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Urban redevelopment: Live & Let Live

Urban redevelopment: Live & Let Live

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While development is necessary, it is also essential to have a liveable city where development, growth and sustainability can co-exist writes Renjini Liza Varghese

Urban redevelopment in India is probably undergoing a transformation by itself from creating liveable and affordable urban space to smart cities. While globally, the coun-tries are moving in creating sustainable cities, India is still behind. According to the latest available data, the Urban Indian population is estimated to be less than 40 per cent (32 per cent as per 2011 census). This is way less than some of the global countries which accommodates more than 60 per cent of the total population in the urban areas. The United Nations estimates that the Indian urban population would increase to 50 per cent by 2050. Projections are that by 2031, about 600 million In-dians will reside in urban areas, an increase of over 200 million in just 20 years. 

The economic progress that the cities offer, clubbed with rural unemployment, brewing water crisis in the agrarian areas is forcing migration to the urban areas. The end result is that it puts excess load on the existing city infrastructure like transportation, housing, sanitation, utilities, health, education, etc.        

In addition to the migratory population, redevelopment of existing areas in cities are of equal importance. Redevelopment of Asia’s largest slum area Dharavi, or the re-development of Bhendi Bazar, one of Mumbai’s densely populated area in Mumbai City can be taken as examples.

Dharavi slum, which is spread across over 593 acres, has been up for redevelopment plan for almost a decade and a half. The project at different years has announced different permutation and combinations for resettlement of people of Dharavi. The latest being the railways sanctioning 45 acres for the rehabilitation of  Dharavi people.        

Bhendi Bazar houses 3,200 families and 1,250 shops which are in the middle of the buzzing South Mumbai business district. Redevelopment of Bhendi Bazar is consi-dered as India’s most significant urban redevelopment project. A total of 250 mostly dilapidated building in this area would be brought down, and 17 high-rise towers will be built in that place. According to the project plan, the area would add more greenery, wide roads, pavements, public spaces and shopping options in the said space.         

Most of the cities in India, especially a city like Mumbai, which is the financial capital of the country has been growing vertically. The reasons being, space constraints, cost of land, and many others. 

Urban redevelopment in simple terms means redevelopment of urban areas with adequate infrastructure (mobility accessibility), power, water and better quality of life. It is crucial to ensure the optimal development of urban spaces to accommodate the growing urbanisation in the country.

Cities contribute significantly to the country’s economic growth and development is gaining wider acceptance, strengthened by the increasing contribution of the urban sector to India’s gross domestic product (GDP). Data on the urban share of GDP for India is not available on a regular and consistent basis but estimates by the Central Statistical Organisation (CSO), available for a few years, indicate that this share increased from 37.7 per cent in 1970–71 to 52 per cent in 2004–05 and moved up to around 60 per cent in 2009–10. According to estimates by several studies and reports, Indian cities are likely to account for nearly 70 per cent of India’s GDP by 2030.

Planning and implementation

While the population in city areas are growing in a fast-paced manner, the essential urban infrastructure services such as water, sanitation, sewage and supply and affordable housing, has already caused challenges. This has been resulting in inade-quate services in public transport, health care, and environmental health conditions. It is essential to promote sustainable urban growth for the inclusive development of cities in India.            

Though the rural-urban divide is more extensive, there exists a gap in the linkage between these two areas in the country. However, there is a growing recognition that urbanisation is necessary to realise India’s growth potential. For this, the rural-urban linkages must have to be strengthened which will further accelerate the growth of the rural population as well.               

The priority would be to ensure affordable housing. A High Powered Expert Committee, set up by the Ministry of Urban Development (MoUD), estimated that the investment requirement for providing adequate urban infrastructure and services in India up to 2030 is approximately Rs 39.2 lakh crore (at 2009–10 prices). The question that crosses one’s mind is how successful India is in handling the
urbanisation or urban redevelopment.   

The schemes

Considering the increase in urban population, periodically from the early 1970s, governments have announced many schemes to make a better life for the urban poor. Schemes like the Jawaharlal Nehru Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM), Atal Mission for Renewal and Urban Transformation (AMRUT) and Heritage City Development and Augmentation Yojana (HRIDAY) have helped to address the urban redevelopment to more significant levels. 

However, the launch of the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) in December 2005 was considered as the turning point.It envisaged a total investment of over $20 billion over seven years (extended for 2 years more) meant to improve the quality of life and infrastructure in the cities.          

Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT) was announced on June 2015 with the focus to establish an infrastructure that could ensure adequate robust sewage networks and water supply for urban transformation by implementing urban revival projects. The allocation is Rs 50,000 crore for five years.       

Smart Cities Mission (SCM), announced by the government, aims at developing in-telligent solutions for selected urban areas called the Smart Cities. The said intelligent solutions would improve urban infrastructure and services. This covers water and sanitation, electricity, urban mobility and public transport, affordable housing, IT connectivity and digitalisation, e-governance and citizen participation, sustainable environment, citizen safety, and health and education. An allocation of Rs 48,000 crore over five years is what is provisioned.    

Stakeholder involvements

The success of rehabilitation/resettlement depends on the involvement of all stake-holders — those who use the space currently, the town planners, the local body rep-resentatives, the state government, the central government and all others. Urban redevelopment process uproots people from their habitats.        

The administration should have an inclusive design that is aligned with the needs and demands of those who are being resettled from the area.                

“There should be active engagement of citizens at all stages of their redevelopment. In this process, the individual (in all their complexity of age, caste, class, gender, marital or employment status and all other characteristics) must not lose his or her capacity to negotiate for what s/he needs. All that said, the key is setting the right government rules. No market mechanism can ever create a road network for all or housing for all. It is the government that must do that first,” says Dr Ramya Ramanath, Associate Professor and Chair of International Public Service at DePaul University, Chicago.

Sustainable / smart cities the way forward

While development is necessary, it is also necessary to develop a liveable city where development, growth and sustainability can co-exist. Sustainability means factoring the climate change, minimising carbon emissions and at the same time having an inclusive infrastructure with clean water, proper sanitation, reduced flooding during monsoon, sewage pipelines and a robust transport network that is affordable.       

India currently is going through a transition from a predominantly agrarian economy to a rapidly urbanising country. This provides a unique opportunity for its cities to leverage available resources and plan for a sustainable and low-carbon future. 

The smart cities are expected to improve the quality of life to a greater extent. The action plan should start from the local body level by taking the lead. They should also bring all stakeholders to the same page with regular interaction during the im-plementation of the project. Finding funding and technical assistance with a healthy communication channel to relay the progress of the project will inevitably lead to the successful implementation of urban redevelopment programmes in a more natural way.

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