. India has been among the fastest growing economies in the world for close to two decades, and aspires to be among the top three largest economies in the world by 2047 — the 100th year of its Independence. In this economic development of India, its cities have a major role to play.
Cities are India’s economic powerhouses and a magnet for a large rural population seeking a better life. In the recent few years, a number of schemes have been launched specifically for the development of cities and the urban dwellers. However, with reference to the efforts made for developing cities, the results have been dismal. The major cause for the same can be attributed to poor planning, infrastructural shortcomings and the plight of Urban Local Bodies (ULBs).
Challenges to Development of Cities
- City-Centric Issues: Several city-centric issues such as air pollution, urban flooding, and droughts exist as obstacles in holistic development of urban India all of which point to infrastructural shortcomings and inadequate planning.
- Land-use decisions are often made without an adequate empirical assessment of the consequences which disrupt the local ecology, and in turn, the economy.
- Erroneous Classification of Urban Areas: A foundational challenge is the way of defining what is “urban” and what is “rural” in India.
- Out of 7,933 towns that are counted as urban, almost half have the status of Census towns and continue to be governed as rural entities which adds to the vulnerability of unplanned urbanisation.
- Unplanned Development of Statutory Towns: Even those urban settlements that have the status of “statutory towns” do not necessarily grow in a planned manner. About 52% of statutory towns in India lack any kind of master plan.
Suggestions for sustainable urbanization
- Integration for Inclusive Urban Development: Enhanced ambition requires the Central government to work with State governments to integrate key areas with its transport vision, such as affordable inner-city housing, including rental projects, access to civic services and health care, and enhanced sustainability, greenery and walkability. All these are covered by Central budgetary schemes for cities. Only integration can bring about inclusive urbanisation.
- Rethinking the Approach for City Development: For India to accomplish its Sustainable Development Goals and the United Nations’ New Urban Agenda, the government has to revisit, rethink, and reshape the way it plans and manages the country’s settlements and the connecting networks among them.
- Overcoming Planning and Infrastructural Shortcomings: There is a need to build capacities in the country so that cities reap the fruit of urbanisation and generate the economic momentum needed to build a $5-trillion economy.
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