Compact Cities: Sustainable Urban Forms for Developing Countries

By Mike Jenks; Rod Burgess | Go to book overview

Anthony Gar-on Yeh and Xia Li

The Need for Compact Development in the Fast-Growing Areas of China:

The Pearl River Delta

Introduction

Urban forms in the West are under scrutiny after a century of dispersed urban development. It is often advocated that urban form should be more compact and humane, in contrast to the increasingly dispersed forms of metropolitan development (Bourne, 1992). There is evidence of a strong but complex link between urban form and sustainable development. Significant relationships have been found between energy use in transport and the physical characteristics of cities, such as density, size, and amount of open space (Banister et al., 1997). It has been argued that land development will bring about a series of costs that are related to the consumption of capital, resources and energy. It is also claimed that compact development will reduce development costs in providing infrastructure to new development sites as well as transportation costs. Compact urban form can be a major means of guiding urban development to sustainability, especially in reducing the negative effects of the present dispersed pattern of development in Western cities (Jenks et al., 1996).

Cities in developing countries are expanding very rapidly. Most of the development is in the form of urban sprawl at the fringe of the urban areas (Ginsburg et al., 1991). This urban sprawl has led to many environmental and transport problems and the loss of valuable agricultural land. The promotion of compact development could help to protect the loss of prime agricultural land, reduce development costs, save energy and promote more sustainable urban development.

The promotion of compact development has more important implications in China because of rapid rates of urbanisation as a result of its fast-growing economic development. Since the adoption of an open door policy and economic reforms in 1978, China has achieved spectacular progress in its economic development. However, rapid economic development and urbanisation have had significant impacts on China’s land resources, energy, environment and agricultural production, and have led to many resource and environmental problems (Muldavin, 1997; Ash and Edmonds, 1998). One of the most severe problems is the acceleration of

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