Industry, environment and health through 200 years in Manchester

The Manchester urban area evolved rapidly in the early 19th century from a series of small towns to a major industrial conurbation with huge material flows and worldwide trade connections. A combination of the availability of nearby coalfields, canals, and free trade, which encouraged entrepreneurial enterprise, made Manchester into the ‘shock’ city of the industrial revolution. Rapid nucleated urban growth associated with industrialisation throughout the 19th century involved an exponential growth in materials transfers and in waste flows. The 20th century suburban dispersal of residential and industrial growth led to further increase in the impact of the urban metabolism, especially in terms of mass: distance of materials movement. The current post-industrial phase in Greater Manchester has to cope with the environmental and social legacies of its industrial past and with growing per capita materials consumption and increases in number of households despite a nearly static population of around 2.5 million. Changes in material flows, land usage and river morphology in Greater Manchester over the past 200 years have reflected changing technologies, industry, economics, social expectations and environmental legislation. Manchester had the first passenger railway, the first inter-basin domestic water transfer in the UK, the first urban smokeless zones and was part of a pioneering land reclamation partnership in the 1970s. Even so, the environmental legacy of industrial material flows constantly presents new challenges, from the cost of reclaiming contaminated brownfield sites to finding destinations for today's urban waste.

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