Cancel
Advanced Search
KEYWORDS
CATEGORY
AUTHOR
MONTH

Please click here to take a brief survey

Making the Cities of India More Sustainable

by Warren Karlenzig

With Mumbai, one of the largest cities of the world, treating only 30-40 percent of its sewage, experiencing five-hour traffic delays and hosting massively expanding unplanned slums, urban sustainability needs to be viewed through a different lens than elsewhere.

India will add an additional 26 cities of one million or more by 2030 to its 42 one million+ cities today. The population in cities of 340 million in 2008 will soar to 590 million by 2030. The need for much improved urban housing and health services, let alone better planning, governance and carbon management, threatens the nation's and thus the world's economic stability: India's population by 2030 is forecast to overtake China's.

A report released this month by the McKinsey Global Institute, "India's Urban Awakening," provides a rich and thorough analysis of the challenges faced by Indian cities, while also providing a clear agenda for future improvements. Changes will need to occur at the local, state and national level, and will require the active participation of the international business community through public-private partnerships.

First the bad news.

As a contrast to China, which has staged much of its recent urban growth in nationally planned phases targeted at geographies, economies and infrastructure, Indian cities are experiencing rapid unplanned growth. Major financial investment, to the tune of $1.2 trillion over the next 20 years, will be needed to address how Indian cities are falling short of meeting even a basic standard of living in:

* Water supply: will need to increase 3.5 times current supply to meet basic demand by 2030
* Sewage: treatment will need to increase two times current levels to meet demand by 2030
* Solid waste: will need to increase six times today's treatment levels by 2030 because of consumption expected by an emerging middle class.
* Public transit access and service: 20 times the capacity of metros and subways will need to be added over what has been provided in the past ten years
* Affordable housing: will need to increase 10 times by 2030 to meet expected needs.
* Slum populations that now comprise 24% of India's urban population will need to be addressed with formal affordable housing programs and housing structures.


Oddly, no forecasts were made in "India's Urban Awakening" regarding the amount or mix of energy that will be needed to meet the needs of India's cities. With massive growth in electricity use for buildings (at least 40% of India currently is not connected to the power grid), large increases in personal auto ownership, and volatile global energy supplies and pricing, India is faced with urban growth-associated issues that if unaddressed threaten the very core of its existence as a nation.

According to the McKinsey report, however, India has sufficient time and the means (with international financial, business and humanitarian partners) by which to address many of these pressing or devastating issues. The McKinsey Institute report also presented a framework for a plan by which India can meet the financial need to increase spending on cities from its current rate of 0.5% to 2% of GDP.

On a per-capita basis, India now spends 14% of what China spends on its cities and only 4% of what the United Kingdom spends on its cities.

The key elements of the report plan outlined five strategies for meeting its urban financial obligations, most of which India currently ranks "poor" in:

1. Monetize land assets.
2. Maximize property taxes and usage charges.
3. Establish a formula-based grants systems from state and central government.
4. Use appropriate debt and private-sector participation (i.e., public-private partnerships).
5. Create enabling systems and city development funds to facilitate use of revenue sources.

The report also outlined four significant "dimensions" besides funding, on which Indian cities need to concentrate improvements in order to successfully transform urban economies and sustainability opportunities:

1. Shape: Where people live. Unlike China, India has made no real attempt to plan where growth of cities will occur, or to determine where new cities will be most needed, and as a result unplanned urban sprawl is increasingly common.

2. Governance: How cities in particular are governed. Develop executive leadership at city level in mid-sized to large cities. India is currently the only G20 nation lacking such leadership. Cities in India are currently governed by their host states from a considerable distance in many cases. The report does cite the success of Kolkata's (Calcutta) mayor-commission model as a potential national model for executive power combined with administrative-technical support.

