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Local assets management (3D)
Picture of Wladimir Kruythoff

Wladimir Kruythoff

Founder & CEO Infinite Observations

Disaster, Adaptation, Mitigation and Resilience Part 2: Natural Disaster Risk Management Integrated Assessment Framework & Advantages And Disadvantages Of Urbanisation

The Impacts Of Climate Change In An Economic Or Integrated Assessment Framework

Integrated natural disaster risk and assessment management models combine impact models with macro-economic models to estimate climate change’s economic, social, and physical aspects. Relatively simple equations and very large complex sets of equations can be incorporated into a model to capture human, physical, economic and other processes involved in complex phenomena. However, many aspects of the equation are uncertain, resulting in a model that does not give a single solution but offers results in terms of a range of possible outcomes. Furthermore, while incorporating human and natural effects influences, unwanted interactions can lead to severe errors.

Rapid And Unplanned Nature Of Urban Development In The Caribbean

Many see urbanization as a natural result of the modernization and industrialization of societies. Others view urbanization not as a natural process but as one that results from a preference toward cities. Most Caribbean capital port cities, founded during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, have around 65 percent of the population living in urban settlements, making the Caribbean the most urbanized island region in the world. However, Caribbean cities differ from North American and European cities in many respects. The urban population growth rates have been two to three times higher than North American and European counterparts on these islands.  These urban populations have experienced growth rates slightly above three percent per annum in the first half of the 2000s due to reproduction and the influx of migrants.

The extraordinary growth of urban populations is aligned with many socio-economic processes. The less enthusiastic evaluation of urbanization is reinforced by evidence of the downsides of urbanization. Problems associated with urbanization are magnified if the population growth rate is rapid. The year 2008 marked the first time in history that more than half of the human population of 6,78 billion people were living in urban areas and given current and projected global urbanization trends governments are and will be tasked with creating effective programs and policies for economic development. Urban areas in developing countries will experience an exponential growth rate, while the number of people living in urban areas in more developed regions will see a slight increase in the coming decades.

Urbanization manifests itself along three indubitable pathways: (1) migration from agricultural (or rural) to more centralized (or urban, modern) areas, (2) existing urban populations may grow through natural reproduction, or (3) it can occur with the reclassification of provincial (or country, rural) areas as metro- or cosmopolitan (or urban) as a result of population growth. There are two basic grounds for migration: (1) a purposeful and rational search for a better livelihood, or (2) a passive response to exiting circumstances (political, environmental, etc.) in a region that propel the inhabitants to displace themselves, perhaps without rationally weighing any alternatives. Around 84% of the world’s population live in small and intermediate-sized cities and comparatively few (less than 5%) reside in agglomerations (or megacities of more than 10 million inhabitants). The aggregate process of urbanization is uneven as a result of some cities being more attractive to people fleeing a rural life than others.

Advantages Of Urbanization

The most important benefit of urbanization is that it is a natural part of the transition from low-productivity agricultural areas to higher productivity (tourist) industry and services-oriented areas.   Cities attract businesses that supply opportunities for division of labor and a variety of jobs. Specializations in specific activities are more feasible by combining many educated and creative people in one location. Being in such close proximity, firms (such as airports, hotels, restaurants, travel agents) and suppliers can learn from each other, are able to respond better to changing demands of consumers, as well as reduce trade costs. As such, cities become incubators for new ideas and technologies, which in turn encourage productivity, accelerate economic growth, and influence the income differential. In the Caribbean, and elsewhere in the world, people often move to disaster-prone areas such as coastal regions and flood planes because other characteristics of these areas attract them, which provide a higher expected benefit than the exposure to hazards and ultimately the expected cost following damage in the uncertain event of an extreme natural disaster. The prospect of a higher income is an important factor as urban incomes tend to be higher than those in rural areas, i.e. the average urban household income in Barbados is approximately 42 percent more than an average agricultural household income.

The improved quality of life may also be more prevalent in cities as government programs can be applied more efficiently in urban areas. Transportation, communication, water supply, sanitation, waste management services and education systems have greater economy of scale as more demand leads to better efficiency and lower cost. In developing countries, female literacy rates are higher among urban populations than among rural populations, more health care workers and greater specialization in medical activities, which can lead to urban residents enjoying generally better health than their rural citizens, and family planning and reproductive health services are more accessible in cities. Individual families with fewer children are in a better position to concentrate their resources on providing each child with a better upbringing, strengthening the child’s economic prospects later in life.

Even in the absence of migration, areas of greater urbanization and economic globalization will see real-estate values rise. This illustrates time and again that any increase in natural disaster damage may be entirely a consequence of the increase in what can potentially be destroyed, due to an increase in exposed wealth, rather than because of an increase in the frequency and/or intensity (potential destructive power) of natural hazards. In such cases, only state policy for example in the form of moral hazard, discouraging the population from migrating to disaster-prone regions, and implementing regulations can help protect the lives and property of residents in such areas.

