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Urbanisation Strategy – Growing better cities: Follow the ring-road model

Urban planning in India must focus on building enabling infrastructure away from city centres.

Published: June 20, 2015 1:21:28 am
urban planning, smart city, india smart city, smart city planning, planning smart city, smart city india, urban development, business news More than half of Beijing’s 21.5 million residents live outside its Fifth Ring Road.

Designing the urbanisation in India:

India’s smart-city planners would do well to look at Beijing’s density map: more than half its population lives beyond its fifth ring road. For India, urban planning must focus on building attractive and enabling infrastructure further away from city centres to de-densify traditional hubs. Here is a simple model of city planning which draws significantly upon the Chinese idea of ring roads:

Beijing is building a series of ring roads

Beijing Municipal Statistics Bureau reports that more than half of the city’s 21.5 million residents live outside its Fifth Ring Road, a road built in the early 2000s that traces a circle roughly 20 kms in diameter around the city. The city is now building its sixth and seventh ring roads to cater to its spread-out population. Simple math shows that a road with 20 km diameter has a run length of 60 kms and an area of 300 sq. km. If 10 million people live within these boundaries, this implies a density of 30,000 people per sq. km. It is hence imperative for the city to continue to develop further ring roads to cater to its large population. We note that the official area of Beijing is measured as 3,756 sq. km.

India’s urbanisation will see the creation of large megapolises

In its GameChanger report, Multiplicities (July 2014), Kotak Institutional Equities had highlighted two key points about India’s urbanisation:

(1) India’s urbanisation will be a story of two parts: A large proportion of population will stay in megapolises while many existing small urban centres begin to mushroom

(2) Existing Indian megapolises must de-densify. Beset by poor transport infrastructure and restrictive city limits, Indian cities are amongst the densest in the world. Cities can raise funds for their development by developing transport infrastructure in virgin lands just outside city limits and auctioning the land surrounding the newly built infrastructure.

Smart growth: planned expansion trumps organic proliferation

As Indian cities seek to be converted into smart cities, they need to offer a better quality of life to their citizens. Larger living spaces (even if further away from places of work or study) and shorter commutes (in terms of time, not distance) are two key variables to address. The missing element in India in providing this upgraded quality of life is the lack of transport infrastructure. Concentric ring roads around cities which are connected to each other can offer cities and their citizenry the best of both worlds. Most Indian cities, apart from the coastal cities like Mumbai and Chennai, have the luxury to grow concentrically. Indeed, cities like Hyderabad and Bengaluru have taken this approach to development. The approach needs to be the cornerstone of city planning so cities do not expand in a haphazard, organic manner.

A simple rule-of-thumb model for city development

India must follow the simple ring-road model. Tier-2 cities in India need to plan to house 7-10 million people over the next few years. The model involves three large ring roads built with diameters of 20, 25 and 30 kms. This translates into road lengths of about 60, 75 and 90 kms, respectively. The innermost ring will encircle an area of 300 sq. km. and can house 4.5 million people with a density of 15,000 people per sq. km. As we spread out, the density decreases meaningfully — allowing people who are willing to travel longer distances the luxury of bigger homes. The build-out of 250 kms of ring road per city will cost `25-50 billion. If implemented for 10-15 cities, this can kick-start projects worth `250 billion-`750 billion. More important, this will open up large areas for residential and commercial development across cities and prevent congestion.

by Kotak Institutional Equities

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