawl and
deforestation can be reduced by taking measures on an international level.
First possible solution is to educate people. One of the major problems behind
this uncontrolled urban expansion is the lack of education in most of
the areas. If communities are aware of the negative implications of urban
sprawl they are most likely to take actions to prevent this careless
development. Another way to reduce urban sprawl is to enforce birth control.
Main reason behind urban sprawl in India, Indonesia and other countries is the
increasing population growth. However, when enforcing birth control, the
authorities must take into account that this doesn’t lead to lack of work force
in a country in future. Moreover, improvements in technology can also
reduce urban sprawl allowing more people to work from home. Best examples
include EBay and Alibaba which are virtual markets for real products. This
shall reduce the everyday influx of workers into a city.
On a national as well
as local level, the government should devise a proper master plan for
cities to ensure that urban sprawl does not take place. Furthermore, government
along with various Non-Government Organizations should start afforestation
projects and plant artificial forests. Saplings from nurseries should be
planted for every tree cut down during the projects by government in order to
keep the atmosphere clean and healthy. On local level, awareness should
be raised amongst the young generation regarding the harmful effects of urban
sprawl on our ecosystem. Adequate facilities and development must take
place in rural areas so that the difference in living standards between rural
and urban regions could be reduced. According to a report conducted in 2012 for
government of Punjab, it was found that there were 350,000 automobiles and
850,000 motorcycles in Lahore that are a source of immense pollution 16.
Though these effects from urban sprawl can be removed by taking the self-initiative
of walking to close destinations and use carpooling where ever possible.
How has this research
affected my perspective?
From the beginning we all thought it was a
problem to be dealt by the government. However, I now realize it is impossible
to combat this issue without support from each individual. The detrimental
effects due to urbanization observed by my elders in a span of 5-6 decades, I
have witnessed them all in a much shorter period of just ten years, indicating
that their pace has increased rapidly. It intensified the significance of this issue
in my life.
Now I actively take part in
blogs, discussions and organizations at my level who try to create awareness
amongst the youth of the country to reduce all the multiple causes that lead to
urban sprawl. I myself tried to communicate with Lahore Development Authority
(LDA) and get to know the measures government is taking to reduce the growth of
slums, cutting down of trees and related impacts on ecosystem. Their response
was really encouraging.
Finally, I always make sure
that I walk to short distances as well as my school, use public transport
instead of my own private car and encourage my friends and relatives to do the
same. And I wish to continue in raising awareness among people both in my
country and abroad through social media so that sustainability can be reached
as to benefit planet Earth on a whole.