Urbanization in India: An Analysis


The 2018 Revision of World Urbanization Prospects, released by the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs,  projects India’s urban population to rise to 52.8% in 2050.

Major Highlights of the Report:

  • Future increases in the size of the world’s urban population are expected to be highly concentrated in few countries:Together, India, China and Nigeria will account for 35% of the projected growth of the world’s urban population between 2018 and 2050
  • By 2028, Delhi would surpass Tokyo as World’s most populous city



Fast Facts: Urbanization Scenario in India

According to Census 2011,

  1. Total Urban Population: 377 million
  2. Level of Urbanization/ Percentage of Urban Population: 31.1%
  3. Rate of growth of urban population: 2.76% per annum during 2001-2011.
  4. Most Urbanized state: Goa (62%), Mizoram, Tamil Nadu. Delhi (97.5%) most urbanized among the UTs
  5. Least Urbanized state: Himachal Pradesh (10%) followed by Bihar, Assam and Odhisa
  6. Number of urban agglomerations/towns: 5161

Nature of urbanization in India:

  1. Substantial increase in urban population due to rural-to-urban migration.
  2. Distorted urbanization: – Urbanisation has been directed towards large cities; there has been an increasing concentration of population in million plus cities.
  • On the contrary the concentration of population in medium and small towns either fluctuated or declined. This has resulted in top-heavy structure of urban development in India

3. Wide variation in levels of urbanization across Indian states-

  • Levels of urbanisation in the states with high per capita income are generally high, the opposite being the case in less urbanised states

4. Hidden Urbanization:

  • According to a 2015 World Bank report, the urban sprawl accounts for 55.3 per cent of the country’s total population and that official census figures understate it as only 31 per cent- ‘Hidden Population’
  • This discrepancy is due to the fact that in major cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad and Kolkata, population growth has been largest outside the fringes of the official administrative boundaries.
  • These areas have urban characteristics but do not fulfil the criteria to be designated as urban

Issues and Challenges:

  1. Urban poverty:
  • With increasing urban population the urban poverty has also become widespread.
  • As the India Urban Poverty Report, 2009 suggests, there is “urbanization of poverty” with the ratio of urban poverty in some of the larger states being higher than that of rural poverty
  1. High urban unemployment
  2. Growth of slums:
  • According to 2001 Census, the total slum population is 42.6 million representing 15% of the total urban population in the country and 23.1% of the population of cities and towns reporting slums.
  • 38% of the total slum population reside in the million plus cities
  • The main reasons for slum proliferation is uncontrolled, unplanned and non inclusive pattern of urbanization
  1. Inappropriate planning has led to high costs of housing and office space
  2. Critical infrastructure shortages and major service deficiencies: erratic power and water supply, poor solid waste management system, poor sewerage system
  3. Inadequate transport systems: Poor investment in transport sector has led to unsustainable levels of private vehicle use
  4. Deteriorating environment: Example: According to the recently released data by World Health Organization, 14 Indian states are among Top 20 worldwide with worst air quality profiles
  5. Poor urban governance

Did you know?

  • Recently, Pune topped urban governance survey (5th Annual Survey of India’s City-Systems (ASICS)). Bengaluru ranked worst.
  • The survey evaluates the quality of governance in India’s cities by assessing laws, policies and institutional processes currently in place.

Urban governance:

  • It is basically how formal institutions and other stakeholders plan and manage the common affairs of an urban area.
  • Urban governance in India was legitimised with the 74th Constitutional Amendment Act, 1993- It gave constitutional status to urban local governments and provided for a three-tier municipal system in urban centres.

Why is urban governance poor in India?

  1. Lack of financial and administrative autonomy
  2. Lack of funds
  3. Lack of accountability and transparency
  4. Lack of coordination between different agencies (such as water, transport)
  5. Lack of consistent urban development policy, improper urban planning and poor implementation of projects

Way Forward:

  1. Create employment in rural areas: Diversification of rural agrarian economy to reduce distressed migration. In this case, the MGNREGA has played a vital role in reducing rural-urban migration
  2. Development of infrastructural facilities in rural areas: Focus on PURA (Provision of Urban Amenities in Rural Area), Shyama Prasad Mookherji RURBAN Mission
  3. Modern framework for spatial planning of cities and standardized designs for public utilities
  4. Inclusive urbanization: There should be focus on the needs of the urban poor and other vulnerable groups for housing, education, health care, decent work and a safe environment.
  5. Environmentally Sustainable urbanization: Successful management of urban growth, integration of green spaces, wetlands, proper waste management
  6. Proper transport planning; Investment in public transport sector
  7. Ensuring better infrastructural facilities- water, sewage power
  8. Proper implementation of major urban government policies like AMRUT, JNNURM, Housing for All by 2022, Smarts City Mission, National Urban Livelihood Mission
  9. Ensuring Good urban Governance by:
  • Fiscal decentralization and flow of adequate funds; proper regulation of municipal bonds
  • Empowerment of municipal corporations and municipal councils
  • transparency and accountability
  • Citizen participation
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