The causes for the development of towns are mainly historical, socio-cultural and economic. Which one of the factors is more important in the origin of town is difficult to say, but the experts of urban geography and town planning are of the opinion that traffic is the most important and the oldest factor responsible for the growth of towns.
In fact, trade gives rise to all the advantages conferred by geographical position on a site in relation to natural routes.
1. Trade Routes:
The geographers, historians and economists are of the opinion that towns are the creation of the routes. There is not even a single town in the world without roads leading to it. Some of the social scientists opine that towns are the work of traders.
The traders stay at night at a convenient point which leads to the development of small towns. Along every route there are numerous sites which have special advantages.
The stopping places along the main roads in the past were marked by inns and shops, around which sometimes developed the houses of artisans, carpenters and other servicemen.
Such towns still may be found in the desert of Sahara, South-West Asia, Central Asia, China, Mongolia, Rajasthan and Ladaakh. Such towns, having inns, are placed at day-long journey intervals.
Larger towns such as Vienna, Milan, Damuscus, Baghdad, Baku, Balkh, Bukhara, Samarkand, Jaipur, Jodhpur and Ajmer have developed at points where either mountain have come into contact with plains or where routes have converged in deserts near some source of water.
The towns to Timbuktu (Mali, Africa), Sokoto (Nigeria), Lanchow (China), Jarecho (Palestine), Jodhpur, Bikaner,
Jaisalmer (India) are some of the examples of towns which developed along the cross-roads in deserts.
Despite modern means of communications, the role of trade routes has become even more important in the development of towns.
Many modern towns have developed at big railway junctions. The railway junctions of Mughalsarai (UP), Siliguri (West Bengal), Itarsi, Bina (Madhya Pradesh) and Tundla (UP) are the examples of such towns.
The towns of Crewe, Stoke and Swindon in England; Memphis and Oklahoma in USA; Orleans and Dijon in France; Oberhausen in Germany; Chelyabinsk and Omsk in Russia; and Wuhan and Kanchow in China are the well-known examples of railway towns.
Starting as a place of tea-stalls, hotels and restaurants, and houses of the railway employees, they acquired business and residential quarters and sometimes industries and factories with workshops and workmen’s lodging.
2. Navigable Rivers:
The navigable rivers also helped in the origin and development of towns. In the past, rivers had been the important routes of trade and many of them like Rhine, Volga, Danube, etc., are still the busiest navigable rivers. Many a towns have developed on the confluence of large rivers.
In Europe, Mainz, Lyon, Ghent and Belgrade are the good examples of such towns. In India, the cities of Allahabad, Patna, Monghyr and Bhagalpur are also the examples of towns which developed because of navigation and trade through the Ganga River.
Seaways also afford sites favourable to town growth. The ships converge at certain places along the sea coasts. The straits, in this connection, offer the most ideal positions for the development of towns.
It is interesting to note that all the straits have a large town, sometimes twin towns, facing each other.
The towns of Istanbul and Scutari (Turkey), Gibraltar (Spain) and Tangiers (Morocco) across the Strait of Gibralter, Dover (England) and Calais (France) across the English Channel
The modern towns such as Port-Said, Ismailia and Suez on the Suez Canal, and the Cristobal and Balboa on the Panama Canal are also the results of navigation and trade through the straits, rivers and canals.
The town of Copenhagen at the entrance of Baltic Sea is another good example of a town situated along a strait. The cities of Aden, Singapore, Colombo
4. Places of Transshipment:
Along the sea coasts and river banks, towns develop where transshipment takes place. Many a times the geographical conditions of a place impose a change in the means of transport.
For a long time, break of journey was necessary whenever a river had to be crossed, for bridges were not built in early times, especially over wide rivers.
Crossing used to be made either by ferry or ford. Subsequently, bridges began to be built. The bridges provided a good opportunity for the traders of both the sides and towns started growing on both the ends of the bridges.
