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Adopting Changes With Environmental Problems In A Modern Day City

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How Do To Changes with Environmental Problems in a Modern Day City?




The word ‘city’ is always been associated with planning, a habitat which offers more comfortable living than the rural areas. Urban planning is related to the planning permission, usage of environment, public welfare, and protection of environment as well as proper design of environment of an urban city (Mumford 1979).A city is also about a better communication system through a developed distribution networks and transportation (Hall 2014). The outline of the project deals with elevated drainage system of the ancient sights, the drainage and sanitation problem in the cities of Europe in the 17th and 18th century, the strategies applied and inventions for helping the situation. It also deals with the arrival of air air pollution in the industrial England in the second half of 19th century and the deliberate use of bicycles and pollution free vehicles to limit global warming and enhance better quality of air to breathe in.

Thesis statement

This purpose of this assignment is a discussion on the impact of environmental concerns on the history of urban planning and how these environmental concerns affected the urban planning. Over the years, urban population has considerably increased because of the availability of jobs and better facilities of living but along with this, the environmental problems have created havoc crises through this development. Humans have also invented and developed new ideas and technologies to overcome such situations.


Urban planning and environment concern:

The environmental problems like sanitation and water supply in the Middle Ages and in the eighteenth and nineteenth century cities and deforestation, air and water pollution. The discussion of urban planning and its enhancement with time according to the environmental crisis can only be understood if analysed for its genesis. The idea is to analyse the environmental problems and offered solutions by great experts in the history of urban planning. Owens argues that the entire world population is primarily divided into two parts across all continents and nations, rural and urban.  Cities are artificial structures in the preexisting natural world. An urban life defines higher standard of living in terms of all basic amenities (Owens 1991).

On the other hand, Hall states that thousands of cities have been eradicated, thousands been destroyed and demolished by foreign invasions, plagues or natural disasters; humans have risen above all to build bigger cities, which resulted into increase in urban population. Huge floods and earthquakes have caused eradication of several ancient urban civilizations according to various eminent historians. The ancient cities in Mesopotamia, Harappa, Egypt and Greece were mostly dependent on agriculture. The issues like deforestation and pollution never was a matter of concern in the ancient times. In that, period urban life developed with the sustenance of nature and not through the obliteration of it (Hall 1997). During the fourth millennium, B.C. there was an urgency of the "urban revolution". The cities were built around a large running water body for several reasons. A running water body like a sea, river or an ocean ensures connectivity, water and a constant source of food (fish and shells and others). The cities like Babylon, Benaras or Athens were all built with this basic ideal structure.

Owens mentions in his book that ancient civilizations like Maya and Inca had several communal waste burning activities in order to control the waste. The Greek and Roman cities also had several such communal festivals to for managing waste. Moreover, the controlled use of natural resources and reuse of metals and wool checked the rise in waste problems in city life in ancient period (Owens 1991). The idea of controlling the activities of a small mass of population in the early days of civilization was easier then.

On the other hand, Bell and his brother states that the idea of sanitation must have faded with time in Europe. There are different types of diversity in the formation of urban city in the medieval period (1000-1500 C.E); small towns and cities were mostly mothered by a bishop’s see As stated by religious elements had been remained a crucial element throughout the history of urbanization(Bell and Bell 1972).

If the idea of urban planning can be classified into two parts, before and after industrialization, the first period dealt with the problems of sanitation and drainage whereas the next period mainly deals with air pollution. A.E.J Morris discusses five thousand years of urban activity in his book, “History of Urban Form before the Industrial Revolution”. He mentions the unorganized growth of different cities, which is impossible to be controlled by any authority (Morris 2013). The unorganized or unplanned cities in the country grow limitlessly in different directions and by illegal means. This kind of extensive growth of a city might cause several environmental issues.

According to Benevolo, basic environmental crisis in these cities was waste management and sanity. Most of these European cities had dirty streets and most of the people only had two pairs of clothes. According to great thinkers, these problems caused huge sanitation problems in those cities. The waste were either thrown in the city streets or into the river. This constantly played a catalyst in the increase in the number of rats in the cities. Hence, the plagues were a common problem in the medieval times. The European outbreak of plagues from Genoa, Venice to London, from 1300’s to the 17th century is a known fact. These great plagues were the source of thousands of death around Europe (Benevolo 1980).

Ashworth mentions in his book that until, the heavy industrialization of countries like England and Germany the rise of population was never been observed as a problem in human civilization. However, this is one of major problems of humanity today. In the eighteenth and nineteenth Century the invention of steam engines, flying shuttles, power loom, paper machines and many others have fastened the advancement of the human civilization by several miles. This enormous transformation caused a huge exodus of workers and artisans from villages to cities (Ashworth 1951). Farmers and peasants shifted their base to urban land with new dreams. According to recent studies, the cities like London and Berlin became heavily crowded and hence the creation of slums took place. While heavy industrialization provided jobs for many and wealth to some, it came with a price tag.

