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Sustainable Urban Development In India Environmental Sciences Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Environmental Sciences
Wordcount: 3386 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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India is the world’s largest democracy and second most populous country and is emerging as a major power. Since 1991, India has seen a far-reaching, rapid and successful transformation of its economic order, making the country one of the most dynamic in the world. This process was driven by high levels of productivity in services and manufacturing. According to the commonly used development indicators, India is progressing at a rapid pace, second only to China. The incidence rate of poverty has declined. However, India is still tackling huge social, economic and environmental problems.

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With rapid expansion of urban population around the world there is an increasing awareness about minimizing the environmental costs of urbanization. Concerns are raised at environmental damages and depletion of nonrenewable resources and rising levels of pollution in urban areas. In recent times urban centres have become places of urban environmental degradation and wasteful use of resources, which is proving to be costly to generations present and future. Sustainable urban development is achieving a fine balance between growth, development of the urban areas and protection of the environment with an eye to equity in employment, shelter, basic services, social infrastructure and transportation in the urban areas.

Brundtland Commission (1983) describes sustainable development as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”. The UN Conference on ‘Environment and Development’ (also known as ‘Earth Summit’) held at Rio-de Janeiro in 1992 adopted an action plan, popularly known as ‘Agenda 21’. The agenda 21 promised to reduce poverty, provide clean water and health care, and protect the natural resources for sustainable development. The Millennium Declaration by the General Assembly of the United Nations in September 2000 reaffirmed its commitment to the right to development, peace, security and gender equality, for overall sustainable development. Countries were expected to take efforts in the fight against poverty, illiteracy, hunger, lack of education, gender inequality, infant and maternal mortality, disease and environmental degradation. Millennium Development Goals have urged for ensuring environmental sustainability and reduction of the percentage of the population under extreme poverty. Thus all the initiatives taken so far on environment and development have stressed on economically viable development, socially equitable development and protection of the environment .Attaining sustainable development requires addressing social and environmental equity in development in ways that are socially, economically and politically acceptable.


India is one of the fastest growing economies in the world today. Economic growth rate of 5.5 per cent per annum during 1981-2001, accelerated to 7.7 per cent per annum during 2001-02 and further to 8-9 per cent per annum GDP growth in 2010-11Economic development also leads to rapid urbanization .As an economy grows, its towns and urban centres expand in size and volume and the contribution of the urban sector to the national economy increases. The contribution of urban sector to India’s GDP has increased from 29% in 1950-51 to 47% in 1980-81. The urban sector presently contributes about 62%-63% of the GDP and this is expected to increase to 75% by 2021 .

According to census of India, the urban population in the country as on 1st March 2001, was 286 million. This constituted 27.8% of the total population of 1028 millions. The rapid pace of urbanization has resulted in explosive growth of urban centres, This phenomenon has led to tremendous pressure on civic infrastructure systems, water supply, sewerage and drainage, uncollected solid waste, parks and open spaces, transport, etc. It has also led to deterioration in the quality of city environments. In several urban centres, the problems of traffic congestion, pollution, poverty, inadequate housing, crime, and social unrest are assuming alarming proportions.

As per Census of India 2001 has grown upto 23.5 per cent of the total urban population and projections for 2011 indicate that this percentage is likely to go up to 30 per cent .In some urban centres, the proportion is 40-50 per cent. The proliferation of slums in metropolitan urban centres has become so extensive that as of 2001, 54 per cent of the total population of Mumbai lives in slums. Slums generally lack basic infrastructure, housing, social amenities and this has implications on health and productivity of the people living in such areas. This also has serious implications for future generation of people residing in such areas.In some urban centres, the proportion is 40-50 per cent. The proliferation of slums in metropolitan urban centres has become so extensive that as of 2001, 54 per cent of the total population of Mumbai lives in slums. Slums generally lack basic infrastructure, housing, social amenities and this has implications on health and productivity of the people living in such areas. This also has serious implications for future generation of people residing in such areas.

The trends of urbanization in India in the recent decades indicate the following key features:

The degree of urbanization in India is one of the lowest in the world. With about 27.8% of the total population living in the urban areas, India is less urbanized compared to many countries of Asia, viz., China (32%), Indonesia (37%), Japan (78%), South Korea (83%), and Pakistan (35%).

There is a continued concentration of the urban population in large urban centres and existing city agglomerations (Class I urban centres with population over one lakh) account for 68.9% of the urban population and this proportion has been growing. The growth of rural settlements which are acquiring urban characteristic is very slow and there is reluctance on the part of the States to notify the rural settlements as a town.

There are large variations in the spatial patterns of urbanization across the States and urban centres.

The pattern of population concentration in large urban centres reflects spatial polarization of the employment opportunities.

Urban India is thus undergoing a transition in terms of physical form, demographic profile and socio-economic diversity. The important role of urban centres in national economic process and their global linkages demand more attention for their development, Urban centres are expected to perform efficiently in keeping with emerging demands for employment, commerce, trade, industry and other services. Urban centres have to attract investments for improving their efficiencies by way of upto date infrastructure, improved governance and affordable housing/ living with modern amenities.

