Urban areas are the engine of inclusive economic development. In any country, urban areas account for most of the country’s GDP. For example, in India, urban areas comprise of only 31.6% of the population but contribute to about two thirds of the GDP and 90% of the government revenues.
With every good comes the bad. Knowing the importance of urban areas as economic hubs, more and more people flock to the cities in search for better prospects be it better paying jobs or a larger customer exposure for their businesses. With the influx of people, the city’s infrastructure is under immense pressure. There are a lot of issues that arise due to this, let’s examine them.
The first and most important issue that arises is the infrastructure. A major challenge for the government to provide adequate and sustainable housing for its citizens. In India, there is a large number of slum dwellers and people living in makeshift shacks built on unused lands. These people are inevitably evicted when a building project on the land comes up. If you have a house you will definitely need proper plumbing too. Adequate amount of water should be available both for domestic use and drinking purpose. Nature didn’t intend for humans to live in such large agglomerations and that’s why you will never find enough underground water to sustain a large city. Water is almost always sourced from nearby freshwater lakes and rivers and proper planning should be done for this water to reach the population.
The other infrastructure related problem is sanitation. India, both in its rural and urban form, suffers from the lack of it. According to an estimate, only 35-40% of the urban population has the privilege of a sewage system. This especially becomes a problem during the rainy season when there is an overflow of water from the drainages. Year after year around the time of July one can see news stories featuring floods on the streets of cities, bikes and cars floating away in cities such as coastal Mumbai or desert Jodhpur. This isn’t due to the fact that the rain gods are extra pleased at us but it is just an example of poor urban planning. If this issue is taken care of then there will be less water borne diseases, less uncleanliness in and around one’s house and an overall improvement of sanitation.
The third infrastructure issue is transport. If there are so many people living in the city or its surrounding suburbs, there should be access to them from any part of the city, thus a large number of public transport vehicles are required. Adding to this, there is the fact that more and more people are buying cars and bikes causing traffic jams, air pollution, noise pollution and decrease the efficiency of public transport. Even the maintenance cycle period of public transport vehicles is shortened due to the overload of people.
In urban areas there is more need for policy making which leads to institutional issues. This essentially means the problems faced in the governance, planning and regulations of the whole agglomeration. A lot of noble solutions to typical urban problems are often proposed by local residents but due to the complex nature of our bureaucracy and a common pompous attitude of the authorities, these solutions never see light. This problem can be overcome by the use of a decentralized planning system. This would mean that the average local citizen’s concern would be paid heed to and the planning will include considerations of the future.
With more and more people wanting to savor the taste of the urban lifestyle, it is only a matter of time before the population of the country is primarily urban. It is projected that by 2025 almost 40% of India’s population will be living in urban centers. With today’s cities already overflowing with people, it would definitely need better planning to address these issues.