Environmental Science Suburban Sprawl Problems and Solutions Term Paper

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Environmental Science

Suburban Sprawl: Problems and Solutions

The objective of this work is to discuss the cost and benefits of low density suburban development and to who it is that gains and loses.

Low density urban sprawl was seen as the answer to housing the growth urban population in both Australia and USA cities. However, this has proven to be untrue and the facts speak quite differently. Health problems are many in these areas perpetuated by the crowding and increased use of automobile as a form of travel.

Urban sprawl can be defined as: "Sprawl is the spreading out of a city and its suburbs over more and more rural land at the periphery of an urban area. This involves the conversion of open space (rural land) into built-up, developed land over time."(Numbers USA, 2005)

Research establishes that urban sprawl is linked to less walking and riding of bicycles and the denser the community the more automobile travel is relied upon. Lower levels of physical activity are stated to be a threat to health in ways that are both direct and indirect. (Urban Sprawl and Public Health, 2002)

Another aspect of health associated risks connected to urban sprawl is water quality. According to the publication "Urban Sprawl and Public Health" (2002)

: "Sprawl may threaten both the quality and the quantity of the water supply." The ways that the water quality is affected is through pollution from factories, sewage treatment plants and other such facilities as well as through contamination by fertilizer, herbicides and insecticides as well as oil, grease and toxic chemicals that come from roadways and parking lots. Furthermore the urban heat can be a real problem with the temperature over the urban area being may rise many degrees higher than the temperature in outlying rural areas. The heat itself creates health problems and hazards from lesser hazards to heat stroke.

According to the work entitled "Potential for Smart Growth Services and Technology Transfer in Emerging Markets"

stated is that, "Rapid urbanization in the developing world means more people than ever will be living and working in cities. Today cities harbor approximately 34% of the world's 6 billion inhabitants. Estimates suggest that by 2050 the world's population will be approximately 10 billion, 60% of all people will live in cities and there will be an increasing number of cities with more than 10 million inhabitants, i.e. megacities." Therefore the primary challenge for the future will be to manage the development of these cities so that resources are not depleted yet economic growth is enabled in a way that the standard of living will be suitable for humans insofar as the health and environment standards are concerned.


One major problem is the fact that "many national continue to rely heavily upon oil imports resulting in trade deficits and energy security risks." (Potential for $mart Growth Services and Technology Transfer in Emerging Markets, 2005)

Furthermore, "millions of people live in urban areas with air considered unhealthy by international standards." (Ibid) This is "despite intensive pollution control efforts." (Ibid) Lastly, "lack of public transport for low-income earners who cannot afford a car hinders economic and community development efforts and social equity goals."(Ibid) Another stated problem of urban sprawl is that due to the "sprawl" many of the developments such as commercial center, office parks, residential areas and shopping malls are too far away from each other and also not connected to the public transportation system. All of this only perpetuates the problem through traffic congestion, increasing traffic which has not end in sight and the resulting air and water pollution that is being witnessed. The poor disproportionately are left behind when jobs are outsourced from the cities and the result is a state of poverty combined with resulting health problems being concentrated in the inner city areas and this is known to contribute to the spread of disease and to mortality. Insofar as costs are concerned the following is stated:

'Many studies of the cost of development exaggerate the effects of suburbanization on local government costs. Most costs are recovered through on-site improvements made by developers. Local governments often do make conscious policy decisions not to recover the full costs of development, when officials and voters decide for one reason or another to subsidize development through general revenues. The evidence is mixed on infrastructure costs and whether low-density development causes them to increase. While some infrastructure costs (street maintenance, for example) fall as density increases, as…[continue]

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