1. A human settlement is defined as a place inhabited more or less permanently. The houses may be designed or redesigned, buildings may be altered, functions may change but settlement continues in time and space.
  2. The census of India, 1991 defines urban settlements as ―All places which have municipality, corporation, cantonment board or notified town area committee and have a minimum population of 5000 persons, at least 75 per cent of male workers are engaged in non-agricultural pursuits and a density of population of at least 400 persons per square kilometers are urban


3. Settlements may also be classified by their shape, patterns types.

  1. Compact or Nucleated settlements: These settlements are those in which large number of houses are built very close to each other. Such settlements develop along river valleys and in fertile plains. Communities are closely knit and share common occupations 
  2. Dispersed Settlements: In these settlements, houses are spaced far apart and often interspersed with fields. A cultural feature such as a place of worship or a market, binds the settlement together.

Rural Settlements

4. Rural settlements are most closely and directly related to land. They are dominated by primary activities such as agriculture, animal husbandary, fishing etc.

Factors affecting the location of rural settlements are

  1. Water Supply
  2. Land
  3. Upland-which is not prone to flooding was chosen to prevent damage to houses and loss of life.
  4. Building Material- The availability of building materials- wood, stone near settlements is another advantage 
  5. Defence -During the times of political instability, war, hostility of neighbouring groups villages were built on defensive hills and islands
  6. Planned Settlements

Rural Settlement Patterns

5. Patterns of rural settlements reflect the way the houses are sited in relation to each other. The site of the village, the surrounding topography and terrain influence the shape and size of a village.

6. Rural settlements may be classified on the basis of a number of criteria

  1. On the basis of setting: The main types are plain villages, plateau villages, coastal villages, forest villages and desert villages.
  2. On the basis of functions: There may be farming villages, fishermens villages, lumberjack villages, pastoral villages etc.
  3. On the basis of forms or shapes of the settlements: These may be a number of geometrical forms and shapes such as Linear, rectangular, circular star like, T-shaped village, double village, cross-shaped village etc.

Classification of Urban Settlements

  • Some of the common basis of classification are size of population, occupational structure and administrative setup.

1. Population Size

  • It is an important criteria used by most countries to define urban areas. The lower limit of the population size for a settlement to be designated as urban 5,000 in India and 30,000 in Japan. 
  • density of 400 persons per sq km and share of non-agricultural workers are taken into consideration in India. 

2. Occupational Structure

  • In some countries, such as India, the major economic activities in addition to the size of the population in designating a settlement as urban are also taken as a criterion. In India a settlement is called urban, if more than 75 per cent of its economically productive population is engaged in non-agricultural pursuits.

3. Administration

  • The administrative setup is a criterion for classifying a settlement as urban in some countries. For example, in India, a settlement of any size is classified as urban, if it has a municipality, Cantonment Board or Notified Area Council.

Administrative Towns

  • National capitals, which house the administrative offices of central governments, such as New Delhi, Canberra, Beijing, Addis Ababa, Washington D.C., and London etc. are called administrative Town.

Trading and Commercial Towns

  • Agricultural market towns, such as, Winnipeg and Kansas city; banking and financial centres like Frankfurt and Amsterdam; large inland centres like Manchester and St Louis; and transport nodes such as, Lahore, Baghdad and Agra have been important trading centres.

Cultural Towns

  • Places of pilgrimage, such as Jerusalem, Mecca, Jagannath Puri and Varanasi etc. are considered cultural towns. These urban centres are of great religious importance


  • An urban settlement may be linear, square, star or crescent shaped. In fact, the form of the settlement, architecture and style of buildings and other structures are an outcome of its historical and cultural traditions.

Types of Urban Settlements 

  • Depending on the size and the services available and functions rendered, urban centres are designated as town, city, million city, conurbation, megalopolis.

1. Town

  • The concept of town can best be understood with reference to village‘. Population size is not the only criterion. Functional contrasts between towns and villages may not always be clear – cut, but specific functions such as, manufacturing, retail and wholesale trade, and professional services exist in towns.

2. City

  • A city may be regarded as a leading town, which has outstripped its local or regional rivals. In the words of Lewis Mumford, ― the city is in fact the physical form of the highest and most complex type of associative life. Cities are much larger than towns and have a greater number of economic functions. They tend to have transport terminals, major financial institutions and regional administrative offices. When the population crosses the one million mark it is designated as a million city.

3. Conurbation

  • The term conurbation was coined by Patrick Geddes in 1915 and applied to a large area of urban development that resulted from the merging of originally separate towns or cities. Greater London, Manchester, Chicago and Tokyo are examples. 

4. Megalopolis

  • This Greek word meaning ―great city‖, was popularised by Jean Gottman (1957) and signifies ‗super- metropolitan‘ region extending as union of conurbations. The urban landscape stretching from Boston in the north to south of Washington in U.S.A. is the best known example of a megalopolis

5. Million City

Problems of Human Settlements in Developing Countries

1. Economic Problems-

  • The decreasing employment opportunities in the rural as well as smaller urban areas of the developing countries consistently push the population to the urban areas.
  • The enormous migrant population generates a pool of un- skilled and semi-skilled labour force, which is already saturated in urban areas.

2. Socio-cultural Problems 

  • Cities in the developing countries suffer from several social ills. Insufficient financial resources fail to create adequate social infrastructure catering to the basic needs of the huge population.
  • The available educational and health facilities remain beyond the reach of the urban poor. 
  • Health indices also, present a gloomy picture in cities of developing countries.
  • Lack of employment and education tends to aggravate the crime rates. Male selective migration to the urban areas distorts the sex ratio in these cities.

3. Environmental Problems

What is a Healthy City? 

  • World Health Organisation (WHO) suggests that, among other things, a healthy city must have:
  • A Clean and Safe environment.
  • Meets the Basic Needs of All‘ its inhabitants. 
  • Involves the Community in local government. 
  • Provides easily accessible Health‘ service.

Urban Strategy

  • United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has outlined these priorities as part of its Urban Strategy‘. 
  1. Increasing Shelter for the urban poor.
  2. Provision of basic urban services such as  Education,  Primary Health care,  Clean Water and Sanitation. 
  3. Improving women‘s access to Basic Services and government facilities.
  4. Upgrading Energy use and alternative Transport systems.
  5. Reducing Air Pollution

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