Urbanisation - Geography GCSE

Key Facts about Urbanisation with overview of the whole topic.

Includes Squatter Settlements, Air Pollution, Water Pollution and Sustainable Cities Case Studies.

  • Created by: Carrii
  • Created on: 14-04-12 13:22


Urbanisation is the growth in the proportion of a country's population living in urban areas.

  • More than 50% of the world's population currently live in urban areas (3.4 billion)
  • Most of the poulation in richer countries already live in urban areas, e.g. more than 80% of the UK's population live in urban areas.
  • Not much of the population in poorer countries live in urban areas, e.g. around 25% of Bangladesh live in urban areas.
  • Most urbanisation is happening in poorer countries, at a fast pace. 
  • Urbanisation is caused by Rural-urban Migration.
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Rural-urban Migration

Rural-urban migration is the movement of people from the countryside to the cities.

Why people move to the city in poorer countries:

  • Shortage of services like water and education in the countryside, so they believe the standard of living is better in the city (often not the case).
  • More jobs in urban areas as industry is attracted to cities as they have better infrastructure and a larger workforce.

Why people move to the city in richer countries:

  • Most urbanisation occurred during the Industrial and Agricultural Revolutions (18th and 19th centuries) as machinery replaced most of the farm labour in the countryside and more jobs were created in factories in urban areas so people moved from farms to the city for work.
  • In the late 20th century people left run down inner city areas and moved to the country, they are now being encouraged to move back by the redevelopment of these areas. 
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Parts of a City

City can be split into 4 Main Parts

CBD - (Central Business District) Usually found in the centre of a city. It's the commercial centre of the city where the shops and offices are found and where transport routes meet. High land values as there's lots of competition. Tall buildings and high density. Very few people live in the CBD.

The Inner City - Found around the CBD. Mix of poorer housing (high-rise tower blocks) and older industrial buildings. Normally run-down and deprived areas. Newer housing and industry where land has been redeveloped.

The Suburbs - Housing areas found towards the edge of the city. Land is cheaper and close enough to commute to the CBD. In the UK and USA middle-class families tend to live in the Suburbs as it's a nicer environment with less crime and pollution than the inner city.

The rural-urban fringe - Right at the edge of the city where there are both urban land uses (factories) and rural land uses (farming). Tend to find fewer, larger houses.

Land use can differ from city to city e.g. France, Italy and Sweden's inner city areas are where the wealthier middle-class live and the suburbs tend to be more deprived areas. 

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Urban Issues

Shortage of good quality housing

Some richer countries (e.g. UK) have housing shortages in urban areas as the urban population has grown quickly. There are ways and schemes that are tackling the shortage:

Urban renewal schemes - Government strategies first widely used in 1990's. Encourage investment in new housing, services and employment in derelict inner city areas. One example is the dockland development plan in Liverpool, the docks (brownfield site) was converted into high quality housing with good local services.

New Towns - New towns are being built to cope with the 'overspill' populations from existing towns and cities with shortages of housing. Milton Keynes is an example of a new town which was built in 1970.

Relocation Incentives - People who are living in large council houses, who don't really need a big house or live in the city, are being encouraged to move out of urban areas which then frees up housing for other people, e.g. working families. One successful scheme is one run in London which encourages older people living in big families to move to the seaside or the countryside. The council helps these people who volunteer to move out by giving them some money.

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Urban Issues

Run down CBDs

CBDs in some cities are run down. Reasons for this include competition from out-of-town shopping centres and business parks with cheaper rents that have easier access for shoppers and employees. Steps are being taken to revitalise some CBDs to attract people back, for example:

  • Pedestrianising areas (stopping car access) to make the are safer and nicer for shoppers.
  • Improving access with better public transport links and better car parking.
  • Converting derelict warehouses and docks into smart new shops, restaurants and museums
  • Improving public areas e.g. parks and squares, to make them more attractive.

Investments from the government also encourages businesses to return which then attracts more costumers which then attracts even more businesses and so on. The London Docklands is an example where this has succeeded.

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Urban Issues

Traffic Congestion and Pollution from cars

There are more and more cars on the roads of cities in richer countries which causes many problems like:

Air Pollution which damages health and buildings, more road accidents and more congestion.

