WHAT IS URBAN? AND ARE WE URBAN ENOUGH?

By Shivani Singh, PRIA

In order to have a clear understanding towards the concept and definition of ‘what is urban’ we need to look into the fact that how different entities have defined the word ‘urban’. This will help us in selecting indicators for urban area and ultimately answering the big question are we urban enough?

The Encyclopedia Britannic[1]: It defines city as, relatively permanent and highly organized centre of population, of greater size or importance than a town or village. The name city is given to certain urban communities by virtue of some legal or conventional distinction that can vary between regions or nations. In most cases, however, the concept of city refers to a particular type of community, the urban community, and its culture, known as “urbanism.”

The Registrar general of India: As per the census of India 2001 urban is defined as all places with a municipality, corporation, cantonment board or notified town area committee, etc. b. A place satisfying the following three criteria simultaneously:

  • a minimum population of 5,000;
  • at least 75 per cent of male working population engaged in non-agricultural pursuits; and
  • a density of population of at least 400 per sq . km. (1,000 per sq. mile).

UNICEF[2]: The definition of ‘urban’ varies from country to country, and, with periodic reclassification, can also vary within one country over time, making direct comparisons difficult. An urban area can be defined by one or more of the following: administrative criteria or political boundaries (e.g., area within the jurisdiction of a municipality or town committee), a threshold population size (where the minimum for an urban settlement is typically in the region of 2,000 people, although this varies globally between 200 and 50,000), population density, economic function (e.g., where a significant majority of the population is not primarily engaged in agriculture, or where there is surplus employment) or the presence of urban characteristics (e.g., paved streets, electric lighting, sewerage). In 2010, 3.5 billion people lived in areas classified as urban.

National Geographic[3]: An urban area is the region surrounding a city. Most inhabitants of urban areas have nonagricultural jobs. Urban areas are very developed, meaning there is a density of human structures such as houses, commercial buildings, roads, bridges, and railways. “Urban area” can refer to towns, cities, and suburbs. An urban area includes the city itself, as well as the surrounding areas. Many urban areas are called metropolitan areas, or “greater,” as in Greater New York or Greater London.

Wikipedia: An urban area is characterized by higher population density and vast human features in comparison to the areas surrounding it.

So are we urban enough?

On the basis of above mentioned definitions the basic features of an urban area can be understood on the basis of following indicators:

  • Size: The size of an urban area is greater than the size of any village or town.
  • Population: In an urban area the population is greater than any town or its village.
  • Municipality: An urban area has municipality, corporation, cantonment board or notified town area committee, resident welfare associations, mayor association etc.
  • Non-agricultural work: The majority of population is engaged in non-agricultural jobs.
  • Urban characteristics: An urban area has paved streets, electric lighting, sewerage facilities etc.

Considering at the above indicators that define an urban areas I need to pose a question to the readers – ARE WE URBAN ENOUGH?

Does the city/areas you live in qualify to be urban area? Or is it still considered as rural in government records?

How does the municipality in your area works? It is people centric? What are the challenges in front of your municipality?

What are the non-agricultural jobs people are involved in? How many people are from informal sector in your state? What are the different kinds of trades they are involved in?

Does your city have paved streets, electric lighting, sewerage facilities etc and in what condition?

Do share some example from your own city, place, locality, and workplace. To find out what we need to change around in order to be fully urban!

See similar query raised at Terraurban:

Are ‘Slums’ Urban?

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