Ten Most Sprawl-Threatened Large Cities
Number One: Atlanta

Every week, five hundred acres of green space, forest, and farmland in the Atlanta metro area are plowed under.

Every week, five hundred acres of green space, forest and farmland in the Atlanta metro area are plowed under.

Atlanta is one of the fastest growing regions in the country, and the environmental impacts of unplanned sprawl in the Atlanta area are among the most significant and widespread in the nation.

Atlanta's urban land area expanded 47 percent between 1990 to 1996, following a 25 percent expansion between 1980 and 1990. Pressure to expand will continue as the population grows disproportionately in the outer suburbs. From 1990 to 1996, the population outside Atlanta's urban core increased almost 40 percent, but only 2 percent inside the city limits. Some experts believe that the region's population could double in the next 50 years. With no natural barriers, few cities are growing as fast as Atlanta.

Green space is being gobbled up by sprawl faster than in any metro region in history (according to a real estate research firm and reported by the Atlanta Journal Constitution). Every week, five hundred acres of green space, forest or farmland are plowed under to build parking lots, shopping malls and housing subdivisions. Between 1982 and 1992, the amount of open space lost to development in the Atlanta metropolitan area increased by 38 percent. The rate of land developed nearly doubled in outer suburban counties such as Gwinnett, Henry and Paulding.

The Chattahoochee River was named one of the nation's most endangered rivers in 1998 by the environmental group, American Rivers, which identified rampant growth in the suburbs as the most significant threat to the river. The Chattahoochee is seriously degraded from overflowing sewage systems, city street runoff and other pollutants.

Air quality is also alarmingly poor. The 13-county region is in violation of clean air standards and has lost the right to spend federal money on new road projects. Children with asthma go to the hospital every summer because of high levels of ozone pollution. Cars and trucks are the largest source of air pollution in the nonattainment area. Yet, state, regional and local agencies cannot agree on a plan to clean up the region's air.

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