Classification of Towns
There are no universal criteria for classifying the towns of the world. Every country has its own and different method of classification. Some classify towns on the basis of their functions, while others on population size and administrative character. The towns of India, Israel and Italy are characterised by non-agricultural activities. They are also highly populated. On the other hand, towns of Denmark, Sweden and Finland have towns of population sizes not less than 250. In Africa and Europe, settlements are generally called as towns. Thus, the types of towns and their classification differ from place to place and in terms of their functions.
' Million cities' are those which hold a million or more population. London in 1800, Paris in 1850 and New York in 1870 were million cities. There were 129 million cities in 1970 and it is as many as 180 now. Most million cities are the capitals, ports and multi-functional. Some of these settlements were the earlier capitals. For example, Leningrad, Rio-de-Janeiro and Kolkata.
Urban Growth and Problems
The growth of an urban area relates to population increases as well as the expansion of its areal extent. Population growth of the urban areas occurs in two ways. First, they are growing by the natural increase. Second, they are expanding in population through rural migration. In consequence, the urban boundaries are expanding. Unemployment, traffic jams, air pollution are some of the problems that the urban areas face.
Rural Migration. People from rural areas migrate to cities in search of jobs. Their migration is not always in response to economic compulsions. People migrate also in response to educational and administrative needs. The present day generation has moved into towns and cities in an exodus for higher studies and employment opportunities. The population of Chennai increases day by day in this manner.
Urban Sprawl. In any urban growth, suburbanisation is also a part. Suburban growth occurs primarily along the transport corridors, of roads and railways. Developments in transport have been responsible for such growth and expansion. Because of competition and demand for space, people from the city centre moves towards the fringes. At the same time, private developers build houses in the small towns and villages nearby. As a result, the urban area expands, in due course. This process is known as the urban sprawl.
For example, the extent of Chennai and its population has been expanding over the years. In 1971, Chennai had an area of 120 sq. km and 3.5 million people whereas in 1991 it spreads over an extent of 175 sq. km with 5.4 million population. The Corporation, in tune with the growing needs, is trying hard to meet the needs for amenities. It provides for basic services such as water supply, construction of sewage channels, road development and their maintenance. Nevertheless, there is heavy traffic causing accidents. To prevent accidents, the planners designed subways across the roads, enforced one-way traffic and restricted large motorised vehicles to the fringes of the big cities.
Pollution. Yet another problem in city growth is the pollution. The surroundings of the cities, air and water are contaminated in several ways. The smoke from the industries and the automobiles and dust pollute the air. The effluents from industries and domestic wastes pollute the sea, rivers and other water bodies as they are drained into them. Similarly, the noise from the vehicles and industries pollute the silent environments. The different types of noise from the automobiles disturb the peace of mind of people. Deafness and hypertension occur because of noise. In the location of settlements, amenities and services play an important part. For this reason, the settlements acquire certain services and amenities. But they normally depend on the size of settlement, population, their needs, income and the purchasing power of the population. There is in fact a theory that relates the importance of amenities and services. That is what is known as the ' central place theory'.
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