• A human settlement is defined as a place inhabited more or less permanently.
  • Human Settlement means cluster of dwellings of any type or size where human beings live.
  • There may be some settlements which are temporary and are occupied for short periods, may be a season



Types of Settlements

  1. Temporary settlements
  2. Rural settlements (Countryside)
    • Isolated building
    • Hamlet
    • Village
    • Small market town
  1. Permanent settlements
  2. Urban settlements (Towns and cities)
    • Larger industrial town
    • City
    • Conurbation and capital cities
  • It is widely accepted that settlements can be differentiated in terms of rural and urban, but there is no consensus on what exactly defines a village or a town. Although population size is an important criterion, it is not a universal criterion since many villages in densely populated countries of India and China have population exceeding that of some towns of Western Europe and United States.


Rural Settlements
  • Rural settlements are most closely and directly related to land.
  • They are dominated by primary activities such as agriculture, animal husbandry, fishing etc.
  • The rural settlements size is relatively small.


Types of Rural settlements

  • The sparsely located small settlements are called villages, specialising in agriculture or other primary activities.
  • Rural settlements in India can broadly be put into four types:


  • Rural Settlements
    1. Clustered
    2. Semi-clustered
    3. Hamleted
    4. Dispersed


Clustered Settlements (agglomerated or nucleated)

  • The clustered rural settlement is a compact or closely built up area of houses.
  • In this type of village, the general living area is distinct and separated from the surrounding farms, barns and pastures.
  • The closely built-up area and its intervening streets present some recognisable pattern or geometric shape
  • Such settlements are generally found in fertile alluvial plains and in the north eastern states. Sometimes develop along river valleys.
  • Communities are closely knit and share common occupations.


Semi-Clustered (or fragmented) Settlements

  • Semi-clustered or fragmented settlements may
  • result from tendency of clustering in a
  • restricted area of dispersed settlement.
  • More often such a pattern may also result from
  • segregation or fragmentation of a large compact village
  • Such settlements are widespread in the Gujarat plain and some parts of Rajasthan.


Hamleted Settlements

  • These units are locally called panna, para, palli, nagla, dhani, in various parts of the country.
  • This segmentation of a large village is often motivated by social and ethnic factors.


Dispersed (or isolated) Settlements

  • Dispersed or isolated settlement pattern in India appears in the form of isolated huts or hamlets of few huts in remote jungles or on small hills with farms or pasture on the slopes.
  • Many areas of Meghalaya, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh and Kerala have this type of settlement.
  • A cultural feature such as a place of worship or a market, binds the settlement together.


Factors affecting the location of rural settlements are:

  • Land: People choose to settle near fertile lands suitable for agriculture.
  • Upland: Upland which is not prone to flooding was chosen to prevent damage to houses and loss of life.
  • Defense: During the times of political instability, war, hostility of neighboring groups villages was built on defensive hills and islands.
  • Planned Settlements: Sites that are not spontaneously chosen by villagers themselves, planned settlements are constructed by governments by providing shelter, water and other infrastructures on acquired lands. The scheme of villagization in Ethiopia and the canal colonies in Indira Gandhi canal command area in India are some of good examples.


  • Water Supply
    • Usually rural settlements are located near water bodies such as rivers, lakes, and springs where water can be easily obtained.
    • Sometimes the need for water drives people to settle in otherwise disadvantaged sites such as islands surrounded by swamps or low-lying river banks.
    • Most water based ‘wet point’ settlements have many advantages such as water for drinking, cooking and washing.
    • Rivers and lakes can be used to irrigate farm land.
    • Water bodies also have fish which can be caught for diet and navigable rivers and lakes can be used for transportation.


  • Building Material
    • The availability of building materials- wood, stone near settlements is another advantage.
    • Early villages were built in forest clearings where wood was plentiful.