Cherry displays the picture of industrialization through historical facts in his book. Pollution from coal powered factories turned the cities black. The problem of Pollution in London is not properly solved before 1950’s when the great smog of London caused havoc hue and cry among the citizens. Since the First World War, the natural resources have been over used for greater productivity and that caused enormous economic boom with huge rise in population. The introduction of motor vehicles, larger industries had been producing enormous wastes in solid, liquid and gas (Cherry 1988). This has caused pollution and along with this the constant deforestation in search of habitat has become a hindrance in urban planning.


The Planning of Cities in Ancient and Pre-Modern Times by considering environment concern:

Benevolo states that issues like water conservation and water conservation and drainage has been part of the urban planning since the times of Harappa and Mesopotamia. The Great Bath in Mohenjo-Daro or the scaled drainage of Indus valley cities along with the water conservation sites in the outskirts of Hangzhou has proved the consciousness of human architecture towards the basic needs of human life. According to several archeologists, the population of those cities was limited to few thousands, perhaps those cities never faced such urban exodus as the present. Therefore, it was perhaps easier to maintain all the environmental issues but the lack of technological advancements in compared to today is also considered as the destruction of those cities. The modern and pre-modern cities were in a different state because of less industrialization and pollution. The connectivity and market were the major concerns. The building of proper roads helped in such problems and the building of wells and hand pumps helped in the availability of water (Benevolo 1980)

According to Pound, the sanitation was the most severe problems in the middle age cities, various innovations were adopted for the betterment of the cities.The mention of the ‘Great drains’ in eminent texts of the middle agesprovides clues about one technology cluster: diverse, useful water systems. These drainages system consisted of long distance conduits, collection basins, special places of distribution and well built hydrolytic technology (Pounds 2005). There were basically two big scale water technologies, urban and monastic. The Romans influenced these technologies.

Planning of cities during 19thcentury by considering environment concern:

The different ideas in the 18th and 19th century like land nationalization (Herbert Spencer), purchasing land at agricultural values (Thomas Spence) and planned colonization (Wakefield) were developed by several sociologists and archeologists to solve the problems of over populated cities. According to the greats, idea of the urbanization is formed by Hall’s book “City in Civilization”. As the industries of all the major cities were located in the major cities it caused chaos and maximum amount of pollution. Howard was concerned about air pollution the cities. The idea of Howard was to shift the industrial sectors and the labour colonies in the outskirts of the cities.

 Therefore, these cities were cleaner in areas and full of filth in the areas where the labourers lived (Hall 1998).The 19th century was marked by the industrialization, urbanization and immigration.

Traffic jams, sanitation and health issues, growth of slums, noise and air pollution became prominent. In one of the largest cities like Tokyo there was huge problem of traffic and vehicle produced pollution. Since, the arrival of the bullet train in 1964 solved several of these problems. The bullet train service in Japan has not only enhanced the entire transport system but also has created a better living atmosphere in Japan. The fuel is much less biodegradable than the fossil fuels. Hence has helped to facilitate the urban society with lesser air pollution.

Fishman had a different idea about urbanization.  Fishman believed that heavy economic boom in America will also cause a population explotion and there should be new ideas of building a city. He believed that the people who resided in the city usually lived in rental apartments and houses meeting the minimum standards of living. Rapid growth in population and poor infrastructural facilities formed the American cities. In the late 19th century, the construction of railroad began. The skyscrapers were built mostly in Chicago and New York. Various innovations in the form of elevators and use of steel beams had begun. The steel beams replaced the heavy brick walls.

The urban housing were made in different styles but the working class resided mostly in tenement houses while the middle class people resided mostly in apartments. The smaller cities had many apartments over various stores and shops that were usually occupied by the owners of small businesses. The residents used to pay rent, as they did not own any apartments until the cooperatives emerged in the New York City after the Second World War (Fishman 1977).

Cherries observation about the basic middle class apartments, which provided central heating, efficient plumbing, lighting, elevators and maintenance men were different. There were lavish buildings too with single apartments on each floor. Various apartments were built near the lakes in Chicago, which used to remain cooler in summers and warmer in winters(Cherry 1988).


Adopting changes with environmental problems in a modern day city

Kostof mentioned in his book that in the 20th century, the larger cities became the major focus of the nation. The skyscrapers and the various tourist attractions became the centre of publicity. Chicago became the railroad centre of America and the New York City became the hub of trade, finance and communication. A series of reform began in America that involved reduction of wastes and corruption by coming up with compulsory education and innovations in administration. Municipal reference bureaus were set up in many cities that studied the administrative structure of the local governments. A five man commission comprising of experts was set up in order to rebuild the cities. (Kostof 1991).

The concern of Bakleyabout the growing consciousness of environment and different types of innovative thoughts were based on his observation. This was the time when ‘Garden city movement’ was introduced, which was brought from England (Bakley1975). The early 1900’s were marked with the introduction of cars in the city. Considering the safety of the pedestrians, now the houses were developed towards the public path, which was earlier constructed along the streets. According to experts the production of agricultural chemicals has caused in the increase of pollution. This was the time when the financial management of the urban areas gained importance. Focus was laid on the clearance of slums and various urban redevelopment programs were implemented. With the invention of automobiles, the City Zoning Code was adopted that regulated the private industries.

