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The Origin of

Urban Sprawl
Urban sprawl is basically another word for
urbanization. It refers to the migration of a
population from populated towns and cities to low
density residential development over more and more
rural land. The end result is the spreading of a city
and its suburbs over more and more rural land. In
other words, urban sprawl is defined as low density
residential and commercial development on
undeveloped land. Most of the time, people will move
from these areas to try to find better areas to live.
This has been the way of the world since the
Migration and urban sprawl isnt something that is just now
becoming popular, as it has been around for quite some time.
Cities and their suburbs are now becoming overcrowded
because of this, but now it is time to look at the causes and the
effects of the urban sprawl, so that you can gain a better
understanding of it.
Causes of Urban
Urban sprawl can be caused
by a variety of different
things. These causes will
mainly include:
Lower Land Rates

Lower cost land and houses in

the outer suburbs of the cities,
because the centers of urban
development have really
made people want to stop
settling in these areas and
want to venture further out.
Improved Infrastructure

There is increased spending on

certain types of infrastructures,
including roads and electricity.
This is something that hasnt
always been available, and there
are still some areas that dont have
these luxuries. That doesnt mean
that they arent working on it.
Rise in Standard of
There are also increases in
standards of living and
average family incomes, which
means that people have the
ability to pay more to travel
and commute longer distances
to work and back home.
Lack of Urban Planning

People love to find areas that are

less trafficked and more calm,
which leads them to sprawl out to
other sections of the town.
Unprecedented development,
cutting of trees, loss of green
cover, long traffic jams, poor
infrastructure force people to move
out to new areas.
Lower House Tax Rates

Cities will usually have high

property taxes, and you can
usually avoid these taxes by
living in the outer suburbs
because the taxes are
usually lower than they
would be in other situations.
Rise in Population
Another factor that contributes
towards urban sprawl is
rise in populationgrowth. As
number of people in a city
grows beyond capacity, the
local communities continues to
spread farther and farther from
city centers.
Consumer Preferences

People in high income groups have stronger

preferences towards larger homes, more bedrooms,
bigger balconies and bigger lawns. This also causes
urban sprawl as this option is not available in
crowded cities. People generally look out for low-
density residential areas where they can get home
according to their preference.
Effects of Urban
Now, we will take a look at the
effects of urban sprawl, now that
we have taken a closer look at
the causes of it. Some of the
effects include:
Increase in Public
They can actually play a part in
the increases of public costs,
because these changes in
infrastructures and building
must actually be paid for by
someone- and it is usually the
tax payers money that pays for
Increased Traffic

Populations will begin to use

their cars more often, which
means that there is more
traffic on the roads, and there
is also moreair pollutionand
more auto accidents that you
have to worry with.
Health Issues

When people use their vehicles,

even to go to a very short
distance, people are going to be
more overweight and are also
going to have to deal with
ailments such as high blood
pressure and other diseases
that come about with obesity.
Environmental Issues

Sprawls can also cause certainenvironmental issues

that you may want to be aware of. In fact, when
you think about going out to develop these lands
you will have to worry about the wildlife that lives in
these lands. You will be displacing them, and it can
really cause a ripple in the environment.
Impact on Social Lives

When people move further out,

they also have an impact on their
social lives. They dont have
neighbors that live as close, which
means that they wont really stay
as social as they should. This isnt
always the case, but it is something
that should be taken note of.
Several decades of unchecked
urban sprawl have resulted in a
host of environmental, economic,
and social problems.
1.Loss of Agricultural Lands
The continued growth of suburban areas has often come at the
expense of loss of productive agricultural lands. It is estimated
that between 1982 and 1992 more than four million acres of
farmlands were lost to urban development. Presently, there are
large areas of high-qualityfarmland in the path of development
throughout the country. The long-term impacts of this trend are
troubling. American farmers will be called upon to produce ever-
increasing quantities of food due to the demands of population
growth from ever-decreasing amounts of land due to the loss of
acreage to urban development.
2.Loss of Forests, Wetlands,
and Wildlife Habitat
Just as farmland acreage is lost to
urban sprawl, so too are natural
areas of woodlands and wetlands
which are important wildlife
habitats. The threats of urban
sprawl to wildlife are particularly
acute for those species that are
already threatened or endangered.
3.Alterations in Hydrology

