Conurbation in Geography

The concept of Conurbation in Geography has been given by Patrick Geddes. He was primarily a town planner but also had interest in biology, ecology and sociology. Geddes also gave the concept of place, work and folk. He is also known as father of modern town planning.

Definition of Conurbation

Definition: Conurbation refers to the very long and narrow strip of urban settlements along a major road or railway route.

Fig. 1: Patterns of Conurbations


  • It may connect two or more towns. The resulting pattern may also look triangular or quadrilateral with the nodes acting as cities and sides as the conurbations (see Fig. 1). 

    Fig. 2: Conurbations in North-East U.S.A. Source:
  • It is a related but different concept than the Urban Sprawl.
  • Conurbation may be one of the many limbs of an urban sprawl connecting with another town or city.
  • The conurbation are not perfectly like stripe but its shape vary due to other factors such a topography, governance, intersection of highways etc.
  • Please note that the conurbations are not as straight as shown in Fig. 1 as yellow lines. Their shape changes with direction of the roads and railways. In reality, it may look as shown in Fig. 2. It shows the conurbation between Boston, New York and Philadelphia.

Formation of Conurbation

  • When the interaction between two areas is very frequent, the businesses start to establish their firms on route for saving transport cost.
  • Since the cost of property is very high in the city, the working class buys property on the major roads and railways. Subsequently, more real-estate residential colonies and commercial projects crop up on the major transport networks.
  • With the improvement of transport network, it becomes possible for the workers and entrepreneurs to travel to city from farther places.
  • This elongation of urban settlements along national highways takes place at both ends of a conurbation. The two ends denote the towns which are interacting and expanding.
  • Ultimately, the long and narrow stretch of urban settlements join to form conurbation.
  • Example from India: Agra-Delhi-Panipat-Chandigarh-Kalka, Mumbai-Pune etc. are few example of conurbations from India.

Problems in Conurbation

Conurbations develop along highways in the absence of proper rules and regulations. Therefore, conurbations cause are many urban problems as following.

  1. The settlements in the conurbations often lack in infrastructure e.g. hospitals, security, sewerage system etc. Therefore, people’s quality of life is not as good as city dwellers.
  2. A lot of slums come up in conurbation to provide domestic and manual services to the affluent families.
  3. The urban settlements continue to grow and encroach on the arable land.
  4. Since, the conurbation crosses many state boundaries, therefore, administrative regulations become very ambiguous. This leads to rise in insecurity and crime.
  5. The conurbation becomes crowded with time. Hence, traffic, water scarcity and pollution become the major problems in the area.


We can conclude from the above discussion that conurbations form due to need for exchange of workers, goods and services between two or more cities. As the interaction among the cities increase, the people make homes and establish businesses on highways. The uncontrolled urban growth leads to many environmental and administrative problems in the conurbations. Most of world’s urban population lives in these urban settlements. Hence, they needs urgent planning and regulation, especially in developing countries.