The article explores how the definition we use for urbanisation changes what consitutes an urban area. "There is no global definition of what constitutes an urban area. But there is now ample evidence to show that if one uses alternate definitions of urban, we would get very different outcomes. At IDFC Institute, we picked between various global definitions and used two of the most common ones: using Mexico’s definition for instance, India is 65% urban; using Ghana’s definition, it is 47% urban. Others have undertaken a similar exercise. The World Bank’s Agglomeration Index, which uses a mix of factors to determine how urban an area is, put India at over 50% urban in 2001."
The article goes on to discuss the implication of the definition. "Why does this matter? For one, a large share of the population (at over 50% urban this could be ~250 million people) is forced to live without urban basic services and is grappling with inadequate public service delivery. The slums and informal settlements in most of our cities are direct outcomes of failing to cater to migration at an earlier point in time. Even while we close our eyes to the reality of urban growth, cities and peri-urban areas are continuing to grow, leading to urban sprawl that goes well beyond administrative boundaries. This growth is haphazard and unregulated. Consequently, the quality of the urban fabric – measured by the share of land in streets, access to open space, formally subdivided plots and so on – declines. Down the line, it is both difficult and expensive to retrofit this growth with wider streets and development infrastructure. For instance, in Kozhikode in Kerala, between 1991 and 2014, the share of narrow <4 metre roads rose by 18% but the share of wider roads has remained the same or reduced. Road infrastructure has not been able to keep up with urban growth, leaving the city with very little space for mobility."
The article concludes with pointers on what needs to be done to for the urban growth in India
One: Recognise Growth as It Happens
Two: Plan Ahead for Urban Growth
Three: Overhaul the Master Planning Approach
Four: Create More Public Open Spaces
Five: Aim for Sustainable Cities
Six: Strengthen Governance Mechanisms Between Cities
Seven: Use Transport as a Medium to Tie Together Labour Markets
Eight: Invest in Soft Infrastructure
Nine: Raise Infrastructure Investments
Ten: Devolve Funding to Cities
Read the full article here.