The process of urban development alters the

hydrology of an area in multiple ways. The actions
of bulldozers and graders to prepare the land for
development will often change the existing drainage
patterns of land. Pavement, culverts, and sewers
will further alter the drainage pattern. Paving over
of the land by concrete and asphalt will reduce
infiltration of water into the soil. This reduced
infiltration will interfere with aquifer recharge. Also,
the rapid run-off of precipitation from paved
surfaces will enhance the probability of flooding
from heavy rains.
4.Increased Air and Water
The increased automobile use necessitated by
urban sprawl generates increased air pollution from
vehicular traffic. Sprawl also contributes to water
pollution as run-off from paved areas carries
pollutants from cars, homes, and businesses and
industries into waterways. Erosion from lands
cleared for development can carry excess sediments
into streams, smothering aquatic habitats.
5.Increased Petroleum Use
and CO2 Release
Sprawl requires anincrease in vehicle milestraveled
per person. While population of the United States
increased by 23% from 1969 to 1989, vehicle miles
traveled per person increased by 98%. These longer
drives put greater demands on depleting reserves of
petroleum, negatively influence America's balance
of trade by requiring more oil imports, and result in
larger release of CO2, contributing to global climate
6.Increased Infrastructure
Accompanying urban development is the
construction of new roads, curbs, sidewalks, sewers,
wastewater treatment plants, and utility (electric,
gas, water, and telephone) lines. With increasing
sprawl, the distances traversed by these
infrastructure additions become increasingly
expensive, particularly when computed on a per
person/household basis.
Degradation of Inner Cities
As people migrate from cities to suburban areas,
businesses and industries follow. This erodes the tax
base of cities and citizen commitment to
maintenance of inner city areas. Older buildings,
abandoned as people and commerce flee to
suburbs, fall into disrepair. Neighborhoods, business
districts, and historic sites of the inner city decay
and fall into ruin.
8.Loss of a Sense of Place

With powerful and provocative rhetoric,

James Howard Kunstlerhas described the landscape
created by urban sprawl as "the geography of
nowhere" and as "a cartoon of a human habitat." In
the past, there was a distinctiveness to geographic
regions of the country, individual cities, and areas
within a single city. This uniqueness has given way
to the homogenization and sameness created by
urban sprawl. Kunstler argues that urban sprawl is
both a symptom and a cause of a troubled culture.
Solution to those problems
1.Urban Growth
Urban growth boundaries
are a means for
municipalities to designate
areas in which growth and
development will be
promoted or prohibited.
2.Infill Development

Infill development takes advantage of underutilized

areas within existing urban areas for the
construction of new homes, businesses, and
industries. Rather than development of rural areas
ever farther from the heart of cities, infill housing
promotes redesign and growth within existing urban
3.Transfer of Development
is a tool by which
communities can regulate
the density of
development of
designated geographic
areas. Certain areas are
allowed higher-density
development in exchange
4.Open- Space Zoning

is an alternative to conventional housing

development in which the land is evenly divided into
relatively large parcels with little open space
between the parcels. Under open-space zoning,
houses are restricted to a relatively small portion of
the land under development and the remainder of
the area is reserved for open spaces, natural areas,
and farmlands.
5.Conservation Easements

are a legal mechanism

for the long-term
protection of natural
areas and farmlands
from the threat of urban
Consequences of
Urban Growth and
Housing of poor urban
Major consequences of urban
sprawl can be summarized as
Inflated Infrastructure
and Public Service Costs
Sprawl is usually accepted as being inordinately
costly to its occupants and to society
Sprawl is blamed due to its environmental cost
economic cost Cities have experienced an
increase in demand for
public services and for the maintenance and
improvement of urban infrastructures
such as fire-service stations, police stations,
schools, hospitals,
roads, water mains, and sewers in the
countryside. Sprawl requires more
The Costs of Sprawl and other studies have shown that development
of neighbourhood
infrastructure becomes less costly on a per-unit basis as density rises
(refer Priest et al. 1977; Frank 1989). As long as developers are
responsible for
the full costs of neighbourhood infrastructure, and pass such costs on
to homebuyers
and other end-users of land, lower-density development patterns will
meet the
test of economic efficiency (at least with respect to infrastructure
Energy Inefficiency

