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Central Place Theory by Christaller UPSC | Central place theory Geography

About Central place theory:

Central place theory is a theory of urban geography that tries to explain the spatial arrangement, distribution pattern, size, and number of human settlements in a country. It also provides the relationship between human settlements of different sizes and their economic activities with the population.

It was the German geographer, Walter Christeller who introduced the central place theory in 1933. His theory is based on the pattern of human settlement in southern Germany.

What is the central place?
The central place is an area and the main function of the central place is to provide goods and services to surrounding areas [ market areas ]. They may be specialized in providing various goods and services based on the threshold and range of services.

As per Walter Christaller, Threshold and Range are two important concepts of Central Place Theory. The threshold is the minimum population needed to make services viable at a particular place. If the minimum population is not there in market areas of the city center, then either service will not start or will close down eventually due to uneconomically viable.
The range is the maximum distance that a consumer wants to travel to purchase goods or avail of a service, beyond this distance consumers will not travel as travel will cost more.
Threshold and Range

Some examples of central places are :
    If we talk about a city, the "city center" would be the central location of the city, and the "city center" would be the source of services for the city.
      If we talk about the Indian state then the capital city of the state will be the central place for the whole state for services like the high court, state assembly, hospitals, schools, etc.

          Lower-order services like general stores are called basic services. Lower-order settlements such as villages and hamlets provide lower-order services.
            Higher-level services like hospitals and colleges are called special services. Higher-order settlements like cities and metro cities provide a higher-order service. Having higher-order services means that they must provide lower-order services although the opposite is not true.

            Size of settlements:
            Christaller gave 5 sizes of settlement based on the population. The smallest human settlement is a hamlet and the largest human settlement is the regional capital. The following are five human settlements based on the size and rank order of central place in ascending order: 
            • Hamlet
            • Village
            • Town
            • City
            • Metro city or regional capital

            Basic Assumptions of Central Place theory of Christaller

            The following are some basic assumptions of Christaller's Central Place theory:
            • Higher-order central place provides many services and also serves a much large population than the lower-order central place.
              • For example, New Delhi is the highest hierarchy city in India, so Delhi will provide more services and would serve much population than the other state capital. 
            • The hierarchy rank of the city is inversely proportional to the number of settlements and their size.
            • The seller and buyer are both economically people and there is perfect competition in the market. No seller has an advantage over others. All consumer has similar purchasing power.
            • The nearest distance is preferred to get particular Services. 
            • There is flat terrain and transportation cost is proportional to the travel distance. 
            • Population and resources are evenly distributed.

            The basic principle of Christaller theory:

            There are three basic principles of the central place theory of Christaller namely Threshold, Range, and Hinterland.

            The minimum quantity to be sold for the survival of the shop is called the threshold. For example, an AC shop may need to sell a minimum of 5 number AC in a month or a day for surviving or sustaining itself in the market so 5 AC is called the threshold of a shop.

            The range is also called the perimeter of goods, it is the maximum distance that a buyer can travel to purchase goods. For example, the perimeter of the TV will be higher than the soap.

            Hinterland is the area in the city where a large number of trade of goods and services happened. It is a combination of range and threshold. Goods have different parameters and thresholds.

            What are K values in the central place theory?

            Christaller suggests a different layout of urban hierarchy based on the k values. K value shows the influence of the central place.  The value of K is equal to the total no of the lower-order settlement served by one higher-order settlement.

            Arrangement of the central places:

            Due to the circular shape of the market area, some areas are either deprived of service or there is overlapping in service; To overcome these problems, Kristaler suggested the hexagonal shape of the market area. The market area is hexagonal, there is no shadow area and there is no overlapping of services in the hexagonal shape of the settlements and the distance from one central place to another is also the same in the hexagonal shape.
            There will be some higher-order settlements and lower-order settlements within the market areas.
            Christaller has given three principles for creating a hierarchy of human settlements:
            • Marketing principal( k=3)
            • Transportation principal(k=4)
            • Administrative principal(k=7).
            K values in Christaller Central Place theory
            K values in Christaller Central Place theory

            Market Efficiency( K=3):

            As per market principle, the market area of higher-order settlements occupies one-third areas of the market areas of each consecutive lower-order settlement. 
            For example, 
            The market area of the town = 1 (own hexagon)+ 1/3 of six villages = 3
            The market area of town= 3* Village serving area;
            The city is the next higher order of town human settlement, then market areas of City= 3 * Town Area = 3 * 3* Village area =9 villages area. So, the market area of the city would be equivalent to 9 village areas.
            Market Efficiency(k=3)
            Market Efficiency(k=3)

            Transport Principle 
            To maximize efficiency in transport, the transportation line should be laid in the middle of the hexagons. If laid so, transportation areas of the higher-order hexagon area would be = X + 6/2 X=4X. So, the transportation services of the town would serve the 4 hexagonal areas.
            Transport efficiency
            Transport efficiency

            Administrative Efficiency :
            To maximize administrative efficiency, the administrative center should have been installed in the middle of the hexagon and it would have surrounding settlements or hexagons in order to maximize administrative efficiency.
            The administrative area of the higher-order settlement will provide the administrative services of( 1 + 6( all neighbor hexagon)= 7 ) seven lower-order administrative areas.
            administrative efficiency
            administrative efficiency

            What is the spacing ratio in Central place theory?
            • Spacing ratio= Distance between two settlements of the same order / Distance between two settlements of immediate lower order.
            • Spacing ratio= Distance between two state capital/ Distance between two districts.

            The summary of the Christaller theory is that the higher-order city gives more services than the lower-order city, mainly administration, transport, and market efficiency mentioned in his theory. 

            Criticism of Christaller Central Place theory:

            The following are major criticisms of central place theory.
            • There are many unrealistic assumptions in the theory like perfect market competition, flat terrain, equal distribution of population and resources, and equal purchasing power of consumers which make the theory impractical. 
            • Customer preference is not only based on distance but also on quality, time, and cost.
            • Technology development in the transport sector was ignored in the theory.
            • The range of goods is subjective in nature, this behavior aspect was not considered in the theory.
            • This theory ignored the importance of primary and secondary activities and gave more importance to service activities.
            Try to solve the following questions:
            • What are the basic postulates in the Central Place Model of Christaller? (UPSC 2013, 15 marks)
            • Discuss the applicability of Christaller's Central Place Theory. (UPSC 2017, 20 marks)

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