Changing Urban systems

Key definitions:

  • Urbanization: An increase in the proportion of people living in towns and cities.
  • Urban Growth: The increase in the size of a particular settlement or an increase in the number of people living in urban centres.
  • Urban Sprawl: The unplanned and uncontrolled physical expansion of an urban area into the surrounding countryside. It is closely linked to the processes of suburbanization.
  • Reurbanisation: The development of activities to increase residential population densities within the existing built-up area of a city.
  • This may include the redevelopment of vacant land, the refurbishment of housing and the development of new business enterprises.
  • Counter‑urbanization: The movement of population away from inner urban areas to a new town, a new estate, a commuter town or a village on the edge or just beyond the city limits/rural–urban fringe.
  • Brownfield site: Abandoned, derelict or under‑used industrial buildings and land that may be contaminated but have potential for redevelopment.
  • Suburb: A residential area within or just outside the boundaries of a city.
  • Ecological footprint: The theoretical measurement of the amount of land and water a population requires to produce the resources it consumes and to absorb its waste under prevailing technology.
  • Suburbanization: The outward growth of towns and cities to engulf surrounding villages and rural areas. This may result from the out‑migration of population from the inner urban area to the suburbs or from inward rural–urban movement.

Urbanization, Natural increase and centripetal movements

Urbanization and Natural Increase

It is an increasing percentage of a country’s population that comes to live in towns and cities. Urbanization in MEDCs has slowed down in the past few years. This is partly due to improved living conditions in rural areas, the introduction of efficient public transport services and the increase in private car ownership. This has led to the Urban Decay, a process whereby urban areas experience dereliction, lack of demand for inner city lands, graffiti in public places, etc.

Urbanization results from three main factors:

  1. Migration to urban areas i.e. rural-urban migration.
  2. High birth rates due to youthful population, resulting in a positive natural increase (when birth rate exceeds death rate).

The dominant population movements into urban areas are centripetal movements and centrifugal movements. The processes affecting urban environments are categorized into two:

1.Centripetal (inward) movement which includes:

  • Rural-urban migration
  • Gentrification
  • Reurbanisation (urban renewal)

2. Centrifugal (outward) movement which includes:

  • Suburbanisation
  • Counter urbanisation
  • Urban sprawl.

Centripetal movements – movement into the city

  • Rural- Urban Migration

This is the movement of people from rural to urban areas. It is caused by urban “pull” and rural “push” factors.

Urban “pull” factors that attract people from villages to cities. They include better housing, improved sanitation, perceived job prospects, ‘bright light syndrome’ etc. in urban areas.

Rural “push” is the difficulties people face in rural areas which compels them to move to the city. They include poor housing, poor sanitation, and decline in farming, lack of educational opportunities, and lack of jobs, lack of social amenities, poverty, and the generally poor level of infrastructural development

  • Gentrification (Urban redevelopment)

This is the process whereby middle class people move into inner cities to buy derelict buildings and redevelop them into high class residential areas. It also has an economic dimension, in which the houses under dereliction are renovated to generate economic activities in the area. Young, married professionals may begin to move to such gentrified areas, thereby changing its population structure.

The disadvantage, however, is that gentrified areas can lead to social displacement of poor people, as the gentrified areas become too expensive for the poor to be able to afford. For example, there were houses built in Cantonments in Ghana during the period of colonialism. These houses have become old and worn down, so the Ghanaian government sold them to affluent citizens who transformed those houses into great apartments.

A gentrified apartment block at Air Residential Area in Accra, Ghana. Source: Imperial Homes
  • Reurbanisation (Urban renewal)

It is the process of revitalising urban areas and a movement of people from the outskirts of cities into these places. However, it may involve government policies that are meant to improve the living conditions in such places, which may involve the injection of capital to revitalize the dilapidated area. This process includes the process of gentrification. Urban renewal, therefore, involves the rehabilitation of city areas that have fallen into decline.

Gentrification is done by private business men, but reurbanisation is done by the government. Also in gentrification, the entire building is pulled down, but in reurbanisation, the building can be renovated.

Centrifugal movements – Movement outside the city

  • Sub-urbanisation

The movement of people, industries or shops from inner cities to live in areas outside the city. It is the opposite of gentrification. It occurred mainly in the USA, UK and Australia around the early 20th century. It was made possible by an improvement in transport network- electric tramways and public buses. It was also possible due to a decline in the price of farmlands, coupled with rising wages and high standards of living, necessitating private housing.

