Human Settlement is a form of human habitation which ranges from a single dowelling to large city. In other words, it is a process of opening up and settling of a previously uninhabited area by the people. People live in clusters of houses that might be a village, a town or a city. The study of human settlements is basic to human geography because the form of settlement in any particular region reflects human relationship with the environment. A human settlement is defined as a place inhabited more or less permanently. The houses may be designed or redesigned, buildings may be altered, functions may change but settlement continues in time and space. There may be some settlements which are temporary and are occupied for short periods, may be a season.
Rural Urban Settlement Dichotomy
The term settlement is accepted but when it comes to its existence that can be differentiated in terms of rural and urban, but there is no consensus on what exactly defines a village or a town. Although population size is an important criterion, it is not a universal criterion since many villages in densely populated countries of India and China have population exceeding that of some towns of Western Europe and United States. At one time, people living in villages pursued agriculture or other primary activities, but presently in developed countries, large sections of urban populations prefer to live in villages even though they work in the city. The basic difference between towns and villages is that in towns the main occupation of the people is related to secondary and tertiary sectors, while in the villages most of the people are engaged in primary occupations such as agriculture, fishing, lumbering, mining, animal husbandry, etc. Differentiations between rural and urban on the basis of functions are more meaningful even though there is no uniformity in the hierarchy of the functions provided by rural and urban settlements. Petrol pumps are considered as a lower order function in the United States while it is an urban function in India. Even within a country, rating of functions may vary according to the regional economy. Facilities available in the villages of developed countries may be considered rare in villages of developing and less developed countries.
Types and Patterns of Settlements
Settlements are classified on the basis of their shape, patterns types which are discussed below:
• Compact or Nucleated settlements: In these settlements large number of houses is built very close to each other. Such settlements develop along river valleys and in fertile plains. Communities are closely knit and share common occupations.
• Dispersed Settlements: In these settlements, houses are spaced far apart and often interspersed with fields. A cultural feature such as a place of worship or a market, binds the settlement together.
Rural Settlement Patterns
Patterns of rural settlements contemplate the way the houses are sited in relation to each other. The site of the village, the surrounding topography and terrain influence the shape and size of a village.
Rural settlements may be classified on the basis of a number of criteria:
(i) On the basis of setting: The main types are plain villages, plateau villages, coastal villages, forest villages and desert villages.
(ii) On the basis of functions: There may be farming villages, fishermen’s villages, lumberjack villages, pastoral villages etc.
(iii) On the basis of forms or shapes of the settlements: These may be a number of geometrical forms and shapes such as Linear, rectangular, circular star like, T-shaped village, double village, cross-shaped village etc.
• Linear pattern: In such settlements houses are located along a road, railway line, and river, canal edge of a valley or along a levee.
• Rectangular pattern: Such patterns of rural settlements are found in plain areas or wide inter montane valleys. The roads are rectangular and cut each other at right angles.
• Circular pattern: Circular villages develop around lakes, tanks and sometimes the village is planned in such a way that the central part remains open and is used for keeping the animals to protect them from wild animals.
• Star like pattern: Where several roads converge, star shaped settlements develop by the houses built along the roads.
• T-shaped, Y-shaped, Cross-shaped or cruciform settlements: T –shaped settlements develop at tri-junctions of the roads while –shaped settlements emerge as the places where two roads converge on the third one and houses are built along these roads. Cruciform settlements develop on the cross-roads and houses extend in all the four direction.
• Double village: These settlements extend on both sides of a river where there is a bridge or a ferry.