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Urban Sprawl and Development

Urban Sprawl and Development

Major cities around the world are facing one of the biggest human influxes in the history of civilization. Urban sprawl development is an important feature and a bigger problem for the contemporary city life.
Prashant Magar
The fringes of urban centers have been eating up neighboring rural land, and causing a radical transformation in the management of a metropolitan area, or a big industrialized city. Initially, it was considered a healthy sign of development. Urban sprawl, in simple terms, comprises heavy migration of a population, land use, increased transportation along with economic and social development. These sparsely populated areas have become a regular feature of city development across the globe and also a big headache in most of the cases.

They do offer an attractive pattern of development. For example, in America the growth of an urban sprawl was associated with the fulfillment of the 'Great American Dream' where people dreamed of living in single-family homes with all the modern amenities. All this was coupled with an easy access to the vibrant and bustling local business districts and professional avenues. A thriving population is the biggest contributor to a country's growth. Better living conditions influenced a large part of the civic life to develop and assimilate the benefits of modern life. But there have been several grave consequences of this trend in the human development. They are as follows:
  • Economic Problems: Modern colonies include a dense living infrastructure. Better housing, schools, hospitals, playgrounds, an improved transport system and other civic amenities have resulted in large-scale government expenditure. Consequently, heavy taxes are paid by the people, who are already reeling under heavy inflation.
  • Environmental Issues: The dependence on automobiles has degraded the quality of the surroundings, causing environmental pollution. Due to spread out societies, there is a frequent need of vehicles for commuting large distances. Some cities have seen an increase of over 10 times in the number of vehicles plying on their roads in the last 3 to 4 years. Rampant use of automobiles has resulted in severe air pollution leading to grave ailments and decreasing health standards. There is a severe strain on water resources due to wastage, lower ground water levels, leaks, soil erosion, and the requirement in urban activities like construction, etc. Noise pollution is another big nuisance in such an infrastructure. Automobiles, airplanes, and noisy activities, are a characteristic feature of an urban sprawl, which give rise to grave health problems like stress, anxiety, insomnia, etc.
  • Impact on Lifestyle and Society: People living in such a locality have generic houses, busy schedule, small families, and a secluded lifestyle. Therefore, the social development has received a setback. Neighborhoods with big porches, schools, religious places and shops just a few blocks away, encouraged social interactions which led to a peaceful, happy, and content society. The age-old concepts of a feeling of belonging or community welfare have eluded modern cities. There is less space and time for exercise and healthy living activities, leading to a faster aging and ailing population. In certain places, it has resulted in the creation of slum dwellings, rising discord between different economic classes of society, and increased criminal activities. Choosing urban lifestyle against rural living, is a fading option for many people.
  • Effects on Flora and Fauna: The loss of agricultural land for rapid growth in infrastructure is the single largest negative impact and the depletion of cultivable land has affected agricultural production. For instance, in America alone, almost 14 million acres of farmland was converted into non-farming areas between 1992 and 1997. This was a 51% increase in the rate of conversion from the previous decade, according to the United States Department of Agriculture. Similarly, forests, wetlands, and wild bushes which were an integral part of a region's natural features have almost disappeared and are being replaced by buildings, industrial zones, and the ever-increasing urban population. All these factors have made us susceptible to nature's fury like frequent floods and storms, global warming, or a human-wildlife confrontation resulting in losses on both sides.
Despite all these concerns, people throughout the world find urban life more productive and enriching. There is still a huge scope for development, especially in the new cities. According to experts, at this crucial stage, the world must focus on planned and environment-friendly development. Our efforts should be directed at an organized and structured setup for cities with no or minimum impact on the surroundings and strain on vital resources.

Urban life is a beautiful creation of our quest for a more prosperous society but its growth should always be in harmony with our ecosystem, so that we can hope for a better future.