In this article, You will read Types of Rural Settlement – for UPSC IAS (Geography).

Types of Rural Settlement

  • Rural Settlement types are a measurement of social gregariousness as well as geo-climatic conditions and land capability. The land capability is directly proportional to nucleation.
  • Rural settlement type refers to the nucleation of houses or villages in the rural landscape consisting of villages, agricultural lands, and pasture lands.
  • Rural Settlement types reflect the spacing of houses or their arrangement in terms of geometrical proximity over the rural landscape.
  • Rural settlement type is understood by statistical analysis using the following two approaches:
    • Nearest neighbour approach
    • Coefficient of dispersal method

QuestionPresent with a sketch diagram(s) the major rural settlement type with example.

Nearest neighbour approach

  • In this approach, the degree of nucleation will be presented through an index value.
  • It refers to the spacing between either houses or villages over the rural landscape.

Calculation of Index value

Rn is the index value which is derived from the formula

Rn = 2d√(n/A)


Rn – Index value
d = distance between either houses or villages
n = number of houses or villages
a = total Area of the given landscape under consideration

Value of Rn and Rural settlement type
Types of Rural Settlement

Coefficient of dispersal method

  • Calculation of settlement type through this method is given below
Coefficient of dispersal method
  • Above method signifies that greater the value of ‘C’ greater the dispersed settlement.

Based on above analysis, there are three types of settlement

  1. Nucleated/clustered
  2. Semi nucleated/ semi clustered
  3. Dispersed
three types of Rural settlement

Nucleated/clustered rural type

  • These are concentrated, fused, and compact type settlements.
  • The rural houses or villages over the landscape have a high degree of nucleation. Here ‘Rn’ is less than 1.
  • The nucleated settlements have closely packed structures with little or no gap in between.
  • Determinants of nucleation
    • Site factors: The settlement near water bodies, fertile tracts will be high in comparison to other areas.
    • High land capability: In order to utilize the potential of land, the settlement over the land with high capability would be nucleated with high population density.
    • Hydrology:
      • Wet point settlements: The settlement around well, ponds, lakes, etc. would be nucleated for utilization of water resources.
      • Drypoint settlement: Settlement around water bodies (Oasis) in dry or desert areas will be nucleated.
    • Defense: Nucleated settlements provide a defense to the community living in close proximity and surrounded by a common boundary in order to protect them from the common enemy (e.g. tribal community make fences around their settlement to protect them from wild animals)
    • Historical continuity: The settlement of a place becomes nucleated due to an increase in the population of that place over time. The continued increase in population leads to the high degree of nucleation.
    • Customs, beliefs, religious traits, caste: People of the same caste, following the same customs and traditions prefer to live at the same place which leads to the formation of nucleated settlements.
    • Homogeneous ethnicity: The people with common ethnicity prefer to live at commonplace leading to nucleated settlement. Example China Town in Kolkata.
  • Generally, a community place such as a religious building, pond, etc. forms the nucleus around which other rural structures expand.
Nucleated clustered rural type

Distribution of nucleated settlements:

  • Nucleated settlements are widely found in productive alluvial plains.
    • The need for cooperation in agricultural activities like a tilting of land, borrowing of agricultural implements, etc. brings the farmer communities together.
    • Uniform relief leads to similarities in lifestyles which foster a sense of brotherhood.
    • This is further strengthened by socio-economic bonds formed due to class, kinship, and other linkages. E.g. Indo-Gangetic plains, Nile valley, Huwang Ho valley, etc.
  • Hunting and fishing communities:
    • Hunting and fishing require collective effort in making, marinating, and handling fishing boats.
    • It requires cooperation, management and thus compactness is needed.
    • It is observed among American Red Indians, along Brahmaputra, Hooghly river valleys.
  • Security:
    • The need to defend against wild animals, common enemies leads to the formation of compact or nucleated settlements. Example: Forests and valleys of Shiwalik, western and eastern India, Rajasthan, Punjab, Bundelkhand, etc.
    • Compact settlements are found on hilltops and ridges in Nagaland for protection against invasion of head hunters.
  • Scarcity of resource:
    • When the resources of an area are poor and scanty, the compactness of a settlement enables the maximum utilization of resources.
    • For example, people in arid region settle around the area with water resources such as Oasis (in Sahara, Rajasthan)
Distribution of nucleated settlements

Distribution of nucleated settlement in India:

  • In India, the practice of intensive agriculture leads to the emergence of compact settlements. For example, Purvas and Majras in the Ganga plains are examples of settlements due to intensive agriculture.
  • Planned villages in newly irrigated areas of Ferozpur in Punjab and Ganganagar in Rajasthan are also examples of the emergence of compact settlements due to intensive agriculture.
  • Market place, shops, religious places are always near the center which is densely populated.
  • High degree of segregation on the caste line can be found in rural areas with compact settlement types.

