Having witnessed a significant rise in urbanisation in 2001–11 decade —percentage of urban population jumped from 27.8 per cent to 31.15 per cent — India is expected to continue with the trend till 2030. While an estimated 180 million rural people lived around India’s 70 largest urban centres in 2011, Mckinsey Global Institute estimates that this number may jump to about 210 million by 2030.
The India Habitat III National Report, 2016 released on Friday recognises that the country has witnessed important changes, and, in many ways, has posted departures from the earlier ways of looking at urbanisation since the adoption of Habitat II agenda in 1996, but is also facing challenges, including infrastructure deficits, issues of governance and financing urban development among others.
India’s urban system consists of 7,933 cities and towns as of 2011 with a population of 377.16 million. It is now the second largest in the world rising from 5,161 towns and cities in 2001 with a total population of 286.1 million. The report projects that over the last few decades, India’s urbanisation has witnessed important shifts such as rising population share of metropolitan cities and a sharp jump in the numbers and population of census towns whose share in urban population has risen from 7.6 per cent in 2001 to 14.5 per cent in 2011.
This is set to rise exponentially and as per the United Nations (2014) estimates, the population increase in India between 2015 and 2030 would increase in urban areas and the addition may be around 164 million people. The report says that aligning urban land markets to the forces of India’s urbanisation remains a challenge. The urban land in India currently accounts for 3.1 per cent of the country’s land area and presents a complex situation where high urban densities co-exist with sub-optimal utilisation. The report adds that while the overall supply of urban lands has risen over the ten year period between 2001–11, the supply still lags behind the demand.
While supply and usage of urban lands are regulated across the globe, the report points that in India, “The processes of land acquisition for urban use is cumbersome and constrained by factors such as the purpose underlying land acquisition, the amount of compensation, and the likes.” It, however, added that India has taken several initiatives in recent years to lay down fresh rules for land acquisition and to increase land supplies with innovative practices such as land pooling, land readjustment, negotiated land purchases, and transit-oriented development.
The report points that infrastructure deficit is severe across cities and towns, and have dented the urban quality of life and local economic development. It further elaborated that various studies have pointed at structural dysfunctionalities such as non-revenue water, low-level of metering and below-cost pricing, as barriers to both public and private investment. Even governance holds key to well–managed cities and towns. Since urban development is a subject of states under the country’s federal structure, it is the state governments that define state-specific urban development policies and establish institutions, including local governments for advancing the urban policy agenda.
The report says that one of the key challenges that India faces is financing the urban development. “The two recent studies (McKinsey Global Institute in 2010 and High-Powered Expert Committee in 2011) place the investment requirements for urban infrastructure between $810 million and $1.2 trillion for a period of 20 years,” said the report.
While India has taken steps to aim at the structural, functional and financial components of the municipal system, the report said that the common underlying thrust of these initiatives is to strengthen municipal finance and governance by modifying the problematic elements of the system and to align them with contemporary changes. Another issue raised in the report is inadequate urban transport infrastructure and services both in quantity and quality. It said that while private motor vehicles have multiplied several times the road network and capacity stand severely stressed. “The use of modes such as walking and bicycling, and other para-transport modes is on the decline—the overall result being increasing road congestion, falling road speed, increasing air pollution, and reduced road safety,” said the report. Even urban air quality, water pollution and emission levels are an increasing concern, the report added.