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   Though 60 to 70% of people in developing countries live in rural areas, half the total world population now lives in urban areas, drawing their food and natural resources from the surrounding rural areas.

In 1970, there were only three cities with more than 10 million people. Now there are 32 and three of these have more than 20 million. Rural people move to cities attracted by the promise of work, higher salaries and a better social life. This growth places ever greater pressure on the environment. For example, in Russia and eastern Europe, tens of thousands of people have migrated to cities since 1989, putting a huge strain on both the natural and the built environment.

click picture to enlarge
Foundation for Global Peace and the Environment, Japan

Most cities suffer from noise and air pollution. Experts say that 20% of Europeans are subject to stress from noise. Air pollution also takes its toll on human health. Millions of dollars are spent on health care due to air pollution and many early deaths result from respiratory diseases such as bronchitis and asthma.

Governments should spend part of the fuel tax on cycle lanes and cheaper means of transport.
UNEP International Children’s Conference, Eastbourne, UK, 1995

All cities are divided between rich and poor sectors. Business growth and rising numbers of tourists increase the incomes of the rich but the poor see little of the increased wealth. Vast numbers live in shanty towns in cheap, self-made sheds. There is insufficient clean water or sanitation, few schools, few amenities of any kind. Health suffers first. It is estimated that 100 million people in cities are homeless in both developed and developing countries. Some of the worst polluting industries are likely to be located in poor or racially distinct neighbourhood.

Water is the single most valuable resource for cities. Many cities are facing a serious shortage of safe drinking water as a result of leaking pipes and pollution from POPs. Most city people in developing countries end up boiling their water, or buying bottles. Where piped fresh water is available, it usually only goes to elite residential areas. The poor still have to buy their water through middle men and end up paying more for it than the rich.

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