Human Settlements: Rural Areas

2.16. The development process will have its inevitable impact on human settlements. The predominant part of the population in most developing countries still live in the rural areas. Often, these communities suffer from an inadequacy of services of one kind or another. Problems of health, nutrition, potable water supplies, and drainage are often severely felt in rural areas no less than in the towns. An inadequate infrastructure of agricultural and credit services is also a familiar feature of the rural scene, contributing to the persistence of low levels of production and hence of incomes. The stress of rapid population growth can, in certain situations, aggravate these problems and impose further strains on rural resources.

2.17. In such situations, there is often a drift of population to the towns which causes a further worsening of urban conditions. A preoccupation with growing urban problems could, in turn, result in a further neglect of rural areas. Modern social, cultural, and economic activities capable of attracting educated youth may not exist in the rural areas and this could itself be a contributory factor to growing urban concentration and unemployment. Moreover, the process of rural-urban interaction can result in the disruption of traditional systems of social security such as that of the extended family, without the provision of suitable substitutes.

2.18. It is important that the planning process take account of these problems. With the rapid growth of population, developing countries are likely to face an increasingly urgent problem of employment creation. It is, however, unlikely that the expansion of economic activities in the urban areas alone through industrialization and related developments will suffice to provide employment opportunities for the full increase in the work force. A substantial part of the increment to population and to the work force will need to remain in the countryside, and it is therefore vital not only that employment opportunities be created in rural areas, but that the whole structure of social and economic services in these areas be developed. This places a new emphasis on rural environment and on planning and policy-making in this field. It would indeed be unfortunate if the new environmental concern over the effects of development on urban areas should result in an excessive concentration of resources on urban expenditures at the cost of environmental improvements in the rural sector.

Urban Areas

2.19. As mentioned before, in the urban areas of the developing world, environmental quality is virtually synonymous with social welfare. Urbanization within a country can, of course, be accompanied by increased economic and social welfare, and urban concentration of dynamic enterprises can serve a valuable function as "development poles", generating growth throughout wider regions. However, the carrying capacity of any city submitted to rapid population growth is eventually over-extended, and the economies of size are displaced by the dis-economies of inadequate infrastructure. Disease, water supply shortages, lack of sewage treatment, congestion and deteriorating housing are all manifestations of environmental stress. The more developed urban areas are now confronted with chemical contamination of air and water and the hazards of social disorganization.