However, Freeston mentions that during the end of 1920’s, the American economy collapsed that led to massive unemployment due to the rise of Great Depression. This situation forced the Government to put the public projects on hold. The federal government had built various dams that could provide cheaper electricity in order to empower the cities. There were many defaults in home mortgages during this period of Great Depression. With the advent of the Second World War, the development of the cities stopped for a while. However, the world war resulted in setting up of production units and industries in the suburban areas that were away from the cities. America suffered destruction in its industrial capacity (Freestone 1989).

Bacon mentions about ‘Edge cities’ in his book. The year 1958 was marked by the introduction of commercial jet aircraft. This gave way to the growth of ‘Edge cities’. This became the most preferred sites for research and development facilities, retail activities and corporate offices. Those were located near the sub urban areas(Bacon 1976). Therefore, it can be concluded that the 20th century in America was fueled by mass of immigrants into the urban areas and was marked by the technological innovations. Many of Bacon’s ideas were incorporated in Philadelphia. Especially his theory of “Centre City” and Cross town Expressway was useful. His ideas were about decreasing the traffic and pollution in the Philadelphia as a member of its urban development council.   

America was inspired by the ‘White City’ vision with good municipal order. Hall mentions about the history of the white cities in his book. Afterwards it was molded by military confrontation and public control of private development (Hall 1998). In modern plan of urbanization, aspect of green city building has become very important for the society. Sir Ebenzer Howard propose a design of a green city to decipher the issues of pollution (Howard 1945). Howard wanted a maintained ration between the greeneries the constructions like houses and public places.

Pepper argues that the biggest blot in the history of human civilization has been the problem of the climate change. The smoke of Pennsylvinia in 1948 and Donora air pollution was followed by various legal innovations. Pepper supported the Clean Air Act in 1970. The issue of global warming and growing pollution has questioned the ever advancing human race. The new cities are developing new technology to check the problems caused by the climate changes. The use of bi-cycles has reportedly increased in European cities like Edinburgh, Copenhagen, Helsinki, Paris and London. These cities have created special cycle roads. Many cities like Copenhagen has declared to bann all othe other fossil fuel vehicles in the core are of the cities. According to reports various major cities across Europe and North America has declared to build new cycle pathways. Even countries like India have created the longest cycle highway in the state of Uttar Pradesh. The bi-cycles are of two particular use, firstly it is absolutely pollution free vehicle and secondly it is a smaller vehicle which negates the possibility of traffic jams in big cities. The traffic jams also cause a lot of noise and air pollutions. Many of the motor engines are kept on and this causes ill effects and contributes in the air pollution. Long before all this many have stated cycle as a solution to the pollution problems (Pepper 1984).



In the last decade, the constant urbanization has been a cause to various respiratory and cardiac diseases around the world. The constant industrialization and setting up of the production units around the world has effected into the deterioration of the quality of life. The various state authorities have been adamant in taking various steps in order to create havoc changes in the city life. The introduction of renewal energy,decrease in the ground water level spreading awareness among common masses, the production of LED bulbs, use of new technologies to build pollution free vehicles and planting of trees around the city has been few major steps taken in order to solve the crisis. A green city is a better place to live in. The cities like Birmingham and Yorkshire has been historically in favour of the preservation of the trees in order to live a healthy life (Bell and Bell 1972).



Ashworth, W. (1951) British Industrial Villages in the Nineteenth Century, Economic History Review, Vol. 3.

Bacon, E (1976) Design of Cities, Thames and Hudson, London.

Bakley, S. (1975) Unit 23: The Garden City.Open University Press, England.

Bell, C. and Bell, R. (1972) City Fathers: The Early History of Town Planning in Britain, Pelican Books, London.

Benevolo, L. (1980) The History of the City, Scolar Press, London

Cherry, G. (1988) Cities and Plans, Edward Arnold, London.

Fishman, R. (1977) Urban Utopias In The Twentieth Century: Ebenezer Howard, Frank Lloyd Wright, and Le Corbusier, chps. 1-4, MIT Press, Boston.

Freestone, R. (1989) Model Communities: The Garden City Movement in Australia, Thomas Nelson, Melbourne.

Hall, P. (1998) Cities in Civilisation, Pantheon Books, New York.

Hall, T. (1997) From Hippodamus to Haussmann: Town Planning in a Historical Perspective, chp.2 in Hall, T. Planning Europe’s Capital Cities, Routledge, London.

Howard, E. (1945) Garden Cities of To-morrow, Faber and Faber, London.

Kostof, S. (1991) The City Shaped: Urban Patterns and Meanings Through History, Bulfinch Press, New York.

Morris, A. (2013) History of Urban Form: Before the Industrial Revolution, Routledge, London.

Mumford, L. (1979) The City in History, Penguin Books, New York.

Owens, E. (1991) The City in the Greek and Roman World, Routledge, London.

Pepper, D. (1984) The Roots of Modern Environmentalism, 1st edition, Routledge, London.

Pounds, N. (2005) The Medieval City, Greenwood Press, Westport on-line book


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