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Urbanisation is no panacea for all our ills

Urbanization is a modern phenomenon and results in progressive concentration of population in urban unit. In India too urbanisation is taking place and of late quite rapidly. Though only 1/3rd of India’s population now lives in urban areas, every 12th city dweller of the world and every 7th of the developing countries is from India. This ratio bound to improve in the coming days as it is estimated that more than half the population of the country would live in urban areas.

But urbanisation is not panacea for all our ills and at times it may the reason for some of them.  Urbanisation in India has created problems of housing, mushrooming of slums, inadequate provision of transport services, water supply and sanitation facilities, increased pollution, both water and air and above all inadequate provision for social infrastructure (school, hospital, etc).  Most of the Metro cities in India have reached saturation point in terms of employment creation and provision of basic amenities to the cities. As a result, we can see in most of our cities urban poverty, growing unemployment, homeless population and stretched urban infrastructure. Urbanization occurs not due to urban pull but due to rural push factors.

Growth seen in urban areas is not inclusive one and has only helped to increase disparity between the rich and poor. In fact, Urbanization is generating social and economic inequalities which warrant social conflicts, crimes and anti-social activities. Illiterate, low-skilled or unskilled migrants from rural areas are absorbed in poor low-grade urban informal sector at a very low wage-rate and urban informal sector becomes inefficient and unproductive. Most of these cities using capital intensive technologies cannot generate employment for these distressed rural poor. So, there is transfer from rural poverty to urban poverty.

Unchecked migration of rural population to cities has resulted in their horizontal expansion engulfing the nearby fringe villages and converting the agricultural lands for housing and creating other infrastructural facilities. Another thing worth consideration is land value which is appreciated because of scarcity of land in the growing urban centres. Therefore, there is mushrooming growth of apartments and in busy centres, the apartments are given permission without checking the way of sewage facilities.

To put it in simple words, our cities have grown over the year only in terms of population and in some cases, in area but not in urban prosperity, and culture. Further, lopsided and uncontrolled urbanization leads to environmental degradation and degradation in the quality of urban life.

Since our mega cities have reached a saturation point in terms of employment generation future growth efforts and investments should be directed towards small cities which have been neglected so far so that functional base of urban economy is strengthened. Policy should also be related to proper urban planning where city planning will consist of operational, developmental and restorative planning. Operational planning should take care of improvement of urban infrastructure, e.g. roads, traffic, transport etc.

Our developmental planning should emphasize on development of newly annexed urban areas. Restorative planning should aim to restore original status of old building monuments which have historic value. In general, urban planning must aim at following components like balanced regional and urban planning, development of strong economic base for urban economy and more importantly, integration of rural and urban sectors.

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