Urban planners, architects, engineers and funders will have their task cut out when Prime Minister Narendra Modi launches on June 25 an ambitious plan to develop 100 smart cities, a project fraught with challenges at the conceptual stage itself.
The majority of India’s 53 metropolitan cities, each with a million-plus population, as well as the top three — Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata — don’t reveal encouraging signs in terms of socio-economic parameters, a study shows.
Delhi is ranked 23rd among the 53 cities as far as access to basic infrastructure — such as drinking water, sanitation, disposal of wastes and roads — is concerned. Kolkata is 24th while Mumbai is 19th, according to the first-phase report of a study conducted between 2012 and 2014 by the National Institute of Urban Affairs, an autonomous agency under the Union urban development ministry.
Hyderabad is the most livable city on this count, followed by Chennai, Vadodara, Chandigarh and Pune.
Dhanbad, the coal city in Jharkhand, is the worst and it also ranks last in terms of housing quality, a parameter where Surat comes on top.
Greater Mumbai is the most claustrophobic among eight mega-cities with a five million-plus population, as 7.7% of its people have “no exclusive room” and 57.3% live in just one room. At 41.3%, Greater Mumbai also has the third highest percentage of households living in slums.
The study was commissioned to analyse demogra-phic, economic and social structure and the status of basic infrastructure in urban settlements. The report was based on analysis of secondary data from Census 2011, National Sample Survey for 2004-05, 2009-10 and 2011-12 and Consumer Expenditure Rounds for 2004-05, 2009-10 and 2011-12.
“The study shows there is a huge gap between access and quality of basic services in metro cities,” says Prof Debolina Kundu of NIUA, in-charge of the project.
Prof S Chandrasekhar of Mumbai’s Indira Gandhi Institute of Development Research says India needs a pre-emptive strategy aimed at planning for growth rather than a reactive strategy in the face of urban sprawl.
“The indubitable idea is to make cities work for the people… Today most measures taken by the government are reactive.”
In terms of economic performance, mega-cities fared poorly compared to smaller metros with populations between 1 and 5 million, the report says. Delhi’s neighbour Faridabad is the best, Allahabad the worst. The national capital is ranked 18th.
Faridabad is followed by Vishakhapatnam, Kochi, Kannur, Kollam, Ludhiana, Tiruchirapalli, Thrissur, Bhopal and Chandigarh. These have the highest per capita income, indicating their financial good health.
On the flipside, Faridabad has the second highest level of poverty among the 53 cities. This pointed to the growing economic disparity among the populace. Varanasi tops the list, while Thane and Bangalore have the least number of poor people.
The study shows inequitable growth and unemployment in the metros, though the concentration of income-generating opportunities is more in these cities.