Higher densities mean shorter trips but more congestion. Newman and
(1988) find that the former effect overwhelms the latter. Even though
vehicles are
not as fuel-efficient in dense areas owing to traffic congestion, fuel
consumption per
capita is still substantially less in dense areas because people drive so
much less.
Urban sprawl causes more travel from the suburbia to the central city
and thus more
fuel consumption. Furthermore, it also causes traffic congestion. More
cars on the
roads driving greater distances are a recipe for traffic gridlock resulting
in more fuel
With electricity, there is a cost
associated with extending and
maintaining the service
delivery system, as with water,
but there also is a loss in the
commodity being
delivered. The farther from the
generator, the more power is lost
in distribution.
Disparity in Wealth

There is marked spatial disparity in wealth between cities

and suburbs; and sprawled land development patterns
make establishing and using mass transit systems
difficult. Sprawl is also
implicated in a host of economic and social issues related to
the deterioration of urban communities and the quality
of life in suburbia. In many cases private utility systems
serving the main segment of the settled area cannot be
expanded for technical and financial reasons. Urban sprawl
often occurs in peripheral areas without the discipline of
proper planning and zoning; as a result, it blocks
the ways of future possible quality services.
Impacts on Wildlife and
In areas where sprawl is not controlled,
the concentration of human presence
in residential and industrial settings
may lead to an alteration of
ecosystems patterns and processes
.Development associated with sprawl
not only decreases the amount of
forest area and open space but also
breaks up what is left into small chunks
that disrupt
ecosystems and fragment habitats. The
reach of urban sprawl into rural natural
Fragmentation of
wildlife habitat
The fragmentation of a large
forest into smaller patches
disrupts ecological
processes and reduces the
availability of habitat for some
species. Some forest
fragments are too small to
maintain viable breeding
populations of certain wildlife
Loss of Farmland

The loss of agricultural land to urban sprawl means not

only the loss of fresh local food sources but also the
loss of habitat and species diversity, since farms
include plant and animal habitat in woodlots and
hedgerows. The presence of farms on therural
landscape provides benefits such as greenspace,
rural economic stability, andpreservation of the
traditional rural lifestyle.
Increase in Temperature
Poor Air Quality

Increased temperature in urban areas also has indirect

effects on air pollution. As the temperature rises, so does
the demand for energy to power fans, air coolers, water
coolers, and air conditioners; requiring power plants to
increase their output. The
majority of power plants burn fossil fuels, so increased
demand of power in summer results in higher emissions
of the pollutants they generate, including carbon dioxide,
particulate matter, sulphur oxides, nitrogen oxides, and air
toxics. Furthermore, 34 2 Causes and Consequences of
Urban Growth and Sprawl
ozone formation from its precursors, nitrogen oxides and
hydrocarbons, is enhanced.
Impacts on Water
Quality and Quantity
In the urban area, water runs off into storm sewers and
ultimately into rivers and lakes. Extra water during
heavy rain can dramatically increase the rate of flow
through wetlands and rivers, stripping vegetation
and destroying habitats along riverbanks. It can also
cause damaging floods downstream and lead to an
increase in
water pollution from runoff contaminated with lawn
and garden chemicals, motor oil and road salt.
Impacts on Public and
Social Health
One of the original motivations for migration to the
suburbs was access to nature.
People generally prefer to live with trees, birds, and
flowers; and these are more accessible in the
suburbs than in denser urban areas. Moreover,
contact with nature
may offer benefits beyond the purely aesthetic; it may
benefit both mental and physical health.
In addition, the sense of escaping from the turmoil of urban life to the
suburbs, the feeling of peaceful refuge, may be soothing and
restorative to some people.
In these respects, there may be health benefits to suburban lifestyles
(Frumkinblamed for its negative impacts on public health.
Other Impacts

Exurban development can place additional burdens on

rural economic/land-use activities such as forestry,
mining, and farming, since the values of exurbanites
may clash with those of traditional users regarding
the most suitable uses of rural lands. Urban sprawl,
a potential manifestation of development, has its
negative impacts
in coastal regions also, where beach-oriented tourism
and amenity-driven population
growth and land development are prominent