India’s deadly cities creating equally deadly work/life scenarios

Ajit Biswas and Kris Hartley of NUS have a piece. Despite all talks, we are still not realizing who grave the overall situation is becoming. It has perhaps moved beyond crisis stage and is just looking at imploding. Cities like Bangalore which had plenty of lakes long ago have either lakes drying or just become pollution graveyards. The lakes have foams instead of water.

Earlier growth/development in the country was about India vs Bharat with former growing over the latter. Now even the India part is just crumbling at an alarming place. With all focus on fancier things of life, the basics are just ignored.

So what does the duo say?

…..Most projections have India’s population exceeding that of China by 2022. Indeed, over the next 35 years, India is expected to add more than 400 million urban residents (more than the entire population of the United States), while China will add just 292 million. For the first time, the majority of Indians will be living in cities – a significant transformation for a country whose rural population currently constitutes two-thirds of the total.

India’s two largest urban centers – Delhi and Mumbai – are often described as emerging global megacities. Delhi is already the world’s second most populous city, and it is expected to close the gap with Tokyo, the world’s largest city, almost entirely by 2030.

When population growth on this scale is combined with rapid urbanization, the associated environmental and social impacts become a formidable policy challenge. In 2014, the World Health Organization (WHO) determined that Delhi has the world’s worst air quality (based on concentration of fine particulate matter), with Indian cities occupying the top four spots and 13 of the top 18.

China has been frequently – and often justifiably – criticized for poor environmental policies. But, according to McKinsey, China has been more proactive than India in planning for rapid urbanization, demonstrating that it has the capacity and the resources to address environmental challenges. In new cities across the country, urban plans already take into account such concerns, with riparian greenways and urban nature reserves complementing infrastructure projects that have environmental benefits (for example, extensive mass-transit networks).

By contrast, India’s cities have grown haphazardly, with little consideration of the functioning of urban systems as a whole. The country’s urban areas often lack adequate regional transport networks, for example. Large swaths of informal settlements have emerged in vacant inner-city districts and suburban peripheries, compromising environmental conditions, public health, and personal safety. Land-use patterns interweave industrial and residential districts, exposing vulnerable (and growing) populations to a host of negative spillover effects.

The differences between urban development in China and India are clear not only in the substance of policy, but also in the two countries’ governance styles. China’s leaders are placing heavy emphasis on pollution control. In advance of the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, the authorities are pushing for a regionally integrated plan to balance economic growth with environmental management, including the greening of manufacturing processes and the elimination of “excess capacity” in energy production.

Bangalore and other cities do not feature in discussions still which is itself a puzzle. India’s original smart city is just devoid of basics and slipping everyday.

Usually municipality elections are the time most cities start looking clean but here things are just getting worse. Ditches are being dug and all garbage is just placed on the roadside. The pedestrian who risked his life by walking on the sides now does not even have that option.

I mean take the case of widespread dengue and other insect related diseases spreading so rampantly across cities. One can keep taking out ads to keep our surroundings clean but with such wide mismanagement, what can any one do?

There was a time when most of Indian leaders kept quiet despite some achievements. Now we just blow our trumpet so much with complete disconnect from reality.

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