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India is the second largest urban system in the world with almost 11% of the total global urban population living in Indian cities. In absolute numbers, the urban population in India is more than highly urbanised countries/regions across the globe. The country has reached a turning point in its journey of its economic transformation wherein half of the country would be ‘urban’ in a few decades. Urban growth is expected to contribute to 73% of the total population increase by 2036. Urbanisation is Central to India’s Economy. For India to become a global player, Urban India needs to take a giant leap with Indian cities being well-prepared for dealing with current challenges and a competitive future. Several bottlenecks and impediments such as lack of availability of serviced land, traffic congestion, pressure on basic infrastructure, extreme air pollution, urban flooding, water scarcity and droughts have been restricting urban planning capacity in the country. Over the last few years various programs have been launched to tackle the challenges and make appropriate use of opportunities in the urban development.

Drawbacks of Current model of urbanization:

  • The new Indian urban landscape is being designed around grand concepts such as smart cities and export-oriented industrial corridors.
  • Cities are built mostly on economic terms without considering or less importance to cultural and recreational aspects of human beings.
  • The cities do not cater for environmental disasters.
  • Currently, India’s ongoing urbanisation offers little opportunity for inclusion of its disadvantaged populations.
  • There is a growing phenomenon of ‘sons of soil’ or ‘outsider’ based abuse.
  • Politicisation of India’s urban spaces — often for so-called ‘vote-bank populism’ — is creating exclusionary barriers for new migrants.
  • Multiple jurisdictions, weak revenue base and human resource capacity deficit.

Urbanisation and Economic Growth:

  • There are strong correlations between urbanisation and economic growth.
  • Urbanisation could generate millions of jobs for the growing youth population.
  • Productivity increases when rural farmers become urban factory workers, as has happened most spectacularly in China.
  • Between 1978 and 2018, China’s urbanisation rate jumped up from 18% to 58%.
  • In the process, over 500 million people were lifted out of poverty and the country attained middle income status.
  • India’s present level of urbanisation (34%) is far lower than China (58%) or even Indonesia (55%).
  • Naturally, there is huge scope for growth.

Centre-State Coordination:

  • Since majority of city-related issues are state subjects, states must take the lead in order to make cities vibrant economic centres.
  • Sustainable urban development needs to be led by the central government working closely with state and local governments.
  • For effective implementation of the urbanisation roadmap, the Centre should take the lead to sensitise states and encourage them to frame their own urban policies.
  • The state policies could then be plugged into the overarching national framework.

Negative Impacts:

  • Urban population explosion has come with its own set of evils.
  • Metros like Bengaluru, once known for its expansive lakes, are set to face extreme water stress in the future.
  • Lakes are encroached for illegal buildings like high rise apartments, commercial building, and slum.
  • Cities are flooded during monsoon and after that we see a period of drought.
  • The environment has been the casualty.
  • Noise Pollution, Air Pollution and Water Scarcity.
  • Environmental pollution caused by daily hour-long traffic jams on a 10-km stretch causes more harm to the environment.
  • Long term exposure to fine particulate matter (PM2.5) contributed to 42 lakh premature deaths in 2015 in the whole world out of which India and China together shared 52%.
  • Water scarcity has often led to riots among common people in slums and undeveloped colonies where population density is very high.
  • Recent study found that adults living in urban areas, as well as those with a higher household wealth or education, tended to have a higher Cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) risk.


  • In Indian cities, there is lack of basic infrastructure and a deteriorating quality of life.
  • India spends about $17 per capita annually on urban infrastructure projects, against a global benchmark of $100 and China’s $116.
  • Indian cities face challenges in terms of governance and sustainability.
  • The poverty and social isolation of minority groups in cities.
  • With rapid urbanization, these problems are going to aggravate, and can cumulatively pose a challenge to India’s growth trajectory.
  • Urban institutions also suffer from shortage of skilled people.
  • Poor collection of property taxes. Jaipur and Bengaluru collect only 5-20% of their potential property tax.

Smart Cities:

  • In the budget, 2014, it was projected for ‘one hundred Smart cities’, as satellite towns of larger cities and modernizing the existing mid- sized cities. Though there is no clear definition of smart cities, it may include creative, cyber, digital, e-governed, entrepreneurial, intelligent, knowledge, harnessing the power of Information and communication technology (ICT). Smartness has to be there with respect to governance and service delivery.

Its feature can be :-

e-governance (through Digital India initiative, National e-governance plan, National Optical fiber network, e- panchayat project of MRD)

  • Continuous improvements in design and management
  • Climate oriented development
  • Mass transit oriented development
  • People centric technological applications (m-health, e- learning )
  • Planning can be bottom up for future urbanization
  • Smart PDS rationing
  • Social inclusive and economically diverse.

Creating Urban Infrastructure:

  • Not creating essential urban infrastructure will lead to a deteriorating quality of life.
  • With large-scale migration to the cities, we must focus on making our cities economically viable and environmentally sustainable.
  • Investing in our urban infrastructure will lead to enhanced economic activity.
  • It will result in large-scale employment generation and an improved quality of life.
  • This is a much-desired socioeconomic outcome in a young nation where the majority of urban migrants are youth.
  • We also need to work hard to ensure that our urban infrastructure causes least harm to the environment.