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Urban Environments (old)

Defining Urbanization and Urban Settlement

In general, urban refers to town and cities and rural refers to countryside.
Demographic interpretation: urbanization is the process signifying an increase in the proportion of a population living in the towns and cities,designated as urban areas, within a country or region. Natural increase (when birthrate is higher than death rate) and net migration (immigration-emigration) are the demographic causes of the growth of urbanization.
Socio-economic interpretation of urbanization: – urbanization often accompanies industrialization, large-scale manufacturing and dominance of tertiary sector jobs. Cities perform important commercial functions, and serve as locations for new forms of production, distribution and exchange. The social structure is also very different from those of rural societies.
Behavioral approach to urbanization: urbanization is marked by a typical set of human behavior and attitudes towards society. Urbanization can typically be associated with the concept of Gesellschaft (Ferdinand Tönnies theories of urban life), where the social relationship is founded on rationality, efficiency and contractual obligations and individual behavior is exerted through impersonal, institutionalized codes generating typical urban culture.


Data sources on urban population and nature of urbanization

World population review (WPR) data on selected world cities
NUNBEO data on urban crime, traffic, cost of living and quality of life

Variation in Pattern and global growth rate of urbanization and Urban Population

Only about 30% of the world’s population lived in urban areas in 1950
Today, 54 per cent of the world’s population lives in urban areas, a proportion that is expected to increase to 66 per cent by 2050.

Growth of Chicago’s urban population:
Approximately100 people in 1820 to 3 million in 2014
Evolution of cities: TED Ed


Urban population grows as a result of
  • Natural increase
  • Net Migration: Internal rural-to-urban migration, International migration


Natural increase is the main cause of urban growth in LEDCs

About 60% of the urban population growth in developing countries is due to natural increase The remaining 40% is attributable to net rural-urban migration and reclassification of rural areas into urban sites. As fertility levels decline and economic development increases, migration assumes a greater role in determining the pace of urban growth.

In Africa, for example, natural increase accounts for 75% of urban growth, compared to 51% in Asia. In China, which has experienced rapid economic growth, only 28% of the urban growth results from natural increase (UN data).

According to UN report, between 2007 and 2030, the world’s population is expected to increase by 1.8 billion. Almost all population growth during this period will be in urban areas. The rural population will actually decrease by about 20 million.
Process will advance in developed nations, where 76% lived in urban areas in 2000, and will increase to 83% by 2030.Although the number of large cities is increasing, much of the urban population still lives in small cities
Urbanization trend in developing countriesAlthough developing countries are less urbanized, the rate of urbanization is much higher. The number of people added each year continues to rise because the rates are applied to an ever increasing population base. Despite their high levels of urbanization, the combined numbers of urban population in Europe, Latin America, Caribbean, North America (1.2 billion) is smaller than the number in Asia alone (1.4 billion). By 2030, Asia alone will account for 54% of the urban population of the world.
Throughout Southeast Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa, millions of people move back and forth between urban and rural areas to take advantage of income-earning opportunities—a phenomenon known as circular migration. Temporary migrants can cause large swings in population size. In some cities of China, for instance, temporary migrants are estimated to account for one-fifth to one-third of the total urban population

rural urban.png

Click here to see China’s rapidly growing cities


Look at the following maps carefully. Describe the pattern of urban growth in china.
Would you be able to answer why the large mega cities of china are mostly located in the south eastern part of the country?

China’s rapid urbanization China’s Mega projects to tackle the problems of
rapid urbanization



shanghai.jpgThe Rise of “Mega-Cities” (population over 10 million)

  • One of the features of today’s urbanization is the continuing growth of large cities, including mega-cities.
  • The number of mega-cities rose from just two (London and New York) in 1950 to 23 in 1995, with 17 of them in the developing world
  • As of 2015, there are 35 mega-cities in existence, Chennai in India being the latest. The largest of these are the metropolitan areas of Tokyo and Jakarta, each of these having a population of over 30 million inhabitants. Tokyo is the largest metropolitan area, while Shanghai is the largest city. Out of 35, 23 of these mega-cities will be located in Asia.
  • With the increase in life expectancy, and decrease in birth rateincrease in divorce rate in post-industrial society, the city has once more become man’s natural habitat.

