Growing cities: on Urban governance


Cities are economically vibrant spaces around the world and draw a large number of rural migrants looking for better prospects. This is a sustained trend, particularly in developing countries now, as production, jobs and markets get concentrated.

World Urbanization Prospects

• UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs has released its 2018 Revision of the World Urbanization Prospects.

• Forecasting for the year 2050, the UN agency estimates that the percentage of urban residents in India would be 52.8, compared to 34 today, while Delhi would edge past Tokyo as the world’s most populous city by 2028.

• India, China and Nigeria are expected to lead other countries and account for 35% of the projected growth in urban population by mid-century.

Challenges with Urbanization

• Urbanisation in the country is a complex process since it is defined not by a constant migration of rural residents but by the flow of workers, mostly men, and the expansion of big cities through the addition of neighbouring towns.

• The imperative before the Centre and State governments is to come up with policies that provide adequate services in the villages while investing in cities to ensure that their high levels of productivity and efficiency are not compromised.

Overpopulated Cities

• Housing deficits have led to the proliferation of slums, lack of enforcement of building norms has left the metros heavily congested, and poor investment in public transport has fuelled unsustainable levels of private vehicle use.

• A recent data released by the World Health Organisation show, 14 Indian cities are among the top 20 worldwide with the worst air quality profiles for fine particulate matter of 2.5 micrometres.

• Most cities are also unable to collect and dispose of municipal waste scientifically, and simply dump them in the suburbs. Such a dismal scenario can only get worse with higher population concentrations, unless city governments come into their own.

• Even two-and-a-half decades after municipal laws were reformed, elected Mayors lack the stature and authority to introduce urgently needed reforms.

The Way forward

• Now is the time to take a fresh look at urban governance. While the Centre’s goal of homes for all by 2022 is laudable, it is unlikely to be realised without a push from the States, and the launch of schemes driven by innovation and low-cost approaches.

• Augmenting rental housing should be a priority within the plan. Integrating green spaces, open commons and wetlands will make cities cleaner and aesthetically richer.


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