Most big towns today are bridge towns. For example, London, Paris, Singapore, Vienna, Budapest, Orleans, Frankfurt, Narora (UP), Srinagar, Hoshingabad, Surat and Howrah are some of the bridge towns. The towns of Cambridge and Bristol are also the examples of such towns.
5. Mountain Crossing:
Mountain crossing by traders and travellers has also helped in the development of towns and cities. At the foothills and near the mountain passes, the mode of transportation used to be changed.
Peshawar, Karakoram, Kabul, Pathankot, Jammu, Kalka, Haldwani, Kotdwar, Siliguri, Dimapur in India, Salta (Argentina), Santiago (Chile) and Coire or Chur (Switzerland) are few of the many examples of such towns.
Some oases towns in the deserts have similar reason for growth because they are necessary stages on a desert journey; traders and travellers must pass through them to obtain fresh supplies of water and food. The oases of Samarkand, Bukhara, Medina, Kufra, Tumma, Hun
(Libya), Beni Abbes, Al Saleh (Algeria), Mao (Chad) and Kidal (Mali) are some of the examples of such towns.
The points where navigation ends also become as an ideal place for the origin of a town. At such points, cargoes are transferred from ship to train or trucks.
In some areas, the occurrence of rapids and cataracts in the river course, necessitate the portages and unloading.
The cities of Buffalo and Cleveland in USA, Lyon in France, and Hardwar, Sadiya, Dum Duma and Tezpur in India are the good examples of such towns
6. River Estuary:
Another site for commercial towns is found where ocean shipping stops on an estuary and cargoes are transferred from the ship to an overland route.
This is a common type of town in Western Europe and in all countries in which river mouths are entered by the flood tide. London, Bordeaux, Hamburg, Baltimore and Philadelphia are some of the good examples of estuary towns.
The position of harbours where seaways meet overland routes to the interior of the country favours the creation of towns. Aden, Gibralter, Hong Kong, Kolkata, Bombay, Madras, Alexandria, Rio de Janeiro, Melbourne, Sydney, Karachi and Tokyo are the examples of harbour towns.
Apart from the trade routes, there are certain favourable sites which help the development of towns.
8. Resource Site:
The availability and utilization of resources also help in the development of towns. The most obvious examples of resource-based towns are the mining towns and fishing ports. There are sites paving sports facilities and the places having religious administrative and cultural institutions. Some of the sites which have helped in the development of towns and cities have been illustrated in the following paras.
Mineral, precious metals and energy resources have helped in the development of towns. Many large towns have developed within a short period even in inhospitable regions, such as deserts, tundra, equatorial forests and undulating mountainous areas, when minerals such as gold, silver, copper and precious stones were discovered.
The towns of Dawson City, Yellow Knife and Port Radium in Canada; Kalgoorlie and Koolgardie in Australian desert; and Norlisk on Yenisey River in Northern Siberia are some of the examples of such towns. Towns also grow up on sites where the more ordinary minerals such as iron ore, coal, asbestos, slate, etc., are found.
Minerals such as coal and iron ore are difficult to transport because of their weight and bulk and thus coal fields, areas of iron ore deposits and that of other minerals become the urban and industrial regions.
The towns of Raniganj, Jheria, and Daltonganj in India; Philadelphia and Baltimore in USA; and Magnitogorks, Donetz, Kuznet and Uralosk in Russia may be cited as examples of mineral towns. The hydro-electric power, however, may not give rise to towns at the place of Site and Situation of its generation.
For example, the Bhakra Nagal Project is a huge source of hydel power but not a single town has developed in its vicinity because from the centre of generation, the power that they produce is easily transported to more populous areas for use. Oil, too, is often transported by pipelines and tankers to distant refining centres.
