Essay on Indian Cities: Unplanned and Overpopulated

Currently India is facing the twin problems of overpopulation and unplanned development. Overpopulation is a serious threat to our own existence. The whole world needs to address this issue and not just a few countries. The world’s population is increasing mainly due to medical advancements and increase in agricultural productivity. India is now home to 1.2 billion people. Furthermore, India’s population is expected to grow to 1.8 billion before stabilising  around the middle of this century.

Sooner or later, the world community is going to face the consequences of population growth. The rapid depletion of natural resources, increasing deforestation and loss of ecosystems, increased level of air and water pollution, high infant and child mortality rate and hunger due to extreme poverty are some of the results of overpopulation. Excessive population leads to working institutions’ dysfunctionality and makes all plans to improve a country’s infrastructure, medical assistance facilities and social welfare initiatives ineffective. Many people are already aware of these social and environmental problems, but only a few are aware of its adverse effects on health. It’s not just India’s struggle, Brazil and China are also coping with the ramifications of overpopulation. As per the City Competitiveness Report 2017, the population of a city has a direct bearing on its level of competitiveness. But a large population is not always a boon. It creates challenges pertaining to the movement of people and goods and in the provision of basic services.

This problem of overpopulation further gets aggravated by unplanned development. Urbanisation in  India is increasing at a rapid pace and currently about 30-33% of Indians live in cities. This is estimated to reach upward to 40% by 2030. A large component of this urbanisation would be in the form of  migration to the existing cities. Planned development is critical for India as it moves from being predominantly rural to urban. Unfortunately, most Indian cities are currently decidedly challenged in terms of infrastructure.  The unplanned development of cities creates a number of problems, which include unhealthy settlements, lack of drinking water, health services, employment opportunities and electricity supply, degradation of the environment, adverse effect on health etc. In order to accommodate such huge population, it is necessary to do proper planning of Indian cities. A city needs social infrastructure for making it habitable. It is important to plan on job creation in these cities. A critical focus on job creation should deal with the primary job creation as well as service sector job creation. Along with this, proper public transport system needs to be strengthened and development of last-mile connectivity is necessary for the optimal utilisation of mass transit systems. There must be focus on the utilisation of water; sustainability must be ensured in solid waste management and focus must be on development of green energy.

With a view to modernise India and accelerate the process of planned development, the incumbent government has launched two flagship schemes-the Smart Cities Mission and AMRUT. The mission aims to develop 100 cities all over the country, making them citizen-friendly and sustainable. The focus is also on the development of the Greenfield cities which will be built around economic drivers like industries and industrial clusters, SEZs, transport modes and satellite or intermediate cities. But setting up a Greenfield city has its own set of unique challenges. One of the very effective models of implementation is Public Private Partnership (PPP) through which the Government of India is developing these projects.

In the Indian context, the approach is necessarily different. Since many cities lack basic infrastructure, institutional frameworks and proper governance, a planned city initiative will first and foremost involve providing basic civic requirements and making the infrastructure robust and scalable. It’s time for all global forums to provide effective solutions in order to resolve the problem of overcrowded and unplanned cities. Government at the national level and at the local level must engage citizens in the development process in order to make it more inclusive and comprehensive. Better awareness, among the people and proper implementation of the developmental initiatives will prepare the world for the better future.