Patterns of Rural Settlement

  1. Linear pattern: In such settlement’s houses are located along a road, railway line, river, canal edge of a valley or along a levee.
  2. Rectangular pattern: Such patterns of rural settlements are found in plain areas or wide inter montane valleys. The roads are rectangular and cut each other at right angles.
  1. Circular pattern: Circular villages develop around lakes, tanks and sometimes the village is planned in such a way that the central part remains open and is used for keeping the animals to protect them from wild animals.
  2. Star like pattern: Where several roads converge, star shaped settlements develop by the houses built along the roads.
  3. T-shaped, Y-shaped, Cross-shaped or cruciform settlements: T-shaped settlements develop at tri-junctions of the roads. While Y-shaped settlements emerge as the places where two roads converge on the third one and houses are built along these roads. Cruciform settlements develop on the cross-roads and houses extend in all the four direction.
  4. Double village: These settlements extend on both sides of a river where there is a bridge or a ferry.


Problems of Rural Settlements:

  • Rural settlements in the developing countries are large in number and poorly equipped with infrastructure. They represent a great challenge and opportunity for planners.
  • Supply of water to rural settlements in developing countries is not adequate. People in villages, particularly in mountainous and arid areas have to walk long distances to fetch drinking water. Water borne diseases such as cholera and jaundice tend to be a common problem.
  • The countries of South Asia face conditions of drought and flood very often.
  • Crop cultivation sequences, in the absence of irrigation, also suffer.
  • The general absence of toilet and garbage disposal facilities cause health related problems.
  • The houses made up of mud, wood and thatch, remain susceptible to damage during heavy rains and floods, and require proper maintenance every year. Most house designs are typically deficient in proper ventilation.
  • Unmetalled roads and lack of modern communication network creates a unique problem. During rainy season, the settlements remain cut off and pose serious difficulties in providing emergency services.
  • It is also difficult to provide adequate health and educational infrastructure for their large rural population.


  • The definition of urban areas varies from one country to another.
  • Urban settlements are generally compact and larger in size than rural settlements.
  • They are engaged in a variety of non- agricultural, economic and administrative functions.


  • Urban settlements are classified as following:

  • Classification of Urban Settlements
    1. On Basis Of Age
    2. On Basis Of Population
    3. On Basis Of Functions
    4. On Basis of Forms






Ancient Towns


·        Many Indian towns are more than a thousand years old. These towns developed as religious or cultural centres.

·        For example, Varanasi, Prayagraj, Madurai and Patna (ancient Pataliputra).


In India, towns with population of 1,00,000 and above are called cities.



Medieval Towns


·        Developed in medieval times, these are fort towns which were developed by medieval kingdoms.

·        For example, Lucknow, Agra, Hyderabad etc.













Modern Towns


·        These are the towns developed by the British and other European powers in India and the towns established after independence.

·        Europeans developed their coastal port towns, administrative centres and hill stations. These include the coastal towns and ports of Surat, Bombay, Daman, Goa and Puducherry etc. and hill stations of Shimla, Mussoorie, Dalhousie etc.

·        They also added new civil and military areas to the already existing towns like cantonment areas in many cities.

·        After independence, a large number of towns have been developed as administrative headquarters, e.g., Chandigarh, Bhubaneswar, Gandhinagar, Dispur, etc., and industrial centres, such as Durgapur, Bhilai, Sindri, Barauni.

·        Some old towns also developed as satellite towns around metropolitan cities, such as Ghaziabad, Rohtak, Gurugram around Delhi.


  • Census of India classifies urban centres into six classes on basis of population size.
  • Class I towns have about 60% of total urban population.
  1. Class I towns – >1,00,000 population
  2. Class II towns – 50,000 – 99,999
  3. Class III towns – 20,000 – 49,999
  4. Class IV towns – 10,000 – 19,999
  5. Class V towns – 5000 – 9,999
  6. Class VI towns – < 5,000
  • Cities accommodating population size between one to five million are called metropolitan cities and more than five million are called mega cities.
  • Majority of metropolitan and mega cities are urban agglomerations.