Towns and cities also develop on attractive places where visitors, tourists and holiday-makers prefer to visit. Hill stations in India (Shimla, Dalhousie, Manali, Darjeeling, Mussoorie, Nainital, Mt, and Abu), Cameron in Malaysia, and watering places having health-giving mineral springs, e.g., Bath in England, Baden in Germany, Sohna in Haryana and Pugga in Ladakh are some of the examples.
Seaside resorts have also been considered as health-giving and sea-bathing was taken as a cure. Some of the best known seaside resorts are Nice and Cannes (South France), Miami in Florida (USA), Goa and Kaolum beaches (India) and Bhamas beaches in West Indies islands.
Moreover, mountain villages may grow into towns or new towns may be built if the area is suitable for winter sports, and this has led to the development of many resorts in India, France, Switzerland, Japan, Italy and Australia. Klosters (Switzerland), Sopporo (Japan), Banff (Canada), and Pahalgam, Gulmarg, Sonmarg, Leh and Manali (India) are some of the examples of such towns. Highlands also attract tourists who wish to climb the mountains.
There are numerous people who wish to enjoy aesthetic beauty. Many tourists simply wish to view and enjoy the scenery in an area or visit places or buildings of historical or cultural interest. Such tourism rarely gives rise to new towns but it does add new functions to the long established towns.
Most Asiatic, African and European capitals, such as New Delhi, Tehran, Ankara, Cairo, Baghdad, Beijing (Peking), Bangkok, Singapore, Kabul, Tashkent, London, Paris, Rome and Vienna are the places of great tourist interest, especially for those who are interested in the historical and cultural tourism.
9. Religious and Cultural Factors:
Throughout the history man has been attracted towards the holy and religious places and had a strong desire to visit the places of his cultural groups.
For example, a shrine, a temple, a gurdwara or a church, built at certain place which has religious significance, may become a centre of pilgrimage.
A site may also be associated with the life of a religious leader, e.g., Jerusalem, Vatican City (Italy), Mecca, Madina, Amritsar, Bodh-Gaya, Sarnath, Kedarnath, Badrinath, Hardwar, Dwarka, Puri, Tirupati and so on.
Educational centres like universities and colleges may also lead to the development of towns and cities.
The cities of Oxford and Cambridge in England, Harvard in USA, Akademgorod (the science town) in Siberia, Trieste (Italy), and Aligarh, Pilani, Roorkee, Shantinikatan and Kharagpur (India) are some such examples.
The choice of a site as the residence of a king, ruler or national leader may also cause town development because the administrative staff and traders will gather around the seat of power.
10. Defensive Sites:
Defence is one of the most important factors responsible for the development of towns. The traders, businessmen and craftsmen need protection against the hostiles.
Since defence was a major function of early towns, they were nearly always surrounded by strong walls, by water filled moats or by Kolkata (India) other defensive works. Such defensive places led to the development of numerous towns.
Hill tops provide a convenient site to keep an eye on the enemies, and are difficult to approach. There are numerous examples of such acropolis sites. Edinburgh, Athens, Ibadan (Nigeria), Chittorgarh, Amer (Jaipur), Gwalior and Jhansi (India) are the examples of hill top towns.
Island is a piece of land surrounded by water on all sides. Sites surrounded by water are easy to defend because they are difficult to approach. There are many towns which developed either because of insular locations or swampy and marshy lands.
The cities such as Hamburg, Paris, New York, Hong Kong, Singapore, Penang, Venice, Mumbai, Kolkata, Calicut, Cochin, Okha and Kandhla developed in the swampy lands of sea coasts, river banks, etc. The towns may be built on promontories, e.g., Gibraltar, Cadez.
There are some micro-geographical features which provide shelter from the tides and waves, and help in the development of natural harbours, fishing towns and urban settlements.
The fiord, ria, lagoons, estuaries and straits between the main land and off-shore islands were often selected as the suitable places for the development of towns. The cities of Kolkata, Rangoon, Stockhome, Oslo, Riga and Rio de Janeiro are some of the examples of such towns.