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Sunday, October 17, 2021

The Urban Sprawl Curse: How The Cities Are Taking Over The Environment

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Mark Swilling is of the opinion that urban sprawl needs to stop before the new Urban Age conference. The total area of the land that covers the Earth’s surface is only 30% but the surface covered by the cities of the world is to triple in the coming 40 years. This has the potential to eat up farms and threaten the Earth’s sustenance. 

urban sprawl

The Latest Findings 

Barcelona is one of the densest populated urban cities on Earth. 103 road intersections are stretched per square kilometer. It is higher than Brasilia (41) and even Pudong (17). These are high in numbers but the residents considered their city to be liveable.

Most of the population lives in urban cities- from megacities to medium and smaller settlements. The biggest growth is expected to be in these smaller and medium-sized cities. Metro cities tend to expand and contract and 40% of the larger European cities are expected to shrink. 

The latest statistics show that 3.9 billion people stay in urban cities, which can increase to 6.34 billion before 2050. If the current rate of growth keeps continuing then the natural resources that are needed to build and run the cities will not sustain. 

 As the cities keep growing in stature, the rising concern will how they increase into the countryside nearby. In the last decade, the cities have expanded into the country’s land and farmlands while enlarging demographically. 

The result of this is a de-densification by -2% every year, in urban settlements. The total area covered by the asphalt, cement, and open spaces constituting the urban cities was around 1M square kilometers. When you compare this number to France, the total surface covered by them is 643,000 square kilometers.

If these de-densifications and urban sprawl are kept unchecked, the area of urban cities will increase by 3M square kilometers before 2050. The 2M square kilometers constitute the productive farms, as they are built close to large cities for the demand generated by them. 

Also Read: Can Tiny Urban Forests Provide Fresh Air In The Cities?

Urban Sprawl: An Understanding.

Cheap oil is an important determinant of urban sprawl. When the oil price had peaked in 2008, the people who had to travel the most, had to face an economic crisis. 

Fuel expenses required for traveling increased, so their ability to afford urban sprawl decreased. Out of 300,000 buildings in Detroit, 70,000 were vacant.

After the 1960s, the city of Detroit built ring roads for suburbanizing the upper classes. It brought them into the near country land but bankrupted the urban core of the city. It failed to manage the impact made by closing its enormous car factories. 

urban sprawl

37% of the future growth in the urban cities is expected to occur in India, Nigeria, and China. Asia and Africa are expected to house the 2.5B people who will add to the current population by 2050. 

Slums are a by-product of this urban sprawl phenomenon. India is unique, where the increase of slums has created a scenario in which the poor and the middle class stay together in urban cities. 

62% of the people living in urban cities are basically from the slums. This statistic is only exclusive to African cities. The population of Africa is expected to increase by three times and will lead to urban sprawl across the African continent. 

Addis Ababa has turned into a huge building site. 80% of the Ethiopian population live in rural areas but the rate of urbanization is increasing rapidly. Government investments have covered the sky with high buildings found in the urban cities. 

urban sprawl

A rail system has been constructed in the city. This investment has led the middle-class to purchase apartments near the rail stations to reduce transportation expenses. 

Johannesburg has witnessed different events in time. During the apartheid, the poor were forced to live outside the urban cores. These settlements were not designed to house so many people so they were turned into slums. 

After 1994, the people flocked back into the cities. Enormous housing plans were devised and land invasions were rampant in all the cities of South Africa. 

The government realized the impossibility of moving these people around, so they looked at some development hotspots and invested their money in them. They built transportation amenities for such cities to link all the urban places together. The goal was to increase jobs and residents in these hotspots. This in turn increased the frequency of people using the transit services. 

urban sprawl

Urban Sprawl is a major threat. It can affect the sustenance of Planet Earth and neither the Paris Agreement nor the UN’s goals will be achieved. This will be going against real estate developers, as they prefer greenfields over the regenerations of brownfield developments. 

Also Read: Climate Change Drives US Water Scarcity: Administration Helpless Against Crisis

Aim For Liveable Urban Cities

It might be considered a mistake to just emphasize improving the average densities of the cities. LA is considered to have an average density higher than NY. NY is regarded as a functional form while LA is dysfunctional. NY has a higher network of neighborhoods connected by transit systems.

When you compare such cities with Barcelona, it looks quite different. Buildings are 5-8 stories higher than the others, the streets are narrower and the motorized modes of transport are well connected. 

The population of the cities of the world will double before 2050 and the prices of oil will increase due to its exploitation. When such things are not tended to, urban sprawl will expand uncontrollably. It should be the agenda for everyone to eradicate urban sprawls to encourage more liveable cities.




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