3. Sectoral Policies: These include economic development, sustainability management, and housing management. India does not plan enough for affordable housing, providing 200,000 units a year versus needed minimum of 2 million units. The number of people living in slums in 2008 was some 82 million, a number that could double by 2030. Recommendations are to establish funding, draw upon external expert advice and hire dedicated managers to focus on these areas.

4. Urban Planning: Change from ad hoc and sporadic planning. Develop longer-term plans (40-50 year) with nested 20-year master plans designating land uses, transportation services, infrastructure and building typologies that are actionable on the ground with transparent public processes. Use modeling and "fly-overs" to educate stakeholders of planning options (Singapore, London and New York are cited for best practices). India's current urban planning processes exist as documents only, and are not executed or followed in reality.

The report in its introduction observes: "The speed of urbanization poses an unprecedented managerial and policy challenge--yet India has barely engaged in a discussion about how to handle this seismic shift in the makeup of the nation."

How India's national urban planning plays out on localized levels in actual cities, though, remains to be seen. Whatever may transpire, "India's Urban Awakening" is an invaluable resource for determining just how the path forward can be understood and, hopefully, navigated.


Warren Karlenzig is president of Common Current, an internationally active urban sustainability strategy consultancy. He is author of How Green is Your City? The SustainLane US City Rankings and a Fellow at the Post Carbon Institute.

This post originally appeared on Green Flow.

Image of a bus stop in Mumbai courtesy of Flickr photographer betta design under the Creative Commons License.

Bookmark and Share


Comments

Thanks for the interesting article on Indian cities Warren. I recently visited Kochi in Kerala. Kerala is one of the wealthies regions of India and has beautiful countryside. But Kochi city could have been better, I thought. There were too many cars, a polluted waterfront, powercuts and (just as McKinsey's report said) poor planning.

Can I add a suggestion? Perhaps Indian cities could try some of London's sustainable city development ideas? By introducing a congestion charge, building a flagship development, measuring the city's progress and encouraging renewable energy I think London has made great progress:

http://www.citiesforpeople.net/london-4-steps-to-the-sustainable-city

Perhaps, on top of Mckinsey's recommendations, cities like Kolkata could try London's methods?


Posted by: Michael OHare on 3 May 10

Hey Warren,

Thanks for sharing this with us. I am very concerned about the way India and China will develop their cities (alongside my concerns about U.S. cities, of course!). One thing I'm working on is a partnership with some management consulting experts in China around the use of strategy maps and balance score cards to help cities align their strategies across levels of government.

Perhaps this is something that could be useful in the design and planning processes for Indian cities as well.

(We're currently developing the capacity to implement these tools in Seattle where I live.)

Best,

Joe


Posted by: Joe Brewer on 4 May 10

Post A Comment

Please note that comments will remain open for only 14 days after the article is posted. While previous comments will remain visible, attempts to post new comments after this period will fail. This helps stop comment spam, so your forebearance is appreciated.

The Worldchanging comments are meant to be used for further exploration and evaluation of the ideas covered in our posts. Please note that, while constructive disagreement is fine, insults and abuse are not, and will result in the comment being deleted and a likely ban from commenting. We will also delete at will and without warning comments we believe are designed to disrupt a conversation rather than contribute to it. In short, we'll kill troll posts.

Finally, please note that comments which simply repost copyrighted works or commercial messages will be summarily deleted.

REMEMBER PERSONAL INFO?
Yes No

NAME


EMAIL ADDRESS


URL


COMMENTS



EMAIL THIS ENTRY TO:

YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS:


MESSAGE (optional):


Search Worldchanging

Worldchanging Newsletter Get good news for a change —
Click here to sign up!


Worldchanging2.0


Website Design by Eben Design | Logo Design by Egg Hosting | Hosted by Amazon AWS | Problems with the site? Send email to tech /at/ worldchanging.com
©2012
Architecture for Humanity - all rights reserved except where otherwise indicated.

Find_us_on_facebook_badge.gif twitter-logo.jpg