Home arrow Archives arrow Open Forum arrow Open Forum 2010 arrow Urbanizing Fast, Developing Slowly:CITIES LACK BASIC LIVING STANDARDS , by Suraj Saraf, 8 Sept, 2010
News and Features
INFA Digest
Parliament Spotlight
Journalism Awards
Urbanizing Fast, Developing Slowly:CITIES LACK BASIC LIVING STANDARDS , by Suraj Saraf, 8 Sept, 2010 Print E-mail

Open Forum

New Delhi, 8 September 2010


Urbanizing Fast, Developing Slowly


By Suraj Saraf


The mess that fast Indian urbanization is shaping into has been highlighted in a number of recent reports by various agencies. In one such telling report by Mckinsey Global Institute (MGI) India needed $ 1.2 trillion capital expenditure to cater to this growth, mainly in infrastructure, an eight-fold increase of the current spending level.


Worse, “Across all major quality-of-life indicators, India’s cities fall well short of delivering even a basic standard of living for their residents. Considering that the country “spends only $17 per capita on urban infrastructure, compared to rival China’s $116. Clearly, an inadequate amount,” the report added.


While it took about 40 years for the urban population to rise by nearly 230 million in 2008, it would take only half that time to add the next 250 million people. Thus, over the next two decades, the country would see an urban transformation the scale and speed of which has not happened anywhere except China, with many cities becoming larger than many countries in terms of population size.


Consider: India has Asia’s third largest economy and the increasing global clout that goes with it. It is already home to a quarter of the world’s 20 most densely populated countries. While rapidly modernizing cities such as China’s Shanghai and Brazil’s Sao Paulo are winning business from London and New York, the slow pace of urban development in India is harming its cities. Which would be home to 530 million people in 2021 and about 590 million in 2030, nearly twice the population of US. Alongwith poor infrastructure it would shave off 2 percentage points of India’s economic growth.


Besides, the growth of urban population has put severe pressure on civic amenities, water supply, sewerage, drainage, transport and availability of houses in all major cities. Notwithstanding, the 11th Plan’s estimate of Rs.53,666 crore for water supply, Rs. 53168 crore for sewerage, Rs.20173 crore for drainage and Rs.2212 crore for solid waste management in urban areas.


Shockingly, even as the economy shows an upward growth trajectory, around 49000 slums continue to blight the urban landscape forcing lakhs of people to live in pathetic conditions, according to the National Sample Survey. Making things worse, of these 49000 slums, 24% were located along nallahas and drains and around 12% along railway tracks. Not surprisingly 57% of slums had come up on public land, owned mostly by local bodies and State Governments.


Also, though sanitary conditions in slums in terms of toilet facilities had improved, a lot still needed to be done. True, toilets with septic tanks (or similar facility) were available in 68% notified and 47% non-notified slums (up from 66% and 35% respectively in 2002). But around 10% notified and 20% non-notified slums (down from 17% and 51% respectively in 2002) did not have any toilet facility at all, despite, the UPA Government’s ambitious promise of making India slum-free.


More. Around 10% notified and 23% non-notified slums did not have any drainage facility at all. Of these 48% were water-logged during monsoon, 32% inside the slums and approach road and 9% on only the approach road.  


As for roads, regardless of about 50% improvement in notified slums in the last five years, the survey found that 78% of notified slums and 57% of non-notified slums had an approach road inside the slum and around 73 of the notified and 58% of non-notified slums had a motorable approach road.  While 64% of the notified slums had a majority of pucca dwellings the corresponding percentage for non-notified slums was 50%. Only 1% notified and 7% non-notified slums did not have electricity connection.


Importantly, given this messed-up urbanization, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has launched a ‘1000 cities, 1000 lives,’ project to accelerate improvement. Under this campaign, cities have been invited to earmark a portion of their streets to people and close them to motor vehicles, offering citizens public space for physical exercise, meeting family, friends and community, health checks, eating healthy food or visiting local attractions. Already 84 countries and 453 cities have registered their participation of which 80 cities are Indian.


To ensure lasting health benefit to cities and citizens, special attention is being paid to schools, activities with children, clean-up poster campaigns in schools and university forums, company relay races, health fairs and town hall meeting with mayors, State heads and national leaders on local health concerns.


Undoubtedly, the WHO has launched this project as all population growth over the next 30 years would be in urban areas, which in turn is fast emerging as a major challenge for public health issues. Namely, water, environment, communicable diseases like tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS and non-communicable diseases like tobacco use, unhealthy diets.


Given this scenario, the Union Government is soon launching a National Urban Health Mission to provide better health care to urban slums. This ambitious Rs.33000 crore scheme is expected to bring under its purview domestic helps, vegetable vendors and vulnerable population like migrants, rag pickers and street children.


Importantly, the Mission aims to correct “structural imbalances” of public health system in urban areas, including that of infrastructure and human resource. It plans to focus on urban slum dwellers who neither get the benefit of routine immunization nor of vector-born diseases programmes. As also reproductive and child health care in cities with a more than one lakh population. Particularly as several health indicators among the urban poor are worse than those in rural areas. The under-five child mortality rate is 72.7 significantly higher than the urban average of 51.9, per 1000. The Mission aims at reducing this to 30 per thousand. Whether it will succeed only time will tell. ---- INFA


(Copyright, India News and Feature Alliance)

< Previous   Next >
  Mambo powered by Best-IT