Urban Change: Opportunities and Challenges

This GCSE Geography quiz looks at the opportunities and challenges of urban change. Urbanisation is the migration of people from rural areas to urban areas. It is occurring globally and gives rise to many opportunities and challenges. In MEDCs, about three-quarters of the population lives in a town or city but in LEDCs, the figure is less than half. Urbanisation can offer a better quality of life to rural inhabitants, but that doesn't always happen.

One of the main reasons for urbanisation is the population increase. Since the middle of the twentieth century, the world population has increased by nearly a billion every 10 years. Before 1950, the world's major cities were almost all in MEDCs, but that has changed. As populations in LEDCs have boomed, a large proportion of the rural population has migrated to cities looking for work, a better standard of living and a more reliable food supply.

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There are other reasons for the growth of urban populations such as better healthcare in cities giving a lower infant mortality and greater life expectancy.

As a city grows, it offers some major challenges, one of which is traffic congestion. This then leads to increased pollution and a shortage of adequate parking places in the city centre. City centres usually developed before the existence of motor vehicles, so the roads are not really suited to cars, vans, buses and lorries. In LEDCs, local and national government does not have the money to spend on urban infrastructure so the over-used roads are in a state of disrepair. In MEDCs, city authorities are introducing some form of traffic management scheme - park and ride, vehicle exclusion zones, charging to use the city centre, banning diesel powered cars and even providing electric bikes for people to borrow. In LEDCs, there is less money available to spend on developing these schemes.

It's not just traffic issues that cause problems as urban centres change and develop, the increasing demand for housing is an issue. In the UK, building new, affordable housing is expensive. Much development takes place on the urban-rural fringe as that is where land is more readily available. When urban renewal became necessary in British cities, originally it consisted of knocking down old houses and building new ones. This has now changed and the authorities renovate old houses where possible. This helps to retain the community spirit. In LEDCs, where the authorities choose to do something about it, they flatten slum areas and rebuild. This tends to lose the community spirit but improves general welfare.

Rapid urbanisation in LEDCs leads to the development of settlements called shanty towns. The migrants either cannot afford housing in the city or cannot find anywhere to live. Shanty town housing is built illegally, from scrap materials, is overcrowded and does not usually benefit from sanitation, clean water or refuse collection services.

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  1. Which of the following is one way that MEDCs deal with housing shortages in their cities?
    Rural to urban migration is much less in MEDCs
  2. Which of the following statements is correct?
    Since 1950, the urban population in LEDCs has increased by a factor of about 5. Taken over the same time period, the urban population in MEDCs has only increased by a factor of two i.e. it has doubled
  3. Which of the following is not a city-centre traffic management scheme for urban areas in MEDCs?
    Bus lanes can also be used by taxis and cyclists which encourages people to leave their cars at home and travel into the city centre using other means of transport
  4. Which of the following is NOT a cause of traffic congestion in a MEDC city?
    Traffic congestion increases pollution, increases the carbon footprint of a city, costs extra money for motorists stuck in traffic and wastes a lot of time. Many cities in both MEDCs and LEDCs are introducing traffic management schemes
  5. A megacity is an urban area with a population of over ten million people. Which of the following statements about megacities is NOT true?
    Other issues that all megacities have in common are food and energy supplies and traffic congestion
  6. In which of the following countries would you be least likely to see a shanty town development?
    Shanty towns are features of many cities in LEDCs and NICs because rural to urban migration is very high
  7. Why is building affordable homes in cities difficult?
    These factors make housing development an expensive business and migrants arriving in the city may not be able to afford somewhere to live
  8. Which of the following does not give local authorities an opportunity to reduce the carbon footprint of their town or city?
    New houses or renovated older houses can be built to be more energy efficient. Biodiesel can reduce CO2 emissions by more than 10%. Congestion charging encourages people to use public transport instead of driving into the city. Building new shopping centres on the edge of an urban area can increase car use
  9. Traffic congestion, industrial decline and housing shortages are issues in MEDCs and LEDCs. Why has this become worse since the end of the Second World War?
    Improved healthcare has reduced infant mortality and extended life expectancy
  10. Which of the following is NOT a reason for rural to urban migration?
    Poverty, political disturbance and armed conflict are all push factors, a better standard of living is a pull factor. Other factors include climate change making subsistence farming even less productive or even a natural disaster

Author: Kev Woodward

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