Because of its phenomenal recent growth and the revolutionary technological changes which have accompanied it, industry is the cause of many contemporary environmental problems. Where there has been no effective environmental planning, industries have been located in a haphazard way, often in conflict with residential and other areas. More recently, accelerating industrialization resulted in residential areas being increasingly located around industrial complexes. These have usually been concentrated in a few, large centres, resulting in excessive concentrations of population. Large, economically-active population centres provide both markets and labour, thus encouraging further industrial growth; so that urbanization further progresses in an uncontrolled manner.
Excessive concentrations of industry lead to a disparity in economic development between regions. In addition, over-concentration of industry causes serious environmental over-loading, particularly in terms of pollution and congestion, and a consequent threat to health and a reduction in the quality of life. In most countries the crux of the problem remains at the national and regional levels, where the development of reasonable industrial patterns within overall environmental development plans has still to be achieved.
Emerging technologies offer the promise of higher productivity, increased efficiency, and decreased pollution, but many bring risks of new toxic chemicals and wastes and of major accidents of a type and scale beyond present coping mechanisms, especially in the case of transportation of hazardous materials and the disposal of toxic wastes.