Class Population Size Number Of Cities Total Urban Population (in thousand) % of Total Urban Population
I 100000 and more 468 227899 60.45
II 50000-99999 474 41328 10.96
III 20000-49999 1373 58174 15.43
IV 10000-19999 1683 31866 8.45
V 5000-9999 1749 15883 4.21
VI Less than 5000 424 1956 0.51



  • Administrative Towns: Towns supporting administrative headquarters of higher order are administrative towns, such as Chandigarh, New Delhi, Bhopal, Shillong, Guwahati, Imphal, Srinagar, Gandhinagar, Jaipur, Chennai, etc
Urban Agglomeration: An urban agglomeration may consist of any one of the following three combinations:

  1. A town and its adjoining urban outgrowths,
  2. Two or more contiguous towns with or without their outgrowths,
  3. A city and one or more adjoining towns with their outgrowths together forming a contiguous spread.
  • Industrial Towns: Industries constitute prime motive force of these cities, such as Mumbai, Salem, Coimbatore, Modinagar, Jamshedpur, Hugli, Bhilai, etc.
  • Transport Cities: They may be ports primarily engaged in export and import activities such as Kandla, Kochchi, Kozhikode, Vishakhapatnam, etc., or hubs of inland transport, such as Agra, Dhulia, Mughalsarai, Itarsi, Katni, etc.
  • Mining Towns: These towns have developed in mineral rich areas such as Raniganj, Jharia, Digboi, Ankaleshwar, Singrauli, etc.
  • Cantonment Towns: These towns emerged as garrisson towns such as Ambala, Mhow, Babina, Jalandhar, Udhampur, etc.
  • Educational Towns: Starting as centres of education, some of the towns have grown into major campus towns, such as Roorki, Varanasi, Aligarh, Pilani, Allahabad, etc.
  • Religious & Cultural Towns: Varanasi, Mathura, Amritsar, Madurai, Puri, Ajmer, Pushkar, Tirupati, Kurukshetra, Haridwar, Ujjain came to prominence due to their religious/cultural significance.
  • Tourist Towns: Nainital, Mussoorie, Shimla, Pachmarhi, Jodhpur, Jaisalmer, Udagamandalam (Ooty), Mount Abu are some of the tourist destinations.
Sub Urbanisation

It is a new trend of people moving away from congested urban areas to cleaner areas outside the city in search of a better quality of living. Important suburbs develop around major cities and everyday thousands of people commute from their homes in the suburbs to their work places in the city.


  • 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.
  • Towns and cities of developed and developing countries reflect marked differences in planning and development. While most cities in developed countries are planned, most urban settlements of developing countries have evolved historically with irregular shapes. For example, Chandigarh and Canberra are planned cities, while smaller town in India have evolved historically from walled cities to large urban sprawls.



Addis Ababa (The New Flower)

  • The name of Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa, as the name indicates (Addis-New, Ababa -Flower) is a ‘new’ city which was established in 1878.


Addis Ababa city

  • The whole city is located on a hill-valley topography. The road pattern bears the influence of the local topography. The roads radiate from the govt headquarters Piazza, Arat and Amist Kilo roundabouts. Mercato has markets which grew with time and is supposed to be the largest market between Cairo and Johannesburg. A multi-faculty university, a medical college, a number of good schools make Addis Ababa an educational centre.
  • It is also the terminal station for the Djibouti-Addis Ababa rail route. Bole airport is a relatively new airport. The city has witnessed rapid growth because of its multi- functional nature and being a large nodal centre located in the centre of Ethiopia.



  • Canberra was planned as the capital of Australia in 1912 by American landscape architect, Walter Burley Griffin. He had envisaged a garden city for about 25,000 people taking into account the natural features of the landscape. There were to be five main centres, each with separate city functions.



                                                Canberra city

  • During the last few decades, the city has expanded to accommodate several satellite towns, which have their own centres. The city has wide-open spaces and many parks and gardens.


According to WHO, “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.


Types of Urban Settlements:

  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.
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 kilometres are urban.
  1. City: A city may be regarded as a leading town, which has outstripped its local or regional rivals. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Million plus cities: According to the 2011 census, there were 46 million-plus cities in India, with Mumbai, Delhi and Kolkata having populations over 10 million.


Problems of Urban Settlements

  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
  1. 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.
  1. Environmental Problem:
    • Vulnerability to risk posed by the increasing man-made and natural disasters. According to UNDP, 70 % of Indian population is at risk to floods and 60% susceptible to earthquakes.
    • The risk is higher in urban areas owing to density and overcrowding. Urban areas are becoming heat islands, ground water is not being recharged and water crisis is persistent. Here making, water harvesting compulsory will be beneficial
    • Environmental concerns such as urban areas becoming heat islands, rising air pollution, groundwater pollution and persistent water crisis.