Rapid urbanisation recipe for disaster

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New Delhi, Oct 2 (UNI) As many as 11 million street children in India and millions of other living in squatter settlements in megacities like Kolkata and Mumbai faces an increased risk of varied forms of abuse and potential exposure to natural and man-made disasters, according to a new UN report.

The report -- Enhancing Urban Safety and Security - Global report on Human Settlements -- was launched by the UN agency for human settlements to coincide with World Habitat Day yesterday.

It pointed out that rapid and chaotic urbanisation has spurred crime rates across the world and made cities more disaster-prone, observing that incidence of crime now affects more than half of urban residents in developing countries.

Global crime rates increased by about 30 per cent between 1980 and 2000, the equivalent of more than 3000 extra crimes per 100,000 people, said the Nairobi-based UN-Habitat.

In the last five years, 60 per cent of city residents in developing countries have fallen victim to crime.

The report, quoting recent global estimates, put the number of street children in the world at 100 million, 11 million of which are there in India only.

These children specially girls were exposed to all forms of abuse.

Washington DC tops in the highest reported murder rate while the Arab states have the lowest rates of homicides.

Talking about crime against women, the report points out that almost half of Pakistani women who report rape to authorities are jailed as a result of the Hudood Ordinances, which criminalise sexual relationships (including rape) outside of marriage.

''Pakistani women are also victims of honour killings, which are private acts condoned by social and cultural norms. Hundreds of women are victimized and killed each year by burnings or acid attacks from their partners,'' it said.

According to the report if on one hand fast growing cities were centres of development and engines of growth on the other they ''concentrate and magnify risk''.

''Rapid urbanization is fast becoming a force shaping where and when disaster strikes and who it most affects. Huge concentrations of people and physical and financial assets in today's fast-growing cities means that a single major disaster can result in human catastrophe and destroy decades of development gains.'' However, it observed that in those cities where government and civil society take risk reduction seriously, great progress can be made.

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