Real Estate Magazine


Urbanization is often linked with economics – increased job opportunities, a centralized market, better pay, and higher individual wealth have all drawn people into cities. For a long time, these pull factors are what caused cities to grow. India is the second-largest urban system in the world with 11% of the total global urban population living in the Indian cities. The UN estimates that India will be more than 50% urban by the year 2050. Urbanization has proven magnificent growth in the last few decades.  

However, problems associated with urbanization like High population density, inadequate infrastructure, lack of affordable housing, flooding, pollution, slum creation, crime, congestion, and poverty cannot be ignored. Therefore, it is necessary to see the Big-Picture and prepare a scientific master plan for sustainable urbanization. The government’s various sustainable initiatives in the country such as the development of Green Building standards, policy advocacy and capacity building of, green building professionals will be a valuable addition. Local governments do play a vital role in educating, mobilizing, and responding to the public to promote sustainable development.

Half of our cities are still expanding in an unplanned, unscientific manner without any master plan to guide their growth. Cities having no master plans leads to disorganized and unmethodical growth. The chief and the principal challenge is to prepare a detailed Scientific Master Plan to make a city worth liveable. Examining critically the role of every partner in developing ‘liveable cities’, assuring secured and comfortable life to all, without discrimination is necessary. 

UN Sustainable Development Goal 11 titled “sustainable cities and communities”, is one of 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals established in the year 2015. The official mission of this goal is to “Make cities inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable”. This goal takes into account that action in one area will affect outcomes in other areas as well and that development must balance social, economic, and environmental sustainability. 

Integration of environment and development concerns and greater attention to them will lead to the fulfillment of basic needs, improved living standards for all, better protected and managed ecosystems, and a safer, more prosperous future. No nation can achieve this on its own, but together we can, in a global partnership for sustainable development. 

Sustainable development is influenced by various factors such as the economic environment, social, cultural aspects and political system. Without economic development, the welfare of human beings is not sustainable. The social and cultural aspects also influence greatly in the sustainable development. Society at large has the responsibility to ensure, abide by various rules and regulations and respond positively. The political leaders should restrict their role, only in policymaking. They can play an essential role in bringing social and cultural awareness. 

Sustainable development consists of environmental protection, social equity, and economic growth. It is attainable by adopting good governance and creating an adequately regulated sound financial framework, and legal regulatory structure to protect property rights, enforce contracts and stimulate competitive markets, equitable health, education, and social and public services. 

The core city agenda would be meeting the challenge successfully only through new thinking, precise policies, and decisive actions within the urban domain. Focus has to be more on liveable cities, more responsible resource use, march towards the quality of life, eco-balancing and depolluting the cities. The dreams of sustainable development of cities can be materialized only through the ‘formation of new partnerships’ and at the same time curtailing the growth of non-sustainable development which takes place simultaneously, by paying higher direct and indirect costs.

Secondly, Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) has gained popularity to redress several urban problems, including traffic congestion, affordable housing shortages, air pollution, and incessant sprawl. Therefore, Indian cities must expand on the back of TOD. It has multiple benefits through vertical development as it reduces the number of cars, and increases walkability and bike-ability. All these collectively lead to enhance productivity. 

There is also a need to densify our cities, build them vertically, and reap mass benefits of intensifying economic productivity and lowering the transaction cost. The maximum FSI in Singapore is 25, Tokyo 20, and New York 15 whereas in Mumbai it is 1.33 and in Pune, it is 1.25. Restricting the FSI to such a low levels creates distortions in the land market. Keeping FSI artificially low to control the densities is a tactical failure.

The key component-WATER. Water will be a key factor in our ability to sustainably manage our cities and enhance the quality of life of our citizens. With all the severe droughts happening in the world, the limited supply of freshwater is becoming one of our most precious resources. Every person on earth needs water to survive. Conserving water involves refraining from water pollution. This requires the use of strategies that includes reducing wastage, preventing damaging of water quality, and improving water management. Indian cities need to collect, treat and reuse used water on a vast scale and need to be fully severed to collect all used water. There is a willingness to pay for a regular supply of water but political unwillingness to charge for water. There is a necessity for sensible policy for pricing water. This has long-term implications in making water boards financially bankrupt. The pricing mechanism should be based on ‘pay as you use’ with direct benefit transfer of a subsidy for those who cannot afford to pay.

Lastly, states need to build up a group/panel of professional urban managers, create an ecosystem of friendly regulations, reform building bye-laws, and use upgraded technologies. With Indian cities growing at a very rapid pace in terms of population and technology, there’s a constant need of managing future expansion. States need to provide greater financial autonomy and administrative freedom to cities as ultimately, successful cities are elemental to building a successful nation. The challenge for Indian states is to use urbanization as an instrument of growth, job creation, and elimination of poverty. 


Authored by: Dr. D. K. Abhyankar

Co-Authored by: Adv. Renuka Gokhale

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