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HindustanTimes Thu,17 Apr 2014

Urban infrastructure not keeping pace with increasing migration

Abhijit Patnaik, Hindustan Times  New Delhi, December 02, 2013
First Published: 00:35 IST(2/12/2013) | Last Updated: 14:57 IST(2/12/2013)

Cities across India have seen explosive growth in the last 20 years, with swelling population being the constant.

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Here is a peek into the future. India’s urban population, 340 million in 2008, will soar to 590 million in 2030, according to a report by global management consulting firm McKinsey.

The population of metros such as Delhi has grown by over 21% in the last decade. The growth in smaller cities has been ever more phenomenal. For instance, Ahmedabad’s population grew 40.38% between 2001 and 2011.

At a time when increasing migration is adding to the numbers in cities, infrastructure development is not keeping either pace or scale.

India’s urban centres need to do much more to provide better housing, roads, power and water supply.

One big challenge affecting everyone’s daily life in growing cities is traffic.

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In an exclusive HT-GfK Mode survey, 44% respondents said lack of public transport was the reason for bad traffic in their city. Another 17% complained of air pollution, which goes hand in hand with traffic.

“Driving on Delhi’s roads is impossible now; they are always jam-packed. Even though it takes me a whole extra hour via metro to get to office compared to driving, I prefer the former,” said Isha Pandita, 26, an auto-parts company executive.

While some bigger metros such as Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore have made concerted efforts to improve public transport with the metro, many smaller cities continue to suffer traffic problems.

With growth and rising incomes, there has been a huge increase in the number of cars in cities such as Ahmedabad, Pune and Hyderabad, adding to the chaos on the streets.

It is telling that in these smaller cities, 43% respondents spend more than an hour getting to and from work, compared to only 18% in big cities.

Solving traffic woes is the key to urban renewal. Unsurprisingly, a combination of upgrading existing public transportation system and introducing modern traffic systems such as dedicated bus corridors and the metro is the popular solution, according to the survey.

But for 38% of those surveyed, the solution lies in punitive measures on car owners. Levying congestion charges, limiting car ownership, and increasing fuel prices are among the top recommendations.

India’s urban growth, however, is not an unending bleak story.

According to the survey, some of the biggest improvements in cities have been the increase of good schools, hospitals, restaurants and bars.  

But when it comes to sports, cultural and other recreational facilities, once again, our cities have not shown much improvement.

(With inputs from Swati Kundra)

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