There are a variety of solutions to help reduce traffic and its impacts:

  • Improving public transport. This encourages people to use public transport instead of cars which reduces all of the problems that cars cause.
  • Increasing car parking charges in city centres. This discourages car use so more people are likely to use public transport or walk.
  • Bus priority lanes that speed up bus services so people are more likely to use them.
  • Pedestrianisation of central areas which removes traffic from main shopping streets which reduces pollution and the number of accidents. It also makes it more attractive to shoppers. 
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Urban Issues

Ethnic Segregation

Cities usually have a variety of people from different ethnic backgrounds but there's often segregation between different ethnic groups, reasons for this are: 

People prefer to live close to people who speak the same language, have the same background and religion.

People live near services that are important to their culture e.g. places of worship.

People from the same ethnic background are sometimes restricted to where they live because of money etc.

There are strategies to support the multicultural communities but they aren't there to force them to mix. 

  • Making sure everyone has access to information about different services by printing leaflets in different languages.
  • Improving communication between communities by involving leaders of different ethnic groups in making decisions.
  • Providing interpreters in places such as hospitals and police stations.
  • Suitable services for different cultures, e.g. some refuse to see a doctor of the opposite sex. 
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Squatter Settlements

Squatter Settlements are common in cities in poorer countries. They are:

  • Settlements that are built illegally in and around the city by people who can't afford proper housing.
  • They are problems in many growing cities in poorer countries e.g. Sao Paulo, Brazil and Mumbai, India.
  • Most of the people living there are rural-urban migrants.
  • They're built badly and overcrowded and don't have basic services like electricity or sewers.
  • They're called favelas in Brazil and shanty towns and slums in other places.

Life in squatter settlements can be hard:

  • Don't have access to basic services like clean running water, sewers or electricity.
  • Some lack policing, medical services and fire fighting, because of this life expectancy is often lower than that in the main city. 
  • Many inhabitants work within the settlements in factories or shops, these jobs aren't taxed or monitored by the government so they're referred to as the 'informal sector' of the economy.
  • People in the informal sector work long hours and for little pay.
  • Although many have a strong community spirit so govern themselves more successfully.
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Ways to Improve Squatter Settlements

Squatter settlements aren't a nice place to live but some migrants have no other choice. People living there try and improve settlements themselves by helping each other with building and some have even built schools. But they have little money so they could do much more with a bit of help from help schemes:

  • Self-help Schemes - Involve the government and local people working together to improve life in the settlement. The government supplies building materials and the local people build their own homes. This provides better housing and the money saved on labour helps provide other services.
  • Site and Service Schemes - People pay a small amount of rent for a site, they can borrow money to buy building materials to improve a house on their plot. The rent money is used to provide basic services for the area. An example is the Dandora scheme in Nairobi, Kenya.
  • Local Authority Schemes - These are funded by the local government to improve the temporary accommodation built by the residents. One example is the City of Rio in Brazil who spent $120 million on the 'Favela-Bairro project' to improve life for the people who live in Rio de Janeiro's favelas.
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Squatter Settlements Case Study

Favela-Bairro Project in Rio de Janeiro's Favelas

Rio is in the south east of Brazil and has 600 squatter settlements housing one fifth of the city's population. The Favela-Bairro project started in 1995 and involves 253,000 people in 73 favelas. 40% of the $300 million funding came from the local authority, the rest by the 'Inter-American Development Bank'.

Project includes Social, Economic and Environmental Improvements

Social improvements - Daycare centres and after school schemes to look after workers children, adult education classes to improve adult literacy and services to help people affected by drug and alcohol addiction and domestic violence.

Economic improvements - Residents can apply to legally own their properties and training schemes to help people learn new skills so they can find better jobs and earn more.

Environmental improvements - Replacement of wooden buildings with brick and removal of homes on steep slopes, widening and paving of streets to allow easier access for emergency services and providing basic services  like clean water, electricity and weekly rubbish collection.

Community involvement is a vital part of the scheme so residents choose what improvements they want, neighbourhood associations are formed and services are staffed by residents to provide income.

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Environmental Issues

Waste disposal problems

People in cities create a lot of waste which can damage people's health and the environment especially if it's toxic and not disposed of correctly.

People in richer countries dispose of waste by burying it in landfill sites or burning it and the amount of waste is reduced by recycling schemes.

In poorer countries they struggle to dispose of the large amounts of waste that's created by rapid urbanisation for many reasons:

  • Money - poorer countries can't afford to dispose of their waste safely e.g. toxic waste has to be specially treated which is expensive when there are more important things to spend it on like healthcare.
  • Infrastructure - poorer countries don't have the infrastructure e.g. roads aren't good enough in squatter settlements meaning waste disposal lorries cannot collect the rubbish.
  • Scale - The waste problem is huge as a large city will generate thousands of tonnes of waste every day. 
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Environmental Issues

Air Pollution - Beijing, China

Beijing's population is around 20,180,000 (2011) and growing, with major transport links passing through the city each day and 3.3 million private car owners, pollution is a big problem. It's ranked as the 13th most polluted city in the world. Air Pollution has many negative effects:

Acid rain which damages buildings and vegetation, health problems such as headaches and bronchitis and can destroy the ozone layer which protects us from the suns harmful rays.