Global City (Saskia Sassan, 1991)
The term was first introduced by Saskia Sassan in her book The global city. Initially referring to New York, London, Tokyo. She described global cities as the one that play a major role in global affair in terms of politics, economy and culture.

Alpha city 2010
In every few years, cities are rated ranked by the Globalization and World Rankings Research Institute (GAWC). It is considered the leading institute ranking world cities. Cities are ranked into Alpha, Beta and Gamma cities by taking into account the factors like business activity, human capital, information exchange, cultural exchange and political engagement.

Click here to learn more about New York city
Click here to read Megacities of the Future– a report by Forbes

Urban population in different countries, 2014




Identify 5 countries with very high (more than 80%) and the very low rate (below 40%) of urbanization?

Case Study: Growth of urban population in the City of London

The first UK Census, taken in 1801, recorded London’s population at just over 1 million people. The capital grew at a rate of around 20 per cent per decade reaching 6.5 million in 1901. The size of London’s population afterwards recorded a period of decline, initially resulting from the impact of the Second World War. By 1988 the population of London was 6.7 million, a decrease of around 22 per cent since 1939. Population in London again began to rise from the 1991 and in 2015; it reached 8.6million, the highest since its 1939 peak. According to the city authority, the boroughs with the largest percentage increase in numbers between 1939 and 2015 were all located in outer London, unsurprising given that overall the population of outer London increased by 24 per cent over this time.

Growth of the population in the city of London and the spread of the London metropolitan area (Greater London)

London population growth.png
London’s population from 1939- 2015

The current London borough boundaries were defined in 1963. Official Statistics based on census counts are available for the 32 boroughs and City of London for 1961 onwards. Source reference:

Click here to see BBCs coverage on London Population

The city of London The city of Frankfurt The city of Venice


Brownfield site

  • Abandoned, derelict, unused sites, contaminated industrial buildings or industrial waste disposal site.
  • Have potential for redevelopment

Example of re-deveopment of Brownfield site
Massachusetts City of New Bedford (2014)- Brownfield Solar project
Vast abandoned plot of land that harbored hazardous waste affecting the environment and population in New Bedford, an economically depressed coastal city in southeastern Massachusetts is now a shining example of how renewable energy can transform the environment and local economies.

Unused land in New Bedford Brown field solar project in New Bedford BraWo Park brown field site (Brunswick) BraWo park shopping centre 2016
NewBedford-solarprojectland.jpg solar projectNB.png brawo2.jpg braWoShoppingC.jpg

Centripetal and centrifugal movements
Cities are the products of many forces. They are engines of economic development, centers of cultural innovation, social transformation and political change. Cities vary in employment opportunities to pattern of land use and functions, ethnic composition and socio-cultural setup.centripetal.jpg


Urban Pull-Push Factor

Pull Factor Push factor
Potential for employment, high wages Unemployment
Attraction of bright light- a typical type of cultural and social environment Lack of safety
Better service provision- education and health Lack of services, overcrowding, poverty
Greater wealth- scope of vertical movement along the social and economic ladder High price of land and high cost living
Food food supply- lower risk of famine and drought Development of commuter zone- express highway
Family and friends- community ties Development of new subsidiary CBD at the rural urban fringe- Eg. Outskirt shopping mall


Involves reinvestment of capital (money) in inner city areas.
Renovation and refurbishment old residential areas.
Commercial redevelopment and residential rehabilitation

  • New York- Greenwich village, Manhattan
  • London- Fulham, Dockland

Problem of gentrification
Urban Filtering– may lead to displacement of poor people as the land value rises and young upwardly mobile people take their place.

Gentrification in London Brixton Gentrification in London Dockland


Urban Sprawl

Unban sprawl denotes the physical expansion of city area outside the planned built up area as a consequence of unplanned urban growth.

