Mega Cities are cities that have a population of more than 8 million and are characterised by the challenges they face, including issues involving the informal economy, unemployment, poor sanitation and shelter. These issues are largely prominent in these cities due to rapid urban growth and a lack of resources. In many cases action has been taken by national governments and non-governmental organisations (NGO’s) to combat and reduce the impact of these issues, however In order for these strategies to be effective they need to fit 3 primary criteria, the solution must be community based, cost effective and sustainable economically and environmentally. Strategies such as micro financing.. Etc. have been adopted to resolve these challenged.
A primary challenge facing many mega cities is the population’s heavy reliance on the informal economy as a means of income. The informal economy is a sector of unregulated work and with this comes high unemployment rates and a lack of jobs to support the ever-increasing population. Jobs in the informal economy are particularly prominent in Dhaka, Bangladesh, where 65% of all jobs are found in this sector. Jobs in the informal economy pose a threat to mega cities and their population as workers are not protected and are open to exploitation (e.g. Child labour) and people employed informally pay no tax (e.g. Street vendors, rickshaw drivers) leading to a reduction in the governments revenue. A number of strategies have been undertaken in order to transform informal work into the formal economy, including Micro financing.
Micro financing involves NGO’s giving out small loans (approximately $US200), which provide people with money to formalise their business. There are a number of NGO’s that undertake this strategy, including Opportunity International, which is an Australian charity, operating in manila, targeting particularly impoverished communities. Access to these loans is based on a persons standing in the community and once the business begins to sustain itself loans must be repaid. The outcome of this process is a formalised business, which then contributes to government beneficially by providing it with revenue. This strategy to combat the prominence of the informal economy has been particularly successful, adheres to the three evaluation criteria and provides users with lifetime skills and an income, which could potentially improve their living standards/quality of life.
Another challenge faced by a large majority of mega cities is access to shelter, due to population growth in mega cities being too extreme for sufficient supply of housing. This in turn leads to the creation of informal housing, such as squatter settlements, which are generally formed on unoccupied unwanted land, such as next to rail lines or sewerage systems. Informal housing is extremely prominent in developing countries such as India, where 500,000 people live on the pavement in Kolkata with at least 4 million more living in squatter settlements; as well as 1 million people living in cemeteries in Cairo, and ¼ of the Philippines population residing in slums. This informal housing creates a number of problems for its residents and government; it lacks basic services (sewerage, electricity, water), leading to unsanitary living conditions.
There is a lack of tenure, which is the legal right to occupy land, which stops residents from wanting to improve property, insecurity for people and also extremely high crime rates particularly in the Favelas of Rio de Janiero where the police are unable to patrol, due to extreme gang violence. NGO’s and governments have undertaken strategies to improve the issue of lack of access to shelter, including the Kolkata Bustee Improvement Project, a joint initiative between government and non-government organisations. This is a site and service program meaning that the project takes an existing site and provides it with necessary services, such as sanitation, electricity etc.
This program in turn reduces the cost burden on local government and creates jobs by incorporating the local community into the work. This movement has tried to stop India’s slum clearance policy, which frees up NGO’s to be able to assist the extreme urban poor. This movement has proved to be extremely successful in improving the shelter situation in Kolkata as it improves the living standard of squatter settlement dwellers, provides jobs and skills to the local community (therefore adding to the formal not informal economy) and also allows NGO’s to be able to assist the poor as they were previously restricted by government policies. Another benefit is that it is cost effective because it aims to improve existing settlements and creates tenure.
Access to sanitation is another key challenge faced by many Mega Cities that is, providing safe food and drinking water and sewerage management. Due to increasing populations, inadequate and ancient sewerage systems and also lack of access to fresh water many Mega Cities face sanitation issues. This issue is particularly prominent in cities such as Manila, where only 11% of people have access to a sewerage system, Karachi at 20% and Dhaka at 18% of the population. Water Borne diseases are particularly prominent in megacities, such as Cholera, Dysentery and Typhoid. Furthermore the disposal of solid waste in Mega cities has lead to issues involving contamination of groundwater and creating Vernon, this is common of Jakarta where only ¼ of all rubbish gets collected. To combat the issue of sanitation, local governments and NGO’s have established very effective, low-tech strategies, such as the Pour Flush Toilet.
This initiative is a relatively cheap response to the needs of unplanned urban settlements in mega cities. A pour flush toilet has a water seal that avoids the problems associated with odour and insects. However its effectiveness is limited by the fact that the system is not suitable in cities where the groundwater table is close to the surface, which is the case in many mega cities, including Mumbai and Kolkata in India and Dhaka in Bangladesh. Also, pour flush toilets can produce substantial quantities of heavily contaminated wastewater which can require substantial downstream infrastructure to avoid severe environmental and public health problems. Despite the disadvantages of this strategy it has proved to be a very successful short term solution to the issue of sanitation and is widely used in Mega Cities around the world, due to the fact that they are simple to use and can be kept clean fairly easily.
Mega Cities face many challenges; largely due to their high population increase rate. They therefore need to develop a number of solutions and strategies to combat these prominent issues, such as the informal economy, access to shelter and access to sanitation. If action is not taken to confront these issues they will only become more consequential, leading to more deaths and further environmental and land degradation. Governments and NGO’s continually need to create strategies to solve these issues and their efforts so far have proved to be extremely beneficial in improving the quality of life of residents of Mega cities, as they fit the three primary criteria needed for solutions to be effective.