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A book for urban area crisis in India

World Bank VP launches a book on how to manage rapid urbanisation in developing nations, reports Ami Dalal.

india Updated: Feb 04, 2006 21:08 IST
Ami Dalal
Ami Dalal
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"Indian cities have great potential," declared Frannie Léautier, Vice President of the World Bank Institute.

"They are able to concentrate idea, innovation, and investment in one location," she continued, "and have an unusual ability to recycle."

Léautier was speaking at the sixth conference of the three-day Delhi Sustainable Development Summit, sponsored by The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI).

She is the editor of How Globalization Changes Citiesand What Local Governments Can Do About It, a book published collaboratively with the World Bank Institute.

According to the World Bank, India's burgeoning urban populations are headed for a crisis. The ability for its cities to accommodate more migration from rural areas, especially when new migrants are from different backgrounds, is becoming more and more compromised.

"If India is to grow in a sustainable way," spoke Léautier, "it is important how rural cities interface with urban cities."

India and many developing nations have been urbanising at an incredible rate. When cities are unable to accommodate their populations, their inhabitants suffer.

Health and education facilities are overburdened, and impoverished neighbourhoods suffer from poor energy and waste collection services.

Local governments can find innovative methods to deal with infrastructure challenges. Though India's knack at recycling is correlated with poverty, Léautier suggested that local governments can find "industry solutions to turn this into sustainable waste collection."

Out of 412 cities studied, ten cities were from India. Among these were Bangalore, Kolkata, Ahmedabad, Hyderabad, and Lucknow.

For Léautier, the inspiration behind the study came from Sir Nicholas Stern. Léautier described how she would meet with Sir Nicholas on Friday mornings and "complain that I had gone into management and was vegetating because I was not exercising my intellectual capabilities."

Out of this dialogue sprung the idea for amassing a detailed report on urban issues and the role globalisation is playing in how cities are managed.

Nasscom president Kiran Karnik supported Léautier's emphasis on the responsibility of local governments and citizens to transform urban areas.

"Sustainability is not only about science and technology," declared Karnik. "We also need to look at social, economic, and cultural frameworks."

Though bio-gas plants in Gujarat were a commercial success, the poor who lived on cattle dung found their source of fuel disappearing.

Karnik warned that commercialisation and technology could create problems for those who are on the verge of destitution. "If India were to have the living standards of the US the globe would cease to exist, it is just not sustainable," he said.

With due date for the UN Millennium Development Goals only ten years away, renowned leaders in policy-making have converged in New Delhi for the Summit to discuss alarming challenges to energy access, climate change, safe drinking water, and proper sanitation.

"We need to take a holistic view to the crisis and look at who gains and who loses by our decisions," Karnik reminded

Professor Jeffrey D Sachs, Director of the Earth Institute; Jeffrey Immelt, Chairman and CEO of General Electric (USA); Professor Klaus Töpfer, Executive Director of the UN Environment Program; and HE Ryutaro Hashimoto, former Prime Minister of Japan also spoke on the occasion.

First Published: Feb 04, 2006 21:08 IST