  • Counter-urbanization

The movement of population away from inner urban areas to a new town, a new estate, a commuter town or a village on the edge or just beyond the city limits/rural-urban fringe. It is also referred to as de-urbanization.

Reason for counter urbanisation:

  1. High prices of land in urban areas
  2. Congestion pollution high crime rate
  3. Lack of community spiritedness
  4. Declining services.
  • Urban Sprawl

The unplanned and uncontrolled physical expansion of an urban area into the surrounding countryside. It is closely linked to the process of sub-urbanization. People living in sprawled neighborhoods drive daily to the CBD to work. Development such as shopping malls, fast food chains, and housing sub-divisions are typical of sprawled environments.

They are characterized by:

  • Low density housing
  • Large awns
  • Wide streets
  • Landscaping

e.g. many large cities like London, New York, Tokyo are all characterised by urban sprawl.

Urban Systems Growth

A city can be referred to as a system; which means the city consists of inputs processes and outputs. The input in the city refers to the various resources, both human and physical, that the city needs to function effectively. E.g. human beings, food resources, oil, fuel, energy, water, solar and knowledge, investment, electricity, food. As these inputs ‘enter’ the city, they undergo various processes, including manufacturing/industrial processes and urban infrastructural processes. The processes would lead to the production of outputs, some of which could be positive or negative. Positive outputs may include manufactured goods and negative output may be pollution and waste production as a result of the use of inputs.

Urban Infrastructure improvement

In most urban areas, especially in developing countries, cities continue to grow at a faster rate than the ability of the city authorities to provide the needed infrastructure. Consequently, such cities begin to face many challenges such as traffic congestion, shortage of services such as water, schools, electricity etc. There is, therefore, the need for urban areas to undergo improvement in order to meet the demands for the growing urban population. Aspects of the infrastructure that need improvement include:

  1. Transportation improvement: Road networks and mode of transport. Thus improve the urban public transport and discourage people from owning private cars.
  2. Sanitation
  3. Water
  4. Waste disposal
  5. Telecommunications

CASE STUDY: Shanghai, China-infrastructural growth over time in one city.

  • The city of Shanghai grows at a rate of 10% per year since 1992 and currently has a population of 23 million.
  • By 2020 the population of the city centre, which is used for political, economic and cultural activities, is expected to reach over 16 million.
  • Shanghai is supposed to be turned into an international economic hub- “a seaport, an airport and an information port.”
  • Central Business District: Pudong
  • Pudong is used for finance, trade, retailing, recreation, tourism, media, information services and business. However, there are small amounts of residential areas.

Changes in transport infrastructure in Shanghai

  • Due to the increasing population there is an increased pressure on the transportation system. Therefore, Shanghai is developing their transport system.
  • This transport system will deal with increased traffic volumes.
  • It will focus on two ports, two highways and three transport networks.
  • Yangshan Deep-Water Port, the completed transport system, is the busiest port in the world.
  • This port has an annual cargo of 590 million tonnes.
  • Shanghai has two international airports and four airport terminals. Pudong International Airport is the world’s third largest in terms of cargo.
  • The urban rail network(one of the most important transport forms in Shanghai) is over 400km long and has 13 metro lines which carries 5 million passengers daily.
  • 25% of the city centre is covered by railway stations
  • The journey from Nanjing has reduced from 180 to just over 70 minutes.
  • There are over 1000 bus lines and 17000 busses.
  • Shanghai was 12,000km of road including 800km of expressways.

Access to water and sanitation in Shanghai

  • The Huangpu River and the Yangtze River are the main surface water sources for Shanghai’s water supply.
  • The proportion of the population with access to piped water rose from 40% in 1990 to nearly 95% in 2007.
  • Over 70% of households have access to sewerage services.
  • However, there is still severe stress on the water supply. For instance, agricultural practices have led to fertiliser and insecticides and getting into the urban water system.
  • To combat the need for fresh water, Shanghai built the Quingcaosha Reservoir which is designed to provide water for up to 68 days.

