site is a location where a settlement resides, e.g. along a hill, mountain, riverside, industries, etc. A situation refers to the site’s features and its surroundings which function a settlement.

The site and situation have to be considered before a settlement is established. Settlements are rarely built in a random location. Analysis of the location and features have to be considered before people can settle in.

Factors Affecting the Location of a Settlement

Natural & Environmental Factors

Availability of Fertile Soils

Sites with nutrient-rich soils attract more settlements. Some of the sites include marshes, river banks, deltas, and volcanoes. The Ganges Delta around the coast of Bangladesh and West Bengal, India hosts about 200 million people. The area is rich in fertile soils created by the delta sediment deposits.

Water Supply

Many Egyptians settled along the Nile River due to the availability of water and fertile soils. An oasis amid deserts can host a large group of people. For example, Tafilalt in Morocco, and Al-Ahsa in Saudia Arabia, the biggest oasis in the world.

A settlement along the Nile River bank, Image, Wikimedia

Prevailing Weather Conditions

Dry areas are more sparsely populated than areas with abundant rainfall. The Sahara, Central Australia, and Western Zimbabwe. The central part of the Sahara has fewer people. Most people are located around its fringes in The Sahel region.

Similarly, most Australians are located in the coastal areas, including major cities, Melbourne and Sydney. The central part consists of many deserts such as Great Sandy and the Victorian Desert.
The western side of Zimbabwe is dry, with more people in the eastern and central parts (Harare, Mutare, Gweru, etc). Cattle rearing is most dominant in the dry regions.

Furthermore, extremely cold temperatures in the poles limit settlements. Most upper parts of Canada are inhabitable due to low temperatures.

In addition, most settlements in the Northern Hemisphere are located on south-facing slopes which receive abundant sunlight.

Availability of Mineral Resources

Some areas have developed to become major towns because of mineral availability. For example, tin mining in Kamitivi. coal mining in Hwange, Zimbabwe. Johannesburg, one of the largest city in South Africa, grew as a result of gold in the area.


Rugged and mountainous terrains are hard to access which hinders settlements

Economic Factors

Transport/ Route Center

Areas connecting various regions and roads are hubs of trade and marketing which attracts settlements. For example, Ibadan, Nigeria

Settlements are built around the central business district for easy commuting to and from work.

In addition, the CBD and growth points provide jobs and markets to sell goods and services, therefore attracting settlements.

Political Factors

  • Defense sites; Settlements are built on hills serving as vantage points in battles
  • Government Policies, The government can ban or restrict people from settling in certain places considered risky or protected. It can also relocate people to other areas

Social Factors

  • Close to friends and family: Humans are social beings. People will feel a sense of belonging and security when close to others; they build their houses near others.
  • Close to places of worship

Dangers & Hazards

Risk-prone areas are less likely to be settled. Some of these areas include volcanic and earthquake zones, unstable slopes prone to mass movements, and nuclear testing sites (Chernobyl, Russia).

However, despite being risky, most people in LEDCS like to settle near hazard-prone areas. Limited space causes people to settle near these risky areas. For example, Armero town in Colombia situated along the Ruiz volcano experienced a deadly lahar in 1985 killing about 25000 people.

The availability of natural resources, e.g volcanic minerals & soils, deltaic soils (e.g The Ganges Delta in Bangladesh) can make people settle in these areas for farming reasons.

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