Rural flight is a contributing factor to urbanization and rural development. People who migrate to cities often send remittances to their families based in the country and less developed regions. Their migration reduces the size of the labor pool available to work in rural areas, so a rise in wages may be possible. There is some evidence that urbanization is associated more strongly with poverty reduction in provincial than in metropolitan areas and it promotes the absolute decline in poverty in both regions. It is uncertain, however, whether all of these apparent benefits actually serve to elevate real GDP per capita. There is a positive cross-country association between income and urbanization. If urbanization was the main contributor to income per capita, it would be expected that countries or regions that experience rapid urbanization to exhibit concomitantly higher wage growth. But in certain countries urbanization have been accompanied by sluggish economic growth, while in other nations it has ensued parallel to economic growth. This illustrates that circumstances or instrument other than urbanization are more decisive determinants for income growth.

Disadvantages Of Urbanization

Urbanization and the accompanying industrialization in developing countries also have adverse effects, including the impact on the environment and quality of life due to rapid and unplanned redevelopment schemes. Signs can be seen everywhere, for example when new arrivals settle on the periphery or on steep hill-slopes of the (capital port) city-center necessitating land conservation or straining an inadequate waste disposal system, or with an increased concentration of industries and traffic which in turn create excess burning of fossil fuels such as gasoline, petroleum and diesel or due to an increased strain on food resources and health care. Environmental contamination is predominantly higher in central regions than on farmland and is often well in excess of the local environmental specified capacity that undermines human health, i.e. hundreds of thousands of premature deaths from respiratory illnesses. Cities also make demands on land, water, and natural resources that are disproportionately high in relation to their land area and, because of high income and consumption, their population size as well.

Although urbanization may increase wages, it is also connected to an increases in urban poverty at a rate that exceeds the growth rate of the world’s inner city population. And there is an austere social and economic inequality within cities of the developing world. Because of the high cost of quality urban housing, the urban poor often reside in over crowded and often unhealthy slums, where water and sanitation (including open defecation) are inadequate, to say the least. Almost three fifths of those living in urban areas are under the age of 18. The high percentage of young people living in urban shanty towns, where education enrollment is lower and employment opportunities are limited can make for higher crime rates. Slum in the form of inadequately constructed dense dwellings are also more vulnerable and exposed to pollution, from adjacent hazardous industries, and the risk of environmental hazards. The overwhelming height of the death toll and people affected and by extreme natural disaster live in developing countries. Of the more than 6,000 natural occurrences reported during the three decades since 1970, 75% of natural extreme occurrences and 99% of the people affected, were in the West Indies, Latin America, Asia-Pacific region or Africa, combined approximately three-fourths of the world population. The primary victims, the squatters, who usually occupy dwellings in settlements of risk prone areas are usually the poor. They depend on the fragile infrastructure, and have jobs that are customarily weather related, which is the prime reason for the huge losses experienced following, i.e. hurricane Mitch in 1999 that devastated the Caribbean and Central America.

Urbanisation And Development Policy

If urbanization is well managed, it can be a factor in promoting better livelihoods (i.e. health and education) of citizens in the Caribbean. It is not certain whether or not it plays a major role in economic development in other countries. However, the sluggish rate of economic growth in the Caribbean, in particular, is a consequence of migration in excess of employment opportunities. One reason is that classical western economic theory suggests that as a country develops, an evolution will it take place in the employment structure, the first phase of the evolution is dominated by agriculture, the second is dominated by manufacturing, and the third by employment in the services. But this theory is not applicable to the West Indies owing to the dependency relationship that was established, prevailing mercantile laws dictated unfavorable terms of trade, between the West Indian territories and their North American and European colonizers. Thus, The West Indies have never experienced much manufacturing enterprise compared to their North American or European counterparts. And because of the general lack of industrial sectors the islands are not been able to create enough jobs to absorb the urban population growth that transpires.

Research evidence supports the view that rapid uncontrolled urbanization can impede sustainable development and aggravate environmental problems. Deforestation, for example, often occurs in the process of hasty unplanned development and has a unequivocal, adverse effects on the surroundings. And whether urbanization proves to be beneficial (or an improvement) to investors depends on an appropriate devolution of power responsibility and/or consultation among different stakeholders, including government, social and private actors. Many governments have proposed policies to reduce urbanization. One strategy is to attempt to limit or deny services to migrants once they reach cities. Preventing would-be migrants opportunities to create a better life, risks making them both poorer and more resentful, and violates their rights. It also limits the potential for rural areas to benefit from remittances. Rather than attempting to halt or prevent urbanization, government policy should be focus on understanding the causes, determinants and consequences of migration as well as planning and adaptation measures of the development process that are imperative to addressing increasing urban population growth, which regrettably, in the Caribbean, there is the tendency that not enough is being done. The fact is that capital port or inner city active planning is an ever evolving dynamic process that requires investment in infrastructure, sustainable development, encouraging reforestation and technological innovation, human capacity building (ambitious positive young workers already living in cities), institutional transformation and participation from communities on the ground (including slums) as well as local businesses that are decisive if central regions are to avoid growing health, environmental, transportation, etc. problems and optimize the economic opportunities as well as the allocation of human resources. Such policies have the potential to be quite effective if adequate incentives are provided. Ofcourse this all comes at a price. Insufficient or inadequate planning for urban growth will leave city populations vulnerable to the negative effects urbanization and ultimately exposed natural disaster as a consequence of climate change.

This article is the second part in the series “Disaster, Adaptation, Mitigation and Resilience” by Infinite Observations.

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