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Rural and Urban Settlement

What is a rural and urban settlement?

Settlement is a place where people live and interact through several activities such as agriculture, trading or services. Settlement helps us to understand man’s relationship with his environment. In general rural refers to countryside and urban refers to town and cities. Communities living in rural settlement are predominantly involved in primary activities such as farming, lumbering and mining.
On the other hand, unban communities are engaged predominantly in secondary and tertiary activities such as construction, food processing, banking research etc.
Rural and urban settlements are often compared also in terms of their functions, population sizes and population density.A rural settlement tends to have small population and low population density.Urban settlement often has a large population size and high population density.


Settlement hierarchy is usually measured by :

  • Population size of a settlement
  • Range and number of services
  • Sphere of influence or market area

Key definitions:
RangeThe maximum distance people are willing to travel to obtain goods and services
Threshold populationThe minimum number of customers necessary to support an economic activity to run at a profitable scale.
Sphere of influenceThe area around a settlement that comes under its economic, social and political influence. It is also determined by the range of any service or activity.
Comparison shopsHigher order shops with large range and threshold population. Such as furniture, clothes, electronics etc. People tends to compare prices in different comparison shops before buying as they may have huge price differentes. These are sometimes speciality shops that exert large pull over a large area.
Convenience shopsSelling small items particularly groceries selling bread, milk which are needed almost everyday, tailoring shops with small turnover etc. These are lower order shops that require smaller threshold population.

The larger the settlement, the greater the range of services and therefore the sphere of influence.
Settlements higher up the hierarchy for example large cities or provincial towns with higher order services like international airport, university, comparison shops etc that require a large threshold population are higher oder settlements. they are fewer in numbers and are spread farther apart.

Settlements lower down the hierarchy for example, villages and isolated farmsteads with a few lower order services like local shops or a primary school, convenience shops etc. are low order settlements. These settlements are more in numbers and are more closely spaced.

Comparison shops: in town shopping mall in Dubaiwith extraordinary large sphere of influence

Oasis (wet point) settlement

Confined aquifer artesian well: Oasis formation

Effects of urbanization

New York Love and Hate aspects

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