Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Managing Urban India

Dr. Devendra K. Kothari
Population and Development Analyst
Forum for Population Action

The city has long been exiled from the Indian imagination. The romance of the 'village republic' for India's politicians and the strong association of urban India with the British raj doomed the city in independent India.
Nandan Nilekani

Urbanization is the societal trend where the proportion of people living in cities increases while the proportion of people living in the country side diminishes. For the first time in history more than half the world’s population resides in urban areas. The world’s urban population now stands at 3.7 billion people, and this number is expected to double by 2050. The coming decades will, therefore, bring further profound changes to the size and spatial distribution of the global population. Presently, the highest rates of economic growth are being witnessed in Asia, especially in China and India, which today also have the largest rural populations, but are urbanizing. Of the 10 most populous countries of the world, 6 are in Asia and all these are witnessing high rates of the growth in their urban population (Table 1).

Table 1: Level of urbanization among the 10 most populous countries of the world
Country
Percent of urban population to total

1950
2000
2015
2050
China
12.5
35.8
55
76
India
17.3
29.0
33
50
USA
64.2
77.2
81
87
Brazil
36.5
81.2
85
91
Indonesia
12.4
41. 0
53
51
Nigeria
10.1
44.1
47
67
Pakistan
17.5
33.1
38
57
Mexico
42.7
74.4
79
86
Japan
50.3
78.8
93
98
Bangladesh
4.3
25. 0
34
56
World
30
47
54
85
United Nations. 1980. Patterns of Urban and Rural Population Growth. Population Studies No. 68. United Nations. 2014.  World Urbanization Prospects.

But, the picture of India is not very clear. In the last century, which saw rapid urbanization across the globe, India did not face an “urban explosion” as did many other regions of the world, especially in the Americas and East Asia. Consistent with its low per capita income India ranks among the last thirty in the list of countries listed according to their urbanization levels. Out of the 10 most populous countries, India recorded the lowest level of urbanization in 2015 (Table 1).

One can argue that the policy makers and some experts treat cities in step motherly fashion believing that India continues to reside in its villages. This overlooks the fact that today 440 million people (2017) live in India’s cities towns. By 2030, this number will be 583 million and by 2050, 814 million. It means by the middle of this century nearly half of India’s population will reside in urban areas . [1]

The trend towards urbanization is only accelerating.[2] Also, projections, made by me, indicate that India would achieve ‘the tipping point’ of 50 per cent urban before 2045. Thus, India is projected to be more ‘urban’ even before the next 20 years. In other words, the move towards urban concentration is a fact, and as city life becomes a reality for an ever-greater share of India’s population, governments, and civil society must recognize that they are largely unequipped to deal with city-level problems. If not well managed, this inevitable increase in India’s urban population will place enormous stress on the system. India’s cities are now facing serious issues including housing problems, waste disposal, and power shortage among others.

So, it is unchangeable fact that the India of tomorrow will find expression in the cities. What we can question and hence change is how that future will be lived. It is time we start a new conversation. That means Indian cities need to become more livable and productive. While the government’s proposed smart cities project looks to ameliorate the situation, it would not make much of a difference unless cities are actually empowered to chart their own destinies. Most Indian cities today are reeling under problems of infrastructure collapse because of lack of planning and poor management. The underlying cause very clearly is absence of a robust local governance structure and its accountability to public.

Is not it high time we build our future cities? The paper aims in this direction. It is an attempt to understand, through secondary data and analysis, where India stands today in terms of urban development, why it has emerged the way it has and what should be done in next 5 to 10 years  to  make urban living  more livable and productive.

In doing so, the following four posts’ discussion will help the policy makers in taking forward the newly launched Missions, namely, Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana, Smart Cities Mission, Swatch Bharat Mission and Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation in a bid towards building a vibrant and inclusive urban India.

The next post discusses Urbanization an overview: 





[1] Source: Worldometers (www.Worldometers.info). Also see: http://www.worldometers.info/world-population/india-population/

[2] Kundu (2011) gives a useful account of the history of urbanization in India in the colonial and post period. For derails see at: https://www.uniassignment.com/essay-samples/economics/reasons-for-urban-concentration-in-india-economics-essay.php


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