Slumming it out in the metros

A fast urbanising India poses a huge challenge to town planners who must figure out how to provide basic amenities to the thousands everyday that pour into cities which are already bursting at the seams

As India moves towards becoming a developed nation, one of its biggest challenges will be its fast expanding urban spaces. While some consider this to be boon, others realise that this is a major problem in the making due to limited resources andlack of urban planning. The state has frequently sought to address this problem but no concrete outcome has surfaced yet. Meanwhile, urban residents struggle to sustain themselves as prices of essential items and house rents skyrocket amidst poor sanitation facilities, power-cuts and poor infrastructure. Will increased urbanisation help us solve the problem or will it add to the crisis?

Urbanisation in India is currently following the distributed pattern with a diverse range of large and small urban centres emerging around the country. This will possibly continue in the foreseeable future as it suits the country’s federal structure andensures that migration flows aren’t heavy towards any particular city or cities.

Urbanisation in India is expected to grow at a robust pace. Estimates indicate that by 2030, urbanisation will reach about 40 per cent of country, as against 28 per cent in 2001, backed by surging growth, economic reforms as well as foreign anddomestic investment. According to a report of the McKinsey Group, India will have six mega cities with a population of 10 million or more, 13 large cities with more than four million people and 68 major urban centres with a population of more than one million by 2030.

But the speed at which India is urbanising also poses an unprecedented administrative and policy challenge. For instance, the demand for basic amenities such as water, transportation, sewage treatment, low-income housing is expected increase five to seven fold in the cities. However, the authorities are unsure about how to handle this seismic shift in India’s organisational structure.

Local Governments have an important role to play in this situation but the devolution of functions to these bodies, as per 74th Constitutional Amendment Act, has been incomplete possibly because of the unwillingness of State Governments. In addition, few Indian cities have master plans for 2030 that take into account peak transportation loads, requirements for low-income affordable housing and climate change. In general, the capacity to execute urban reforms at the municipal and State level remains inadequate.

Recent reports suggest that India spends only $17 per capita per year on urban infrastructure, whereas recommended expenditure is $100. The investment required for building urban infrastructure in India, over the next 20 years is estimated to be a trillion dollars. One in five persons in a slum is from a Scheduled Caste even though the proportion of SCs in the overall urban population is just 12.6 per cent or about one in eight persons.

The work-participation rate in slums is slightly higher (36 per cent) compared to the overall urban rate of 35 per cent. Similarly, the work participation of women in slums is also almost two percentage points higher than in the urban population. But more than two out of five women workers living in slums are marginal workers, who do not have employment throughout the year. The southern States of Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Goa have among the highest work participation rates at about 40 per cent, while Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Haryana have the lowest.

Maharashtra has the highest slum population of 1.18 crore followed by Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh andTamil Nadu. Interestingly, the slum population in Maharashtra (as a percentage of the State’s total population) has registered a significant reduction from 23 to 18 per cent. A few States like Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Punjab and Gujarat have shown a marginal reduction in the proportion of slum population, though in most States the proportion has increased.

The Government in Gujarat, under the leadership Chief Minister Narendra Modi, sought to address the issue of urbanisation at the national summit on inclusive urban development. Mr Modi rightly said that the concept of town planning has changed from providing roads, drinking water and sewer lines to setting up townships within towns. At the same time, he also cautioned against unplanned development leading to haphazard growth. According to Mr Modi, town planning should be considered an opportunity and not a crisis.

Former Union Urban Development Secretary M Ramachandran had said that there is need for an appropriate urban-planningstrategy that includes providing basic amenities like affordable houses, public transport, clean surroundings to ensure a balanced slum-free urban growth. However, if the Government does not take urban planning seriously, India’s urban centres will into slum cities.

Source: The Pioneer

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One thought on “Slumming it out in the metros

  1. sush October 25, 2013 at 2:54 am Reply

    Reblogged this on reflections on the everyday.

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