Source: Stockholm Resilience Centre

This article was originally published on the Stockholm Resilience Centre.


Story highlights:

  • Urban areas increased by 70 percent, in Chennai, India, between 1991 and 2016, mainly towards the periphery
  • Forecasts predict urban sprawl to swallow almost all valuable forests, mangroves and agricultural land by 2027
  • The combination of methods used to quantify urban sprawl can be an important tool for future urban planning

“Like much of India, Chennai is full of contrasts. India’s fourth biggest city is not only an important business hub but also a tourist magnet boasting serval UNESCO sites and ecological hotspots: to the East you’ll find unique mangroves and in the West there is tropical forest with a rare composition of flora and fauna. But there is a social-ecological struggle going on.

Over the last three decades its population has doubled to more than eight millions. As is often the case, many of the newcomers are rural poverty-stricken, seeking a better life, and settling in the suburban periphery where housing is cheap. The rapid increase in population has led to overcrowding, pollution and problems with waste and water scarcity. Urban sprawl is also affecting the ecosystems, for example a number of species are threatened.

In a study recently published in the scientific journal Entropy, centre researcher Avit Bhowmik together with researchers in Portugal, Russia and Singapore quantified urban sprawl in Chennai since 1991. They compared satellite imagery from 1991, 2003 and 2016 to investigate a number of indicators of urban sprawl…”

Landuse and landcover (LULC) maps for 1991, 2003, and 2016 in Chennai. Click on illustration to access scientific article