Top 7 Urban issues and challenges in developing countries

In developing countries, there is a big number of  Urban issues and challenges. This is concerned with the human process, system, and outcome.

Urban issues and challenges

Urban issues and challenges

Urban issues are present in developing countries. And developing countries also have some unique issues with their populations. Urban issues related to rapid urbanization.


In general, in developing countries, overall, there is a shift that we are seeing in population. People are moving to urban environments in search of work and better-having access to water. And by 2030, the United Nations predicts that about 60% of all people will live in an urban area.

And the majority of the shift that we see occurring from rural to urban areas is taking place in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Caribbean.

And so as these population ships take place, these countries must plan so that, they can accommodate the population ship, develop adequate infrastructure and keep their urban areas healthy for the populations.

In developing countries, we said people are moving to seek better jobs. And by 2030, we said, 60% of people in these countries will live in urban areas. And to quantify that that’s 3 billion new people that will be moving to urban areas and will require affordable housing. And that’s the key, it has to be affordable housing.

And so that’s not as simple as it sounds in some of these cities. These cities currently don’t have enough housing and infrastructure to support their growing populations. And so that is an issue. And then I wanted to just mention the four areas in which they have to focus on infrastructure.

So clean water, they need to have delivery systems that will deliver clean drinking water, to all the people living in these new housing developments. Sewage is a huge issue around the world and sanitation services so basically where just, where do things go when you flush your toilet and do you have access to a toilet? And in many places, that’s not the case.

Reliable energy sources are critical. So is there enough energy to supply all of the new housing with electricity? And then finally is their transportation infrastructure in place so that all of these people that are moving into the cities can get to work and get to the grocery store or shopping areas or farmer’s markets?


A lot of people move to urban areas if they are not well off, in a rural area, and then they moved to the urban area, looking for work, they tend to be low-income families. And when they get to the city, they can’t find affordable housing and they end up in a slum. A slum is defined by the United Nations, by these five criteria, and we kind of discussed them on the last slide.

So you live in a slum if there’s inadequate access to safe water, inadequate access to sanitation, and sanitation infrastructures. So sewers and ways to take wastewater out of your area and put it safely somewhere to be treated.

Also, if the quality of the housing is not structurally sound. And so in this picture here, you can see there’s, you know, tarps on top of. The roof is a tarp and it’s being held up by these support beams. And is that enough if they have a big rain, or is that rain gonna wash these support beams out? What’s gonna happen to the structure?

Overcrowding is also an issue in slums. You see a lot of people living in a very dense environment, and if they don’t have access to sanitation services that compounds the issue.

And then finally insecure residential status means, you know if somebody built a house on a sidewalk in a city and you know, it’s not their land, so anyone can, you know, the place or anyone could come along and say, look, you can’t live here, you have to move your house.

Or some people will, you know, they’ll just find a vacant lot and put their housing up such as it is. And then someone comes along and says, no, I wanna build my house on this lot that I bought, and so the people have to move. So insecure residential status is also part of the criteria for a place to be considered to be a slum.

Global Housing Crisis

This is a global issue that people who do not have access to affordable housing or people that live in slums. A worldwide 1.6 billion people out of about seven and a half billion people are living in inadequate shelter.

And then if we look at slums in particular, so very inadequate, if it meets those criteria for a slum, that’s one in seven people around the globe. By the year 2030, as more people move to these urban centers, one out of four people will be living in a slum at the current trend. 

In developed countries, one out of every three people lives in a slum. So it is more challenging in developing countries. A large percentage of the population lives in slums. And then 90% of the urban population lacks access to affordable housing. There are some countries where less than 15% of the people live in slums. In some countries, more than 0% of their population lives in slums.

Water in developing nation countries

One other criterion for slums was that people do not have access to clean water. And this is an issue for people, whether or not they live in a slum, worldwide water accesses are a big challenge for many people. Some people, so 840 million people around the world have to travel more than 30 minutes from their homes to access a source of improved drinking water.

Meaning that it may be a well that helps you know, that’s filtered water from water that goes through the ground and keeps it safe from contamination. Another 1.3 billion people do not have access to safe drinking water in their homes because of water pollution. So maybe nearby.

So an example here, you see all these, all of these boys gathering around a faucet of water. So all of these people are sharing the source of water. And so they have access to it near their home, and they can get to it in less than 30 minutes, but it’s not in their house.

The good news is that from the year 2015, from the year 2000 to 2015, 1.5 billion people around the globe, a huge percentage of people, gained access to improved water sources. And so we are making progress in this area.

