Over-Urbanization: Inequality Born in Necessity


The global south falls disproportionately victim to the struggles of over-urbanization throughout the world. In fact, out of the 33 megacities on the Earth (those greater than 10 million inhabitants) 27 are found in less developed regions (United Nations, 2018). There are perhaps a multitude of explanations for this; however, it is important to recognize that the mass migration of rural individuals into the cities is often born in necessity. Famine, persecution, and poverty force people to search for a new and better life in urban centres for both themselves and their future generations. Unfortunately, local governments fail to adequately prepare or adapt to the mass influx of population pouring into their city limits.

Pamplona Alta, a slum found in Lima, Peru is one of many examples of this found around the world. A stunning lack of infrastructure greets inhabitants arriving in the city, and specifically, in its’ slums. There is no running water, no electricity, and hastily constructed shacks that dot the hillsides (Janetsky, 2019). Instead of investing government resources to better manage the situation, Lima instead opted to build a wall known as the Wall of Shame to limit the spread of migration, protect the more affluent population, their way of life and the city’s bottom line. (Janetsky, 2019). While it curbed the spread of the migrants, it created appalling conditions for those unlucky to find themselves on the wrong side of the concrete structure. Abandoned by their government, slum dwellers were left to fend for themselves. Similar situations like those in Lima are found all over the world.

One-sixth of Indian city dwellers live in an urban slum. Source: CBC

In search of hope and betterment, desperate migrants and slum dwellers often find themselves living in horrid and hopeless conditions. The issues won’t improve by themselves and as such over-urbanization is an important issue to dissect and understand. The Earth is becoming increasingly less rural every year, so the issue of urban inadequacy and inequality will only become more important as time passes. It is up to us to push local governments to take responsibility for those coming into the cities in search of a better life, and to hold those in power accountable for their promises. In doing so, there is hope yet for meaningful progress. Constructing proper housing and subsequent infrastructure, drafting concrete migration preparedness strategies, prioritizing economic investment in small businesses, and giving a voice to those who are too quiet to be heard are all necessary steps that need to be taken on the path to equality.

For further reading on this topic, I suggest visiting the World Bank’s webpage on urban development.



Janetsky, M. (2019, September 7). Lima’s ‘Wall of Shame’ and the Art of Building Barriers. Retrieved from The Atlantic: https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2019/09/peru-lima-wall/597085/

United Nations. (2018, July 1). The World’s Cities in 2018 Data Booklet. Retrieved from The United Nations: https://www.un.org/en/events/citiesday/assets/pdf/the_worlds_cities_in_2018_data_booklet.pdf

Featured Image: The Atlantic

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