Hierarchy of Urban Settlements – UPSC

In this article, You will read Hierarchy of Urban Settlements – for UPSC (Settlement Geography – Geography Optional).

Hierarchy of Urban Settlements

The concept of the Urban System was introduced by Brian J.L. Berry (1964) in his noteworthy work “Cities as systems within systems of cities”.

Urban places do not exist in isolation. There is a whole series of different types of relationships between separate towns and cities and we use the term urban system to indicate that the individual urban centers are linked to each other. An urban system is defined as any network of interdependent urban places.

The urban hierarchy concept considers that the urban places vary in population sizes and economic functions.

The analysis of urban hierarchy mainly relates to the ranked order of cities based on different criteria, such as population size, economic power, retail sales, and the number of industrial workers.

The hierarchy of urban settlements is arranging them vertically from top to bottom based on the size of the urban population. Classification is done according to 3 criteria:

  1. Size of the population,
  2. Functions performed
  3. Sphere of influence,

Hierarchy Based on Size or Services

If we group and classify a number of settlements according to their size and shape, the result is settlement hierarchy. Settlements gradually evolve from rural to semi-urban and to urban.

As you move up the hierarchy, the size of the settlement and the distance between similar-sized settlements increase. As you can see from the diagram below, there are more cities than conurbations, more towns than cities, and more villages than towns.

The number of services that a settlement provides increases with settlement size.

Small settlements will only provide low-order services such as post offices, doctors, and newsagents. Large towns, cities, and conurbations will provide low and high-order services such as leisure centers, chain stores, and hospitals.

Larger settlements and conurbations have a much larger sphere of influence than smaller ones. This means they attract people from a wider area because of the facilities they offer. Cities such as London have a global sphere of influence, whereas a small hamlet or village may only have a sphere of influence of a couple of kilometers.

Hierarchy of Urban Settlements
Hierarchy Based on Size or Services
Settlement hierarchies
Settlement hierarchy
  • Polis is a successful village(town) that has just become an urban center.
  • Eopolis, as Polis grows and develops into a bigger town.
  • Metropolis, not just one city with contiguous towns, cities, and conurbations made up of villages, economically and socially integrated with strong functional linkages.
  • Tyrranopolis is where life becomes miserable due to inadequate services and civic amenities.
  • Nekropolis is where cities are abandoned turned into ‘ghost cities’, deurbanization takes place.
  • Megalopolis is a chain of urban cities/centers, a characteristic feature of the USA(Philadelphia-New york-Boston), Japan(6 million-plus cities Tokyo, Osaka, Kobe, etc.,)
  • In India potential of Megalopolis between Mumbai-Ahmedabad encompassing Surat, Vadodara, Anand, etc.,
  • Read this article to understanding definitions of these terminologies: Rural & Urban settlement
  • Also read Rupa Made Simple Economic and Social Geog: Page no. 223

Hierarchy Based on Administrative Regions

Hierarchy Based on Administrative Regions

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