Waste treatment in Shanghai

  • As the population of Shanghai increases, the amount of rubbish found in the landfill sites are also drastically increasing.
  • However, Shanghai is now turning to incineration, which is simply the act of transforming waste into energy.
  • The demand for incinerators are increasing here more than any part of the world.
  • Shanghai produces the most household rubbish in China- 22,000 tonnes per day.
  • The incinerator near the landfill site takes 3,000 tonnes of the rubbish every day.
  • How the incinerator works: waste is heated to 850 degrees Celsius or higher. This heats water and produces steam which is used to turn the turbines and generate electricity.
  • The aim is to increase the waste incinerated from 35% to 75%.

Access to telecommunications

  • Shanghai was one of the first centres in China to develop telecommunication services.
  • 1871 an underwater telegraph cable was laid between Hong Kong and Shanghai and in 1907 a local telephone service was introduced, followed by a long-distance service in 1923.
  • Shanghai has an incredibly strong technology base which would attract foreign investment and multinational companies.

Causes of Urban Deindustrilization

Deindustrialization is the sustained decline in manufacturing activity and capacity. The opposite of deindustrialization is industrialization, which is the growth in secondary/ manufacturing industries.

Industrialization occurred in the Western countries around the 1800s and today, its rapidly in emerging economies (BRICs). On the other hand, deindustrialisation is rapidly taking place in the advanced countries. For instance: UK, USA, Germany etc. The causes of these declines can be broadly explained in 5 main categories:

  1. Globalisation :This has led to a widespread migration of the manufacturing sectors of the advanced countries to areas where they find a competitive advantage in terms of raw materials, labour, market for their produce and relaxed environmental laws.
    1. For example, Apple designs its products in California but manufactures its final product in China. This is due to the advantage of cheap labour in China, relaxed environmental laws, low corporate tax and the large market for their products.
  2. Decline in demand for manufactured goods: This can come about as a result of changing technology, whereby online music would replace the buying of CDs. Netflix would also replace DVDs and cassettes.
  3. Automation and up-skilling of workers: Automation is the process whereby machines or robots or artificial intelligence replaces human labour in most manufacturing functions. This can lead to deindustrialisation because it will lead to a reduction in the size of the company or a physical relocation of the company in order to maximise profit. Examples include, manufacturing cars. Automation has led to deindustrialisation in areas such as Detroit, USA where car manufacturing companies have replaced human labour with robots. This has led to the out migration of people to other cities
  4. Political changes: This leads to deindustrialization when government policies change. For example, the introduction of free trade policies and the removal of trade barriers have led to many manufacturing industries becoming exposed to the international competition such that they are not able to survive, or the existing industries may be relocated to areas where cost of production is low. Hence, a decline in industrialization. An example is in the UK where steel manufacturing industries have closed down in major cities such as Sheffield, Manchester, and Birmingham etc. this has come about as a result of the cheap imports of Chinese steel.
  5. Tertiarisation: This is when the country’s manufacturing industries are replaced with the tertiary industry. This includes telecommunications, electronics industry, law firms, accountancy firms, education, nursing, banking, social services and teaching etc.This is the movement from the blue collar jobs to the white collar jobs. This has led to deindustrialization in old industrial cities, as a result of the decline in the manufacturing sectors.

Consequences of deindustrialization

Positive consequences

  1. Urban renewal: City will find new ways of redeveloping itself in order to over the challenges of deindustrialiszation
  2. Innovative architecture – this means that the city authorities find ways utilizing brownfield sites in order to regenerate such areas. For example, the London Dockland Development Corporation was initiated by the government of the UK in order to develop Stratford Park, an old industrial estate, to revitalize the area. This led to the establishment of the London 2012 Olympic Stadium in the area.
  3. Low energy usage and environmental sustainability- due to low levels of air, water and land pollution by industries and vehicles
  4. Introduction of modern forms of technology, such as the use of renewable energy from the use of fossil fuels in manufacturing industries to the tertiary industries.

Negative Consequence

  1. Increase in unemployment because it would affect low skilled workers since they are less likely to find jobs.
  2. Income inequality because most of the people who will be unemployed would have less money than the employed – the rich may get richer and the poor may get poorer.
  3. Decline in the variety of commodities or manufactured products.
  4. Decline in the service provision in urban areas.
  5. Lead to the out migration of people
  6. Increase in crime levels
  7. Widen the gender gap