The Beijing Olympics - The Olympic games were a turning point for Beijing as many concerns were expressed about the possible effects the polluted air would have on the performance of top athletes.

Problems - Air pollution was rising because of the large amount of construction sites, some generated from the lead-up to the games. Beijing also suffers from frequent dust and sandstorms which adds to the problem.

Solutions - Leading up to the Olympics work on construction sites was stopped and some factories in and around Beijing were closed. Also 'odd and even' driving days were introduced which limited people using their cars according to their number plate. Ticket prices on bus and train links were also halved leading up to the games. Plans to continue both these schemes are in consideration.

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Environmental Issues

Water Pollution - Shanghai Huangpu River, China

In Shanghai the main industries are electronics, cars, power and electromechanical equipment and many chemical products and is China's most developed city. The Huangpu River running through Shanghai is a tributary of the Yangtze River, where 70% of the industrial waste and sewage is indirectly discharged. Problems that this water pollution can cause are:

Kills fish and other animals that disrupts food chains and can also poison humans if they eat the animals and contamination of water supplies which can spread diseases like typhoid.

Problems - 71% of the Huangpu River were affected by wastewater and sewage which caused 4,600 tonnes of nitrogen and 900 tonnes of phosphorus to run off into lakes and rivers. Now 81% of the cities waterways are polluted which causes major problems in Water Treatment Plants in the city. The tidal nature of the Huangpu means that it restricts the amount of pollutants downstream so most is stuck in the city.

Solutions - Environmental laws and regulations have been put in place since 1980 to try and prevent pollution and monitor the standard of industrial wastewater. There are pollution monitoring points in Shanghai which employs 700 people and some companies even have pollution control technology. There have also been many campaigns for cleaner rivers and pollution fees and permits introduced and now a deadline for the control of the pollution.  

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Sustainable Cities

Sustainable living means allowing people living now to have the things they need without damaging the resources future generations need. Cities use some methods:

Reducing waste and disposing of it safely - People are encouraged to recycle more so fewer resources are used e.g. metal cans are melted down to be used again, this means less water is also produced so less goes into landfill. Landfill is unsustainable as it wastes resources and eventually we'll run out of space to bury waste. Safely disposing of toxic waste so there's no air or water pollution.

Conserving natural environments and historic buildings - Historic buildings, natural environments and open spaces are resources that can't be replaced if they're built on or knocked down. Historic buildings are being restored and natural environments can be protected so they're available for future generations.

Building on brownfield sites - Brown sites are areas that have been used but aren't now. Building on these stop green spaces from being used up so there's still space available in the future.

Building carbon-neutral homes - Carbon-neutral means generating as much energy as they use, e.g. using solar panels, this doesn't damage the environment while producing vital resources.

Creating efficient public transport - Meaning fewer cars on the road so there's less pollution and less fuel is used by trains and trams. Some buses in London even run on hydrogen so only emit water vapour.

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Sustainable Cities Case Study - Curitiba, Brazil


Curitiba is a small city in southern Brazil, population 1.8 million. It's aims are to improve the environment and reduce pollution and waste and improve quality of life. It has a budget of $600 million every year and is working towards sustainability in different ways:

Reducing car use - There are good bus systems used by more than 1.4 million a day as they have an 'express' system where they have pre-pay boarding stations which reduces boarding time, they also have bus-lanes which speed up journeys and there are cheap fares which benefits poorer residents. There are over 200km of bike paths, both this and the buses cause the car use to be 25% lower and Curitiba has one of the lowest levels of pollution in Brazil.

Open spaces and conserved natural environments - Green space increased from 0.5m2 in 1970 to 52m2 in 1990. It has 1000 parks in places prone to floods so no serious damage is done. 1.5 million trees were planted by residents and builders are given tax breaks if they include green spaces in their work.

Recycling schemes - 70% of rubbish is recycled including paper which saves 1200 trees a day and residents in poorer areas where the streets are too narrow to collect rubbish are given bus tickets to take their recycling to collection centres.

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this includes pretty much everything the things i have missed out are on there so thanks

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