For growth, Hardeep Singh Puri calls for sustainable cities
Union housing and urban affairs minister Hardeep Singh Puri on Monday said there was a need to plan for equitable and sustainable cities, as urban areas will drive the country’s economy in the coming years.
Puri was speaking at World Resources Institute-India’s Connect Karo-2021 event that will focus on the way forward for making Indian cities “Clean, Green and Just”.
In a virtual address to the plenary session, Puri said ‘Atmanirbhar India’ is possible only if Indian cities, which will contribute 70% to national GDP by 2030, are productive. “The best performing cities globally contribute five times more to national GDP than comparable Indian cities. We need to generate a similar density of economic activities from our cities to answer the call by our Prime Minister of becoming a USD 5 trillion economy in the short term and USD 10 trillion economy by 2030,” said Puri, who is also the minister for petroleum and natural gas.
For this, there is a need to address urban challenges related to climate, urban planning, housing and transportation, the minister said.
“These issues become even more important due to the coronavirus pandemic, as cities faced a huge challenge in containing the spread of the contagious infection due to high population density residing in informal settlements such as slum clusters,” the Union minister said.
The minister said the government will launch the Swachh Bharat Mission 2.0, with an outlay of ₹1.41 lakh crore to focus on sludge management, waste water treatment, source segregation of garbage, and reduction in single-use plastics and controlling air pollution by managing construction and demolition waste, and bio-remediation at dump sites.
The conference will see over 150 experts discuss rapid urbanisation, its challenges and need for planned development to address issues of climate change. Hindustan Times is the media partner for the conference.
Roopa Kudva, managing director, Omidyar Network India (a philanthropic investment firm), said the pandemic has shown that public health, housing, water, etc are all connected issues and there is a need for an integrated planning approach. She said the urban poor were the most impacted by the pandemic.
“The virus spreads much faster in crowded slums where they had low access to water and sanitation. We need to plan for cities in an integrated manner…Getting urbanisation right would go a long way in mitigating risks from climate change. Compact, connected and coordinated cities that design public spaces and transportation around pedestrians are more inclusive, productive and resilient,” said Kudva.
The housing and urban affairs minister said the central government is taking steps to address the issue such as housing and transportation through its various initiatives.
Quoting estimates which state that urban Indian population is bound to rise up to 630 million by 2030, Puri also pointed out that in the past seven-and-a-half years, the government invested over ₹11 lakh crore in urban development. He also pointed out the government’s promptness in identifying issues and addressing them.
The minister said the government started a new initiative to meet the housing needs, as Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (PMAY) reached a point of maturity. “We discovered that there are people who come looking for work to the urban centres… and we immediately moved for a new scheme which is to provide affordable rental housing. I’m delighted to say that this scheme, which started recently, has begun to take off,” said Puri.
The minister also stressed on the need to provide cost effective and efficient transportation service, especially the mass transit systems such as Metro, in cities.
Speaking about the five-day event that will see over 150 speakers share their views on electric mobility, urban planning, air quality, child-friendly cities, safer streets etc, OP Agarwal, CEO, WRI India, said, “India is one of the fastest growing economies in the world today. Its urban population is projected to multiply to nearly 814 million by 2050. To harness such expansion and drive a sustainable model of growth, it is important that we focus on building cities that are clean, green and just. At Connect Karo, we envision bringing together significant stakeholders to accelerate a climate-forward, nature-based and inclusive urban development.”
Jamshyd Godrej, managing director and chairman, Godrej & Boyce, and Chairman WRI India, said, “We are facing a climate emergency today that requires companies, investors, governments and communities alike to transform to a cleaner, low-carbon and socially equitable way of living and doing business. Collaboration is the key to drive such concerted action.”
The minister acknowledged the role of civil society members, organisations like WRI India, Omidyar Network etc for working with the government, giving ideas and making cities demonstration hubs.