Ease of Living Index: Greater Mumbai ranks 11 among 49 cities on sustainability
The Union ministry of housing and urban affairs’ (MoHUA) latest Ease of Living Index (ELI) survey ranks Greater Mumbai at 11th place – out of 49 Indian cities with million-plus populations – on sustainability practices. This rank, the report says, indicates a city’s capacity to “build resilience and develop sound infrastructure and services to swiftly tackle emerging environmental issues.”
The ELI assigns a normalised score (between 0 to 100) to 111 cities on the basis of four parameters, or “pillars” – sustainability, quality of life, economic ability and citizen perception. The final score for each city is the average across these parameters.
Greater Mumbai was assigned a normalised sustainability score of 61.74, higher than the national average of 53.63, but lower than the highest score of 75 awarded to Pune. Other cities with better scores include Visakhapatnam, Pimpri Chinchwad, Ahmedabad, Gwalior, Raipur, Prayagraj, Surat, Navi Mumbai and Indore.
These cities, MoHUA’s report suggests, have fared better than Mumbai at providing citizens with green spaces, promoting green buildings and efficient energy consumption, and have better quality of natural resources such as air and water. It also says these cities are better equipped to withstand natural disasters.
Sustainability has a weight of 20 percent in the city’s final EoL score, and is evaluated based on four sub-parameters including: environment, green space and buildings, energy consumption and city resilience. However, individual scores for the four sub-categories have only been indicated, and not specified in absolute terms. While Greater Mumbai ranked high on ‘city resilience’, it fared poorly on the other three.
For example, the report states, “Findings reveal Pune as the best-performing city in terms of green spaces and buildings. The performance swiftly begins to decline significantly after Karnal (Haryana)... Greater Mumbai, Kochi, Hyderabad, Delhi, Indore, Lucknow, and Thiruvananthapuram do not particularly showcase exceptional performance... It indicates a deficiency that has accumulated in urban cities concerning conscious planning to mitigate the risks associated with climate change and the current ecosystem.”
Experts, meanwhile, expressed concern over the methodology. They said it has not been adequately explained in MoHUA’s report.
“It’s a bit parochial to compare a large metro city like Mumbai with a much smaller one like Pune on any indicator. The Ease of Living Index does not provide raw survey data, or adequately explain the structure of their survey, which makes it hard to take these numbers at face value,” said Pankaj Joshi, principal director of the Urban Centre Mumbai. He said a more appropriate way to compare sustainability across cities would be through a carbon footprint analysis.
“If one can calculate the per capita carbon footprint of two cities, say Mumbai and Pune, then it becomes easier to say which city is more sustainable. It’s a well established method. Comparisons made in the Ease of Living Index are not predicated on such clear baseline indicators. There is value in comparative analysis, but only when the methods are robust and transparent,” he added.
Avick Sil, urban studies specialist and director at Enviro Policy Research India, said, “The ease of living, or quality of life, in a particular city needs to be assessed based on the needs of its citizens. In India, development control regulations are not uniform across cities precisely because the requirements are vastly different. For example, some cities may have poor public transport but may be more sustainable due to less population load. You need a methodology that factors in these differences, instead of reducing your assessment to such simple numbers.”
Citizens, too, said they were wary of the report’s indications. “It is a bit hard to see Mumbai ranked so high because the situation on the ground is precisely the opposite. We are more sustainable than most cities because we have a good public transport system, but that’s about it. In terms of waste management or water security, for example, the situation is clearly unsustainable. We dump untreated sewage into the ocean and are trying to decentralise waste management 20 years too late,” said Debi Goenka, executive trustee, Conservation Action Trust.
“Given that Mumbai is spending ₹13,000 crore on a coastal road project that will uproot ecosystems and only benefit a sliver of the overall population, I am inclined to say that we are among the least sustainable cities in India,” Goenka added.
Moreover, experts also point out that despite the Ease of Living report’s objective – which is “to help cities assess their level of development and identify existing gaps that obstruct their growth” – the report does not actually provide any concrete measures for city administrators based on their ranking.