Water sanitation in developing nation cities

Similarly, we’re making progress in providing water sanitation or sewer systems. And in that same period, 1.4 billion people, so about the same amount of people that gained access to drinking water gained access to sanitation services.

But the story is still not great. That means that only 2.9 billion people across the globe access water sanitation systems that are safely managed. So that would mean that it’s a toilet, they have access to a toilet or a latrine that’s just for their household and not shared.

There are two, almost as many. So 2.3 billion people around the globe have access to sanitation services, but they have to share them between households and then almost 900 million people don’t have access to any sanitation systems at all.

And so, you know, that doesn’t as big ’cause it’s millions versus a billion, but I want you to think about the fact that that’s about half times the population of the United States. So it’s still a huge number of people.

And a lot of these people that don’t have access to sanitation systems are people that are living in rural areas. And again, that’s another part of the reason that people are moving to urban centers because they think they’ll have better access to some of these services.

Reliable energy sources

Energy is another Urban issue and challenge. It is a necessity for people around the globe. And for a housing area to be considered improved, it has to have access to a reliable energy source.

Additionally, I mean, if to provide this, we need, you know, the energy helps us to provide transportation and helps us to provide infrastructure because then we can power the machines that are necessary to build the infrastructure. It helps us to grow food and deliver water, and it helps us to fuel industries and commercial activities that require energy.

So we said a lot of people are moving into the cities, and cities are where the gross domestic product of a country is produced, more than 75% of the country’s GDP comes out of cities. That’s good news, the bad news is that the cities also consume more than 75% of the global energy that’s produced.

And so they’re consuming a lot of energy to generate a lot of products. And they emit 50 to 60% of the world’s greenhouse gases. One big push in developing nations because they are currently developing their energy infrastructure and how they deliver energy to these households, there’s a big push to make sure that the new energy that’s being developed is renewable.

And while renewable energy is great, you have to make sure that you have multiple forms of renewable energy so that you can produce energy around the clock, whether it’s windy out, or if it’s sunny out, you need to have backup systems available.

And then the use of smart grids is great because they can help to schedule tasks. So certain things come out only when there’s less demand in the power grid and then turn back off when the demand gets increased.

So you can do this in your own home actually, there are systems you can put in place so that you don’t use too much energy at any one time. And so like, it will turn off one appliance, if your dishwasher’s running or your clothes washer is running. I just wanna remind you too, that as a consumer, you hold the power.

You know, it’s a bad pun by reducing the amount of energy that you consume. And by shifting the times in which you use that energy so that you’re not overwhelming the power grid, and you know if everyone turns their air conditioners on at the same time, that’s a big spike in energy that’s needed. And the power plants can’t always keep up with that.

Then they build more power plants to meet that peak demand, even though they could have met that demand, if not everyone used power at the same time. Then finally, if we consume fewer products that have less packaging and that require less transportation to get to us, that will produce less pollution and less waste.

So that’s true in developing countries as well as developed countries. Because these developing countries are planning their infrastructure, they’re able to consider these things. Whereas in some developed countries, the infrastructure is already there. It is not always the most sustainable. But since it’s already there, it doesn’t financially make sense to remove it and put something else in.

Transportation infrastucture

This is necessary for planning new developments in developing countries in the transportation infrastructure. So in developing countries, people tend to walk to get to where they need to go. 70% of all trips are people walking. And so they can’t.

They either don’t have access to transportation systems or they’re too expensive. But in many cases, there are no good transportation systems in place because they’re very expensive to build and maintain. And this can lead to urban sprawl if it’s not planned well.

Urban sprawl is that it leads to increased distances between the different places that we need to go, which makes it necessary to have a car, which then, in turn, can lead to more sprawl. Because if you already purchased a car, you might as well drive further to get to work.

So the problem with, especially in developing countries, but also it’s true in developed countries is that whenever there’s a long distance from where people can afford to live to the urban center, where the jobs are, then that’s going to exclude the lower-income populations who can’t afford a car to get into the city.

So that’s why. So they have to walk. And if it’s too far, they can’t get there. And this also leads whenever we have more cars and more driving which leads to more greenhouse gas emissions.

And so as these developing countries are growing, they’re trying to plan, how can they put in biking paths and walking paths and public transportation and things that will take the emphasis off roads and put the emphasis on walking, biking, busing, picking shuttles, et cetera.

So, this is an overall discussion on Urban issues and challenges.

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