The urban centres of India need to be prepared for playing their new role of hosting rapid growth and providing services for an inclusive society. Not only do urban centres need much more by way of basic infrastructure but systems have to be put in place so that

A socio-economic environment can be created,

Affordable and Effective delivery of public services for all

Affordable housing for the poor.

This would require more public financial resources and more public goods, bringing the delivery of services to standard norms for all, greater willingness on the part of citizens and businesses to pay taxes and user charges for services, and a process of complementary urban-rural development. It is a challenge for policymakers, planners, intellectuals, officials, administrators and city manager and leaders to re-engineer urban planning especially settlements for better living conditions and better quality of life of all the citizens, especially the urban poor


India is a federal polity with division of powers between centre and states. In the Federal structure of the Indian polity, the matters pertaining to the housing and urban development have been assigned by the Constitution of India to the State Governments. The Constitutions (74th Amendment) Act have further delegated many of these functions to the urban local bodies. State Legislatures also authorize the Union Parliament to legislate.

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Government of India plays a pivotal role and exercises influence to shape the policies and programmes of the country as a whole. The National Policy issues are decided by the Government of India which also allocates resources to the State Governments through various Centrally Sponsored schemes, provides finances through national financial institutions and supports various external assistance programmes for housing and urban development in the country as a whole. Policies and programme contents are decided at the time of formulation of Five Year Plans. The indirect effect of the fiscal, economic and industrial location decisions of the Government of India exercise a dominant influence on the pattern of urbanisation and real estate investment in the country.

The Ministry of Urban Employment & Poverty Alleviation is the apex authority of Government of India at the national level to formulate policies, sponsor and support programme, coordinate the activities of various Central Ministries, State Governments and other nodal authorities and monitor the The Ministry was constituted on 13th May, 1952 when it was known as the Ministry of Works, Housing & Supply. Subsequently it was renamed as Ministry of Works & Housing when a separate Ministry of Supplies came up. The name of the Ministry was changed to Ministry of Urban Development in September, 1985 in recognition of the importance of urban issues. With the creation of a separate Department of Urban Employment & Poverty Alleviation on 8th March, 1995, the Ministry came to be known as the Ministry of Urban Affairs & Employment. The Ministry had two Departments: Department of Urban Development & Department of Urban Employment & Poverty Alleviation. The two Departments were again merged on 9th April, 1999 and in consequence thereto, the name has also been restored to “The Ministry of Urban Development”. The Ministry has again been bifurcated into two ministries viz : (i) Ministry of Urban Development; and (ii) Ministry of Urban Employment and Poverty Alleviation. The Ministry of Urban Development is responsible for formulating policies, supporting programs, monitoring programs and coordinate the activities of various Central Ministries, State Governments and other nodal authorities in so far as the relate to urban development concerning all the issues in the country. programmes concerning all the issues of urban employment, poverty and housing in the country.


Housing, besides being a very basic requirement, holds the key to accelerate the pace of development. Investments in housing like any other industry have a multiplier effect on income and employment. It is estimated that overall employment generation in the economy due to additional investment in the housing/construction is eight times the direct employment1. The construction sector provides employment to 16% of the work force .Housing also has a direct impact on steel and cement industry, which accounts for considerable contributions to the national economy. Housing also contributes substantially to the services sector of the economy, which leads to generation of employment. Other significant aspect of housing development is its potential to generate employment for a wide section of population with varying degrees of skills and education.

Housing Shortage and fund Requirement

Urbanisation factors are coupled with housing shortage and insecure housing conditions, inadequate infrastructure & transportation leading to a diminished quality of urban life in urban centers in majority of developing countries. In India ,according to the report of the Technical Group on estimation of housing shortage constituted in the context of formulation of the Eleventh Five-Year Plan, housing shortage is estimated to be around 24.71 million. As per Planning Commission earlier estimates for the 10th Plan beginning in 2002, the urban housing backlog was 8.8 million dwelling units and the total requirement was 22.44 million dwelling units. The overall housing shortage thus during the plan period (2007-2012) including the backlog was estimated as 26.53 million. About 99% of such households are from EWS and low income groups (LIG). For estimating the investment requirements for the Eleventh Plan, the Working Group on Urban Housing made different assumptions on unit cost of construction of houses in million plus urban centres and other urban areas. The total investment requirement for meeting the housing requirement would be of the order of Rs 361318.10 crore consisting of Rs 147195 crore required for mitigating housing shortage at the beginning of the Eleventh Plan and Rs 214123.10 crore for new additions to be made during the Eleventh Plan period This includes pucca ,upgradation of semi-pucca, and kutcha housing units and investments in housing by individuals and corporates.


