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Urban sprawl: Is that really important?

  • Sprawl; Is urbanization that takes place in either a radial direction around a well-established city or linearly along the highways over a given period of time.

    Urbanization; is the process by which large numbers of people become permanently concentrated in relatively small areas, forming cities. Internal rural to urban migration means that people move from rural areas to urban areas. In this process the number of people living in cities increases compared with the number of people living in rural areas.

    Urban Sprawl is the outward spread of built-up areas caused by their expansion. Or "the scattering of new developments on isolated tracts, separated from other areas by vacant land.

    Urban sprawl is characterized by leapfrog land use patterns, strip commercial development along highways, and very low-density single-use developments, all of which occur over a relatively short period of time.

    Urban sprawl is often difficult to gauge because it can occur slowly over time. It is the result of urbanization. Unchecked urban sprawl may join cities into conurbations. Green belt policies are designed to prevent urban sprawl.

    Types of urban sprawl

    Sprawl is urbanization that takes place in 3 types namely cluster, linear and leapfrog direction around a well-established city or linearly along the highways over a given period of time.

    Linear are type of urban sprawl that occurred and always found along a highway or road. Cluster sprawl are found in an area of new growth occurred around existing areas of urban settlement. Leapfrog sprawl are area of new growth that is sparsely distributed type of settlement.

    Causes / drivers of urban sprawl

          i.            Cheaper land and housing costs in the suburbs as compared to urban centres has lured many to settle in  these areas.

        ii.            There has been an increase in public spending for the development of infrastructure like roads, water and electricity in the suburbs than in existing urban centres, thus adding benefits to life in urban sprawls.

      iii.            There has been an increase in commercial lending practices that favour suburban development.

      iv.            Increase in family income of an average American has raised his living standard. Owning a car and paying for gas to transit from suburb to the city is affordable for many Americans.

        v.            Sprawls are characterized by low density populations and less traffic congestion. Therefore, even in the absence of any federal policies that would encourage growth of sprawls, these canters have proliferated due to the willingness of a growing number of people to live in sprawl areas, where they find life more calm and peaceful than in the cities.

      vi.            Higher property and business taxes in the cities have pushed businesses to the suburbs where taxes are generally low.

    Consequences of urban sprawl

    Sprawl has been criticized for eliminating agricultural lands, spoiling water quality, and causing air pollution. As population increases, so does the need for new housing, schools, and transportation networks.  

    (a)     Sprawls have been criticized for increasing public costs. Some view sprawls as a venue where public money is being spent on redundant infrastructure outside the urban areas at the cost of neglecting the infrastructure in the cities that is either not utilized or underutilized.

    (b)     Populations living in urban sprawls commute to cities in their automobiles. This has resulted in heavier traffic on the roads leading to traffic congestion, increase in air pollution and automobile related accidents.

    (c)     Increasing dependence on automobiles has led the urban sprawl population to use their vehicles even for short distances. Such behaviour is believed to have led to increase in obesity and hypertension, in the population living in sprawls than those in the cities.

    (d)     Sprawls have triggered concerns over environmental issues. Houses in sprawl araes are larger than those in urban centre. This is viewed by some, as waste of cultivable land and displacement of wildlife. As large area of land is covered with impervious material, such as concrete, there is lesser percolation of rainwater to reach the groundwater.

    (e)     These are believed to cause disintegration of the social capital of America. Houses in the sprawl areas are big with large backyards that tend to separate neighbours. Hence social interactions among neighbours is much less in these regions than the cities

    (f)      Due to heavy dependence of people residing in sprawls on automobiles, city planners are compelled to spend more money on larger highways and parking spaces. This is considered as an additional burden on the state treasury as this reduces the area of taxable land.

    Thank you.

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