Most of the world’s settlement is compact in nature. For example Northern Plains in India, cultivable tracts of E. China, Egypt, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Mexico, North West European Plains, Kenya.

Semi-compact/Semi nucleated settlements

  • In rural areas with poor land capability, the rural landscape consists of the houses which are clustered in hamlets
  • Here, large land areas need to be cultivated to support small human groups and to avoid the travel distance and to save on time, energy, there is diffusion and dispersal of population
  • Here, ‘Rn’ is between 1.5 to 2.5
Semi compact Semi nucleated settlements
  • The hydrology of the area with a dispersed settlement type is poor.
  • The area under dispersed settlement type is in a transitional phase in the growth of the compact settlement.
  • With increasing population and adoption of new technologies, the scattered settlements starts taking the shape of semi-compact settlements.
  • Examples of semi-compact settlements are
    • East of Aravallis in Rajasthan
    • Hilly tracts of Madhya Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Manipur, Mizoram, Tripura, the valley of Brahmaputra.
    • Malwa plateau
    • Bundelkhand plateau
    • Drier parts of Deccan plateau.

Dispersed or scattered settlements

  • Villages having dispersed or scattered settlements have farmstead scattered over a much wider area. It reflects poor hydrology and land capability.
  • ‘Rn’ for this type of settlement is greater than 2.5.
  • Number of houses per unit area in these types of settlements is very low and there is a wide gap between the houses.
  • Such Rural Settlements are the characteristics of deserts/semi-arid land with poor land capability or regions affected by natural hazards.
  • Such villages are common in:
    • Areas of extreme climate
    • Hilly tracts
    • Deserts
    • Thick forests
    • Grasslands
    • Areas of extensive agriculture.
    • Poor agriculture land
    • Areas where it is essential for farmers to live on agricultural land rather than distant village settlement
  • The dispersed Rural Settlements are usually of recent age since people are moving away from dense settlements in the search of new spaces. With the development of technology, people have found a way to live in deserts also.
    • Steppe grasslands on the east of the Urals in Uzbekistan, Russia came into being during the late 19th century. Similarly, dispersed settlements are found in extensive agricultural regions of Prairies (US, Canada), Pampas of Argentina, Downs of Australia, etc.
    • Semi-desert regions of Rajasthan, forest lands of North East India, Shiwaliks, Jammu, and Kashmir, and parts of Peninsular India also have dispersed types of settlements.
    • Dispersed type of settlements is also found in underpopulated areas of northern Canada, Central Australia, Scandinavian countries and the Western USA.
    • Some areas with productive land and good climate also have these settlements, mainly due to historical or socio-cultural reasons. E.g. when an overcrowded part population leaves the village to develop a new settlement, often a dispersed one. Such settlements can be observed in the Northern plains in between two large compact settlements.
    • Similarly, when people move into marshy lands, Khadar tracts, or marginal upland farms, then they need a larger area for sustenance (isolated farms).
    • The Western Ghats in the rain shadow area, Leh-Ladhak, Kutchh, and Western Rajasthan has dispersed settlement types
Dispersed or scattered settlements

Rural settlement forms

  • Farmstead
    • It includes a cluster of 2 to 3 houses.
    • The regions having farmstead are the regions of extensive agriculture.
    • Examples- Temperate grassland, Prairies, Downs.
  • Hamlet
    • It includes cluster of 7 to 9 houses
    • It signifies poor land capability, low population density.
    • It is found in Rajasthan, UK, Scotland
  • Village
    • It includes a cluster of more than 10 houses.

Classification of villages

  • Pura:
    • The place where a habitat had been in ancient days and where chief habitats are all around or nearby areas is called Pura. These villages have great historical continuity.
    • This habitat is the nucleus of the area.
  • Khas
    • It is also called as Sadate.
    • It is the central village that was the center of revenue collection in medieval times.
  • Kalan
    • Kalan are the larger villages with huge clusters of houses.
    • The word Kalan is used for large villages and used at the end of the name of the village i.e. Bound Kalan. People of several classes and castes live in such villages.
  • Khurd
    • Khurd villages are a small cluster of houses.
    • This word is used for small villages
  • Khera
    • This word is used for small colonies and also for the higher land of the village. Khera has great social value for the village community because almost all the shows such as Ramlila Nautanki, etc. take place here.
    • In some areas, the word Khera is used for those places where the rums of an ancient fort are found.
  • Nanglay
    • It comprises a group of small villages where one village is surrounded by several satellite villages.

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Excellent notes for geography optional….thank you sir

Biswaranjan Biswal

Forever grateful for your selfless service. 🙏🏻