The National Urban Housing and Habitat Policy provide the basic framework for achieving the objective of ‘shelter for all’. The policy was evolved in 1998 with the long-term goal of eradicating houselessness, improving the housing conditions of the inadequately housed, and providing a minimum level of basic services and amenities to all. It was formulated to address the issues of sustainable development, infrastructure development, and for strong PPPs for shelter delivery with the objective of creating surpluses in housing stock and facilitating construction of two million dwelling units each year in pursuance of the National Agenda for Governance. However, the housing sector has witnessed several changes since then. The 1998 National Housing Policy has been replaced by a National Habitat and Housing Policy, 2007 with land and the development of civic amenities to make land habitable as its two critical elements. In order to improve the quality of life in urban areas, it is of critical significance that the housing stock is improved through urban renewal, in situ slum improvement, and development of new housing stock in existing urban centres as well as new townships. However, despite many policy measures and initiatives, the coverage of urban poor with these intended benefits has not been achieved to the desired extent.

Expanding equitable access

The 11th Five Year Plan adopts ‘inclusive growth’ as the theme for planning. An inclusive city requires all marginalized sections of urban society to function affectively in their social, economic, political and cultural domains and also needs to preserve its cultural identity absorbing dynamic population growth. It is important to integrate urban poor, women, destitutes, widows and children and old-age people in the city life and fabric.

Developing inclusive urban centres of “Slum-free Urban India” is the challenge.

In order to improve upon the living conditions in slums, the Government of India had launched The Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM).JNNURM is the largest initiative ever launched by the Government of India to address the problems of infrastructure and basic services to the poor in urban centres and towns in a holistic manner. The Mission is being implemented over a period of 7 years (2005-2012) with Central Assistance to States to the tune of Rs.50,000 crores. The objective of the Mission was to give focused attention to integrate development of infrastructure services, establishment of linkages between asset-creation and asset-management through reforms, ensuring adequate funds to meet the deficiencies in urban infrastructural services, planned development of identified urban centres including peri-urban areas, outgrowths and urban corridors leading to dispersed urbanization, provision of basic services to the urban poor including security of tenure at affordable prices, improved housing, water supply and sanitation, and ensuring delivery of other existing universal services of the Govt. for education, health and social security.

Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) provides a new paradigm for inclusive city & building inclusive urban communities based on holistic approach. It envisages reform-driven, fast-track and planned development of urban centres, with focus on efficiency in urban infrastructure/ service delivery mechanism, community participation and accountability of Urban Local Bodies (ULBs) towards citizens.The Mission covered both components from core infrastructure as well as last mile services to the urban poor, ensuring convergence with the sectors of human development as well. The two sub-missions for 63 identified urban centres are:

Urban Infrastructure and Governance (UIG)

Basic Services to the Urban Poor (BSUP)

The Ministry of Urban Development is dealing urban Infrastructure and Governance (UIG) and Urban Infrastructure Development Scheme in Small and Medium Towns (UIDSSMT). The Ministry of Housing & Urban Poverty Alleviation is dealing with BSUP & IHSDP especially the slum dwellers. JNNURM contemplates that urban centres develop planned urban perspective frameworks for a period of 20-25 years (with 5-yearly updates) indicating policies, programmes and strategies of meeting fund requirements. This perspective plan is to be followed by preparation of Development Plans integrating land use with services, urban transport and environment management for every five-year plan period.

Access to land and legal security of tenure are strategic prerequisites for the provision of adequate shelter for all and for the development of sustainable human settlements affecting both urban and rural areas. The major challenges facing is the scarcity of land for planning of housing for slum redevelopment projects for urban poor. This has been accentuated due to high cost of prime land where the slum dwellers reside. The present policy of the Central Government lays stress on an enabling approach. While recognizing the existence of different national laws and/or systems of land tenure, governments at the appropriate levels, including local authorities, are striving to remove obstacles that may hamper equitable access to land and ensure that equal rights of women and men related to land and property are protected under the law.

The Jawahar Lal Nehru Mission and Rajiv Awas Yojana gives an institutional framework by focusing on 7 point charter and creating tenurial rights for slum household especially women as joint ownership. This has been further strengthened in the Rajiv Awas Yojana wherein each state has been requested to create legislative and enabling environment for slum free India. JNNURM with its focus on important aspects like urban reforms, pro-poor infrastructure investments, inclusive urban planning, integrated management of urban infrastructure, slum rehabilitation including affordable housing and tenure security is a very positive step towards achieving the goal of inclusive and sustainable urban centers. However, challenges facing urban local bodies’ needs to be seen in the emerging scenarios of urbanization, inclusion and financial challenges.

Sustainable urban development in INDIA therefore requires holistic and integrated planning with optimum use of resources within a good governance FRAMEWORK for creating sustainable human environment. This requires paradigm shift in the existing institutions and the institutional framework for implementation. The decision making needs to be decentralized and resources financial and manpower needs to be devolved to the urban local bodies i.e. urban centres (urban local bodies) with replicable, scalable, flexible institutional format.


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