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Nepali government’s official delineation of several human settlements as new urban areas has been questionable because many important criteria such as urban infrastructure and services, open space, population density and economic viability are not thoroughly analyzed while defining what is urban. Many settlements in Nepal officially defined as urban, often driven by political considerations, are operating in the rural framework forming ruralopolises. This paper analyzes various criteria needed for defining urbanization that are internationally accepted to assess Nepal’s official definition of urban settlements. Urban areas have been expanding in Nepal at the cost of agricultural, forest, and shrubland land uses. We found that using road as the main variable but keeping agriculture, forest and shrubland constant, one percent increase in road length will lead to an increase in the geographical area of urban settlements by 0.47 percent. Spatial visualization of urban expansion and road network clearly indicate that new urban areas that are radiating from the established large urban centers are expanding along the road network on land that are relatively flat with less than 150 slope to the horizontal plane. Undulated landscape, low density population, and lack of road infrastructure, among other factors, have limited the expansion of urban areas in the mountainous region. To develop a sustainable urban development plan, this paper did detail land use and land cover analyses. Using 10 x 10 m sentinel satellite imagery, the paper presents detailed analyses of land use and cover changes from 2017 to 2021. These years are chosen because after the promulgation of the new constitution in 2015, rapid urbanization started, but its implementation and state restructuring began only after 2017. The urban areas, as defined by the government, expanded rapidly in the Tarai and mid Hills regions from 23% in 2014 to 66% in 2017 and is expanding further.


This is a preprint version. July 21, 2023.