  • Pollution is a major cost of urban sprawl. Most sprawling towns are built for cars and force people to drive more frequently and for longer periods of time. Increased use of cars leads to more air and noise pollution as well traffic congestion.
  • Sprawl can damage natural ecosystem through destruction of natural habitats and wetland.
  • Loss of farmland and fringe forest increase the risk of flood.

Cities are bound to grow, but they need planning to cope up with the problem of urban here to.see report from //The Economist//,Jun 2014



What does this cartoon intend to show? Would you be able to draw a cartoon pointing out the problems of urban sprawling?



Urban Land use:


Location of Residential areas

Residential choices are determined mainly by

  • The ability to pay for housing
  • The age of the population and family circumstances, stages in family life cycle (wealth, age and family status)
  • History (age, quality of buildings, modern energy efficient and cost saving building structures in the suburbs)
  • Topographical characteristics (geology, drainage, and relief may mean that higher class buildings are built in less hazardous locations). For example the slums of Dharavi in Mumbai particularly become vulnerable to floods during the wet season as the Mithi river overflows in every rainy season.
  • Religious and ethnic influences
  • Government policy and redevelopment efforts eg. construction of the Tianjin eco-city in China.
  • Proximity to services, such as schools, hospitals, shops, accessibility and transport links, job location.
  • Proximity to congested roads; inner-city slums, derelict land, waste sites and sewages can have negative effect on house prices.
  • Perception of better surroundings for example, leafy spacious suburbs.
  • Urban processes like: Suburbanization, gentrification, sprawl, counter urbanization etc.

Residential segregation: is the physical separation of population on the basis of culture, ethnicity, income and other criteria. Common examples of residential segregation are the existence of ghettos and China town in certain specific parts of the large cities.

Enormous skyscraper set to dominate New York skyline. Click here to see high rise residential complex at the heart of the New York City.
Also view world’s most expensive urban real estate market

Murdie’s composite ecological model of urban residential structure

To understand the aspects of cities residential structure Murdie (1969) identified two main dimensions of urban space.
1. Physical space -physical characteristics of land like presence or absence of river or coastlines, slope of the land, micro climate etc.
2. Social space– is differentiated into three aspects like economic status, cultural or ethnic status and family status.

  • Social spaces have been superimposed on physical space to explain the distribution of urban residential structure.
  • The model explains that cities are complex entities.
  • People’s choice of home is usually constrained by their income. At each stage in family life-cycle, people have different housing needs.
  • For example, a young person may seek a rented flat in the inner ring of the city while in the later stage of life the same person may relocate to a garden house in the suburbs.
  • Thus different parts of the city may reflect different stage of family life cycle.
  • On the other hand, specific ethnic minorities tend to cluster in specific parts of the city, creating a pattern which is neither sectoral nor concentric.




Urban Transport: Managing Traffic problems in cities

London road transport German high speed train



Find out some suitable photos that depict significant aspects of urbanism or urban morphology. Insert your selected photographs using this link. Add explanations on your selected features of urban landscape.


Solid Waste Management in urban areas

Solid waste management deals with generation, prevention, characterization, monitoring, treatment, handling, reuse and residual disposition of solid wastes.
Solid waste management is a challenge for the city authorities particularly in the developing countries mainly due to the increasing generation of waste. This huge quantity of Solid wastes imposes stress on the municipal budget as a result of the high costs associated to its management. Increasing population levels, booming economy, rapid urbanization and the rise in community living standards have greatly accelerated the municipal solid waste generation rate in developing countries (Minghua et al., 2009). It has been reported that collection, transfer and transport practices are affected by improper bin collection systems, poor route planning, lack of information about collection schedule, insufficient infrastructure, poor roads and number of vehicles for waste collection and to the pricing for disposal.

According to the World Bank report, 2015 (What a waste: A global review of solid waste management) the amount of municipal solid waste (MSW), one of the most important by-products of an urban lifestyle, is growing even faster than the rate of urbanization. Ten years ago there were 2.9 billion urban residents who generated about 0.64 kg of MSW per person per day (0.68 billion tonnes per year). This report estimates that today these amounts have increased to about 3 billion residents generating 1.2 kg per person per day (1.3 billion tonnes per year). By 2025 this will likely increase to 4.3 billion urban residents generating about 1.42 kg/capita/day of municipal solid waste (2.2 billion tonnes per year).

