why is urbanization contributing to pollution so much

Why is urbanization contributing to pollution? The term “pollution” refers to the deterioration of the Earth’s environment and its surface by human activities.

And activities particularly those carried out in metropolitan settings have a role to play.

Urbanization is the process through which people move into and settle in densely populated places. 

But, things do not always go as planned, especially today when you can find urbanization contributing to poverty and environmental pollution.  

Urbanization leads to industrialization, and with an increase in industries, there is a rise in pollutants and waste materials that results in air and water pollution. 

The Urbanization and Prosperity Myth

rapid urbanization showing buildings

People are attracted to urban areas because of the hope of finding employment.

Half of the world’s population currently resides in urban areas, which is projected to rise to two-thirds by 2050.

But, does that mean urbanization actually means prosperity? Probably not!

The larger the city, the better, goes the common belief when discussing urbanization.

But studies have revealed that growing urbanization in the poor world is not necessarily beneficial.

And it is quite contrary to what was previously thought about the experience of people in industrialized nations.  

Fact: Urbanization results in the loss of green space, which increases the "heat island effect", making cities significantly hotter than rural areas. 

Why Does Urbanization Not Always Translate into Growth?

globalization increases poverty

The truth is that today’s most rapidly urbanizing regions are found in the world’s poorest and least developed countries.  

This trend was seen a century ago in the world’s wealthiest and most affluent nations.

As a result of this precedent, many people mistakenly believe that urbanization automatically results in higher living standards. 

But that is not true. In fact, poverty increases as cities expand rapidly and local governments are unable to meet everyone’s basic needs.

It is also not helping because:

  • Today’s urbanization is driven less by economic causes like rising demand for labor. 
  • Globalization has destroyed the historical link between cities and regional agriculture.

The result is an unsettling new pattern of “urbanization that lacks growth” in which the link between large cities and economic expansion is weakening.

And the biggest victim of this rapid urbanization and globalization is our environment.

Why Is Urbanization Contributing to Pollution Today?

why urbanization pollutes the air

Today, urbanization and air pollution go hand in hand.

Of course, air pollution is not the only type of pollution you witness because of urbanization because it also affects the environment in many other ways.

Nevertheless, air pollution is a serious problem in urban areas due to the large concentration of sources that produce it, such as cars and industries. 

It can be extremely dangerous and is responsible for many issues, including:

  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Respiratory issues
  • Cancer

Here are a few ways urbanization contributes to pollution, especially air pollution.

Urbanization Leading to Industrialization

industries releasing toxins

Industrialization is the result of urbanization, but with an increase in the number of industries, there is more stress on the environment as a whole.

The rapid development of the industry is a major danger to preserving healthy environments and ways of life.

These industries release toxins into the air and water, which create a hazardous, unstable, and unpleasant natural environment for every living being.

The biological and physical environment suffers from heat and air pollutants.

And many other factors contribute to these pollutants, such as:

  • Aerosols
  • Vapors
  • Smoke
  • Solid particles
  • Toxic gasses 
Fact: Urbanization leads to overcrowding, resulting in poor sanitation and the spread of infectious diseases. 

The Release of Pollutants in the Air

carbon monoxide pollutant

With an increase in population through urbanization, there will always be a damaging effect on air quality.

Pollutants in the air come from a wide variety of human activities, all of which emit carbon monoxide.

For instance:

  • It may include internal combustion gas boilers.
  • It may be due to fuel-fired boilers
  • It may also be the result of excessive use of gas stoves

The level of carbon dioxide produced during combustion is widely recognized as a reliable measure of the efficiency of the process.

The combustion of fossil fuels releases harmful levels of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.  

Real-Life Events

In Donora in 1948 and London in 1952, we saw outbreaks of sulfurous pollution that killed or sickened thousands of people. 

Recent years have seen an increase in the use of face masks in heavily populated areas, most notably in Beijing and Mexico City, due to air pollution. 

Urbanization Leading to Deforestation

a bulldozer in the bare forest

Urbanization today results in deforestation, which has a direct impact on air quality.

Deforestation occurs when vast swaths of forest are cut down and cleared for human use.

More than half of the world’s forests have been lost due to human activities, such as:

  • It can be due to agricultural needs
  • It may have something to do with cattle farming
  • It may be the result of drilling and mining

Not only this, forestry practices, forest fires, and urbanization also play a major role in deforestation, ultimately affecting air quality. 

Due to deforestation, trees lose their ability to sequester carbon from the atmosphere and release gas into the air.

What’s more, a feedback loop between deforestation and rising wildfires is contributing to a global rise in greenhouse gas emissions and pollution levels.  

Fact: Urbanization leads to population growth without increasing resources, which results in increased violence and criminal activities. 

Identifying Other Types of Urbanization Pollution

If you think urbanization is only responsible for air pollution, you are wrong. It pretty much affects every facet of life and has far-reaching consequences.

For instance: 

Water Pollution

contaminated water from industrial waste

Urban areas also face the challenge of water contamination.

With so many people crammed into a small area, there is a greater chance of pollution from human waste and industrial waste.

The result can be the proliferation of typhoid and cholera, both of which are transmitted through contaminated water supplies.  

This affects everyone, including animals and marine life, as well as the people that rely on that water source for nourishment.

Fact: One of the many aspects of urbanization is increased vulnerability to natural disasters like flash floods. 

Soil Pollution

contaminants polluting the soil

Soil contamination is another negative effect of urbanization. The emission of toxic chemicals from factories and the improper disposal of garbage are all potential causes.

Construction projects, which are necessary to accommodate a rise in population, generate considerable quantities of garbage, including wood, plastic, metal, and bricks.

A region’s land quality suffers when waste is not disposed of appropriately. Besides endangering people’s health, this can cause a drop in harvests and a fall in soil fertility over time.   

Light Pollution

outdoor lights producing light pollution

Yet another impact of urbanization on the environment is through light pollution.

Outdoor lights produce the majority of light pollution in urban areas, especially those that shine in the sky or to the sides. 

Unless a tree or building is in the way, any light that makes its way upward will be scattered, brightening the night sky and making it less visible.

Along with washing out the night sky and making it difficult to observe the stars, the artificial glow of streetlights can keep you up at night. It does that by throwing off your circadian rhythms. 

Noise Pollution

noise pollution caused by heavy traffic

Urbanization’s rapid pace has resulted in widespread habitat alteration and a rise in noise pollution. 

The chirps and tweets of birds and other creatures that call urban areas home may be lost in the din.  

What’s more, the mental health issues resulting from living in an area with heavy traffic and industrial noise levels are well-documented. 

Being exposed to noise pollution can cause problems, such as:

  • A lack of sleep
  • High blood pressure
  • A high level of stress
Fact: Energy efficiency, lowering per capita consumption, and decarbonizing transportation systems can lessen urbanization's negative effects. 


why urbanization is a big risk

Why is urbanization contributing to pollution? The growth of cities is a key contributor to environmental degradation and it hurts the world around you in various ways.

The exhaust from cars, industry and power plants contributes to bad air quality.

The air can also become tainted due to chemical leaks or the release of other harmful gases.

Moreover, urbanization’s effects go beyond air pollution and hurt the environment and your health in more ways than you can imagine. 

So, it is important to consider them and work on creating low-impact urban spaces instead.