1.4.1 The trend of urbanisation

Most of the population in the world lives in urban areas. The United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (2014) predicts that between 2014 and 2050 the global urban population will rise from 3.9 billion to 6.4 billion people, and that about 90% of this increase will be in Asia and Africa. In Ethiopia, the proportion of people living in urban areas is still low, but the growth in urbanisation (the increase in the numbers of people living in urban areas) is greater than in many other countries, as shown in Figure 1.5.

Figure 1.5  Population growth rate per year in Ethiopia and other regions of the world (Haddis et al, 2013).
  • Explain in a few sentences what Figure 1.5 shows.

  • Figure 1.5 shows that the urban population of Ethiopia is growing at slightly more than 5% per year, which is more than twice the growth rate for the country as a whole. In Africa and other developing countries, the urban growth rate is much greater than the overall growth rate, but the difference is not as great as in Ethiopia. In contrast, the overall growth rate in industrialised countries is much lower than that of the developing world, and their urban growth rate is slightly lower than the overall growth rate.

Many cities in Ethiopia have developed in a rapid and unplanned way as people migrate to the cities seeking employment and a better life. This growth affects the provision of sanitation and waste management facilities and other infrastructure such as water supply, roads and electricity supplies. As an example, the city of Addis Ababa receives settlers from every corner of the country, many of whom live in illegal settlements without sanitary facilities and other infrastructure. As shown in Figure 1.5, statistical reports indicate that Ethiopia has a total population growth rate of 2.5% a year, with urban centres growing at a rate of 5.1% (Haddis et al., 2013). It is expected that by 2020, one in five Ethiopians will be living in urban areas, and by 2030, half of the country’s population will be living in urban centres (Teller et al., 2007).

As a result of rapid and unplanned urban growth, the sanitation problem of Addis Ababa is one of the worst in the country. For instance, 26% of the houses and the majority of slum-dwellers have no latrine facility, so they use rivers, ditches and open spaces (UN-Habitat, 2008).

Rapid urbanisation creates a number of health and environmental risks to the population (Bai et al., 2012) in addition to those caused by inadequate sanitation and waste management. These include:

  • infectious diseases among crowded communities with substandard living conditions
  • acute and chronic respiratory and other illnesses as a result of air pollution
  • chronic and non-communicable diseases that are on the rise with unhealthy urban lifestyles (physical inactivity, unhealthy diets, tobacco smoking, and the harmful use of alcohol)
  • injuries resulting from motor vehicle collisions, violence and crime
  • health risks related to climate change, such as heat stress and changed patterns of infectious disease, which are considered to be one of the biggest health risks in the twenty-first century.

In the next section we will look at some of these challenges in more detail.

1.4  Sanitation and waste management in urban areas

1.4.2  Environmental challenges