The rapid pace of world’s urban population growth, especially in developing countries, is one of the major challenges for governments and planning agencies. According to a United Nations report 2015, 3.9 billion people—54 percent of the world’s population—reside in urban areas and is expected to reach 6.3 billion in 2050, with approximately 90 percent of the increase in future urban population being in cities of developing world (United Nations, 2015).
One of the unavoidable outcome from this process is the spatial expansion of towns and cities beyond their limits and into their surroundings and peripheries in order to accommodate the growing population. To adapt to this process, we need effective governance and planning to achieve a sustainable urban form which are vital for urban planners. In other words, urban areas and their spatial expansion are needed to reduce the wasteful use of non-renewable resources, in order to avoid the disturbance of the ecosystem equilibrium and to stimulate inclusive and sustainable development (UN Habitat, 2008).
The literature review indicates that the definition of sprawl is somewhat elusive in nature with no clear consensus on the definition of urban sprawl. The definition of urban sprawl is strongly dependent on the geographic, social and political context (Torrens, 2008; Besussi et al., 2010). In general, urban sprawl refers to certain special forms of city spatial expansion toward suburban areas and peripheral regions with, low density, single-use, extensive road and highway networks, and excessive dependent on car. The initial definition of sprawl included one of the four types of urban development Scattered or leapfrog development, Commercial strip development, Low-density development, and Single-use development (Ewing, 1997; Galster et al., 2001).
In developed countries, sprawl has been fueled by innovation particularly in automobile industry, globalization as well as reduced livability of inner-city, (Ewing, 1997 and Galster et al., 2001); in developing countries, it is often the result of migrating population from small towns to large metropolitan cities and incorrect land use and housing policies (Ewing & Cervero, 2010).
However, a major concern with the urban sprawl is associated with negative environmental, social and economic impacts (Buiton, 1994; Hasse and Lathrop, 2003). The environmental dimension impacts include the loss of fertile lands, open space and biodiversity, spoiling water quality (Wilson et al., 2003; Tu et al., 2007) and higher GHG emissions and pollutions levels (Glaeser and Kahn, 2004). In the socio-economic dimension urban sprawl leads to excessive infrastructure and public service costs (Lee et al., 1998;) the decline of public space, reducing public health, safety and security, loss of cultural values (Freeman, 2001; Nechyba and Walsh, 2004; EEA, 2006; Resnik, 2010; Jaeger et al., 2010; Pereira et al., 2014), increase of income inequality (Brueckner and Helsley, 2011) traffic congestion (Ewing et al., 2003; Hathout, 2002) longer travel distance, limited access, and excessive dependence on private automobile (Ewing, 1997; Ewing & Cervero, 2010).
Over the last few decades, the worsening of these issues has led to increase in new approaches to achieving a more sustainable urban growth form and increase emphasis on compact cities (Ewing, 1997; Ewing & Rong, 2008; Pendall 1999). Moreover new methods and techniques have been developed to understand and analyze urban sprawl phenomenon and its consequences on human life and its environment. In order to monitor and analyze urban sprawl, some research organizations and researchers (Galster et al., 2001; Ewing et al., 2003) measure urban sprawl by their indicators, while other scholars emphasize the spatial technologies such as GIS and remote sensing in combination with statistical techniques (Galster et al., 2001; Liu and Yang, 2015).
In recent years, the monitoring of urban sprawl changes using GIS and remote sensing techniques has attracted far more interests and has largely proved to be beneficial and valuable tools for estimating urban sprawl over a time period. Beyond the methods used, examination and monitoring of urban growth change are necessary to examine the impacts and identifying the points of intervention to direct the course of growth in developed as well as in developing countries. Like most of the developing countries, India has experienced high urban population growth in the last five decades. The number of cities has increased exponentially and the urban population has grown tremendously in the same period. One of the major consequences of this trend in urbanization has been the urban sprawl in most of the metropolitan cities.