Solid waste management.jpg


World’s cleanest cities Efficiect waste management





Case Studies:
Slums overview 
Click here to see the biggest slums in the world
Asia’s largest Slum Dharavi
Karachi’s Orangi town named as the largest slum in the world in 2016

Where are the world’s worst slums? Inside Rio’s Favelas


What is meant by a Sustainable city?

Sustainable urban development aims to meet the needs of the present generation without compromising the needs of the future generations.
How to achieve sustainability?

  • Ensure environmental quality- preservation of urban areas and green field- less pollution, more recycling (example of Hamburg)
  • Greater access to employment and adequate livelihood
  • Safe, secure and affordable housing
  • Better provision of water, sanitation, better and efficient transport, healthcare, education (example of Curitiba)
  • Use of renewable resources and systems like rain water harvesting, solar energy etc (example of Tianjin Eco city)
  • Introduction of new sustainable concept such as urban agriculture (roof top farming in Hamburg and Singapore )
  • Stress minimization and creation of urban community- the sense of belonging together and sharing the same resources (For example the city of Copenhagen -Denmark ranks at the top in the OECD better life index, 2015)
  • Reduction of urban ecological footprint by following circular metabolism system to minimize new inputs and maximize recycling(refer Roger‘s model)

Ecological footprint is the theoretical measurement of the total area of ecologically productive land and water (cropland, pasture, forest, marsh, river, sea, etc.) that a population requires in order to produce the resources (the energy and materials consumed) it consumes and to absorb its wastes, under prevailing technology.

Click here to find why Curitiba in Brazil is a sustainable city

Case Study: Tianjin Eco-city

Tianjin Eco City is an ambitious joint project between the People’s Republic of China and the State of Singapore, located 150 kilometers south east of Beijing, within the coastal city of Tianjin. China’s rapid urbanization calls for low carbon footprint producing sustainable cities. Tianjin Eco city aims at being the world’s biggest sustainable city and is intended to showcase both countries’ state of art in terms of sustainable cities. It is designed to be practical, replicable and scalable.
This eco city will feature several innovations and sustainable attributes, starting from the land area in which it is being constructed: an old industrial waste site: this means that the city provides an example of brownfield site redevelopment.
Wet lands and the arable land nearby can be used to provide food, reducing food miles and carbon footprint.
The backbone of transportation within the city is the main line: a central axis, which connects all the districts and area with a light tramway. It also has dedicated bicycle lanes and walkways: this should reduce car usage within the city to less than 10%.
Other innovations include:

  • Wetlands should help to attract birds and animals creating an unique urban eco-system.
  • Wind turbines and solar panels already in place provide 20% of the energy used in the city
  • Organic waste is used for power generation (bio gas).
  • Desalinated water from the sea,
  • Smart buildings have been built with automated blinds and efficient temperature control using solar and geo-thermal power. Power and water consumption is self sustained in many of the cases and is produced within the residential estates. Rainwater harvesting and gray water management are the essential components of the system.


Tianjin Eco-city in China (short) Tianjin Eco-city (detailed one) Dubai: Wonder Planning for a sustainable city
Green city of Hamburg in Germany Sustainable city of Curitiba in Brazil


Dubai Project in 2017:

Click here to see Geographical location and climate of Dubai

Regional Location
Dubai _regional .png Simplified_dubai-location.png

Sustainable Urban development in Dubai
Sustainable development in UAE
Click here to see Royal Geographical society article on environmental issues and sustainable future of Dubai. 
Click here to see how desert like city of Dubai will become the world’s most sustainable city?

Dubai: The Global city
of 2016
Oil Money: Desert to
greatest city
Sustainable city project
in Dubai
Surprising facts about Duba

Smart City Approach: Urban Planning and design

Singapore as the smart city

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