India’s urbanisation process has been largely “messy and hidden”, according to a World Bank report which states that the urban sprawl actually accounts for 55.3 per cent of the country’s total population and that official census figures understate it as only 31 per cent.
The report on South Asia’s urbanisation, released on Thursday, points out that urban footprints are growing at twice the rate of urban population. Official census figures show the share of urban population growing at an annual growth rate of 1.15 per cent between 2001 and 2011, from 27.4 per cent to 30.9 per cent. However, the share of population living in urban-like features is 55.3 per cent as per the agglomeration index, the globally used alternative measure of urban concentration in the absence of consistent cross country census figures.
This discrepancy is due to the fact that in major cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad and Kolkata, population growth has been maximum outside the fringes of the official administrative boundaries. Such areas have urban characteristics but fall short on criteria required to be classified officially as urban. Moreover, the seven largest metropolitan areas of the country saw a 16 per cent decline in manufacturing jobs between 1998 and 2005 within 10 km of their city centres while in the peripheries it increased by 12 per cent. India’s “messy urbanisation” is reflected in the increasing urban sprawl as also the fact that one in seven people in urban areas live in slums.
Annette Dixon, vice president for the South Asia region of the World Bank, said, “The core areas of cities have remained stagnant or witnessed declining economic activity as congestion is driving people out. There is a need to revitalise the core of cities.”
Officials said the smart cities mission of the government rightly focuses on improving existing cities instead of building new cities, thus avoiding the pitfalls of transforming it into ghost towns. “We are in talks with the government on how to provide initial funding for the mission,” said Onno Ruhl, World Bank country director for India. The government is set to approach the World Bank for a loan of £500 million for the smart cities mission for 2015-20.
The report mentions that in the decade since 2000, the urban population of South Asia grew by 130 million, which is equal to the population of Japan, and it is set to increase by another 250 million by 2030.