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Essay on Urban Sprawl

3 pages
650 words
University of Richmond
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Urban sprawl is the rapid growth of poorly planned, auto-dependent, and low-density residential housing which occurs outside the populated urban centers (Pennock, 2013). In a simple context, urban sprawl refers to the migration of people from the populated cities and towns to scarcely populated areas which have more rural land. This practice is primarily caused by increased population growth in urban centers, however, in some places, urban sprawl occurs due to the need for more residential amenities and living space. For a long time now urban sprawl has been linked to traffic congestion, pollution, increased energy use, and a decline in community cohesiveness and distinctiveness. It is also a common fact that the growth of the environmental and the physical footprints of urban centers results to the destruction of remaining natural areas and the fragmentation of wildlife habitat. Some people would argue that this practice has its advantages such as developing the local economic growth. This, therefore, means that urban sprawl has both advantages and disadvantages but which is stronger than the other.

Several factors cause urban sprawl including rapid population growth, lack of comprehensive planning, consumer preferences, and subsidized infrastructure improvements (Ebrahimpour-Masoumi, 2012). First, Lack of comprehensive planning occurs as a result of poorly planned developments within the urban centers. Inadequate housing in the Urban centers forces people to look for free lands for settlement. Second, Rapid population growth, for instance, is the key contributor to urban sprawl in most cities in the world. This is because as the population increases beyond the limits the city or the town can accommodate people tend to move to new places which are scarcely populated leading to the creation of new communities.

Third, subsidized infrastructure also encourages urban sprawl since when towns and cities subsidize the cost of infrastructures such as sewers and roads results to under-development of these urban centers. Many people would not want to leave in under-developed areas. Therefore, they are most likely to migrate to the areas they can develop for themselves. Fourth, consumer preference is also another that causes urban sprawl however it is difficult to quantify this factor. Municipalities sometimes may provide a strategic plan for urban development which does not allow the creation of certain infrastructures such as big houses. Some people desire bigger houses and more space. Therefore, they are likely to look for free lands outside the urban centers hence contributing to urban sprawl. In general, globalization and economic growth are seen as the major macroeconomic causes of urban sprawl whereas the microeconomic causes include the increased affluence, the desire for more free space, the housing prices and attractive land (Kew, B., & Lee, 2013)

Cities tend to push its boundaries outwards because of the need to accommodate the rising population. Sometimes the existing amenities such as the roads, houses, hospitals, lands, and other amenities may not be enough to provide for the necessities of everybody. Therefore, cities may be forced to extend their boundaries to allow for the construction of more social amenities.

There are a lot of disadvantages of urban sprawling compared to the advantages. Therefore many urban centers are developing multiple measures to counteract this practice. Some of these measures include embracing housing renovation, implementation of effective urban planning policies and creation of more affordable social amenities in urban centers. Implementation of effective urban planning policies will enable the city planners to make informed decisions when constructing several infrastructures within the urban center. On the other hand, the creation of more affordable social amenities will inspire people to live in the urban centers hence discouraging the occurrences of urban sprawl.



Ebrahimpour-Masoumi, H. (2012). Urban sprawl in Iranian cities and its differences with the western sprawl. Spatium, (27), 12-18. doi:10.2298/spat1227012e

Kew, B., & Lee, B. (2013). Measuring Sprawl across the Urban Rural Continuum Using an Amalgamated Sprawl Index. Sustainability, 5(5), 1806-1828. doi:10.3390/su5051806

Pennock, R. (2013). Urban Sprawl. Encyclopedia of Human Geography. doi:10.4135/9781412952422.n317


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