India’s urban awakening
Even as the country’s urbanisation drive is gaining momentum, the bigger issue of meeting the increasing housing demands in these areas needs to be addressed, says a report
Urbanisation plays a crucial role i n the economic development of any nation. History bears testimony to the fact that urbanisation, in most cases, has accompanied economic growth because it is characterised by modernisation, industrialisation and sociological development. A new research by Cushman & Wakefield and PHD Chamber of Commerce and Industry ( a multi- state apex organisation that works at the grassroots level), titled ‘Challenges and opportunities for the housing sector in urban India’, highlights the need to address the growing housing demand in the backdrop of urbanisation.
According to the 2011 census, India has a population of 1.2 billion citizens; 31.1% of the population or around 377 million people reside in urban agglomerations. This is not as high as some other developing countries and leaves significant headroom for rapid migration in the future. According to the Planning Commission, urban India is going to be home to 600 million people by 2031, an increase of 59% from 2011. Clearly, India is a country on the move, but the question is whether Indian cities will be prepared to accommodate such an influx of population whilst providing basic and quality amenities to its dwellers.
Impact on housing
One of the biggest pitfalls of India’s unplanned urbanisation is the under-supply of housing units. According to the Ministry of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation (MHUPA), in 2012, there were 18.78 million units housing units short in urban India.
Nearly 95% of this shortfall was in the economically weaker sections (EWS) and low income group (LIG) housing. According to the report by C&W and PHD Chamber of Commerce and Industry, demand for urban housing will scale up by nearly 12 million units by 2017 based on just the current growth of population. Around 23% of this total demand will be generated in the top eight cities of India.
By 2021, the urban population is expected to increase to nearly 500 million, totalling to about 35% of the population of India, says the report. Hence, the total housing demand in the country by 2017 could be as high as 88.78 million units, says the report. The urban housing shortage is 87% closely linked to the creation of slums in each major metropolitan city in India, which are considered detrimental to the urbanisation agenda.
The 2011 census enumerated that 13.9 million households with a total population of nearly 65.5 million people reside in slums in Indian cities. Rural migration is considered to be one of the most important contributors to the growth in the slum population. The slum population in India was projected to be 94.98 million in 2012 and is expected to touch 104.67 million by 2017.
This increase in population, if not matched with the required increase in housing units, could contribute to the development of more slums in urban areas, creating a social problem. Quality of housing is a challenge too, states the report. According to 2011 Census data, 3% houses in urban India require repair. Ideally in urban centres, there should not be any house classified as “dilapidated”.
Crux of the problem
The core problem with India’s urbanisation lies in the fact that it has barely paid attention to urban transformation so far.
Studies conducted on urbanisation in India reveal alarming facts, pointing out that India must t ake measured steps towards sustainable urban development, as per the report. Cities should be able to provide basic services and amenities to migrant workers and economically vulnerable sections of society, says the report. India is visibly deficient in providing even basic services to its existing urban population, it adds.
The road ahead
While India has underinvested in its cities, its toughest competitor, China, paid heed to the demands of urbanisation and tackled it via appropriate funding, governance and planning, says the research. Almost a decade ago, the Government of India launched the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM). According to March 2012 data from the Ministry of Urban Development (MoUD), JNNURM has approved projects worth $11.2 billion.
But has it really helped transform India’s urban landscape? Policies and plans must be supported by sound execution without any bureaucratic and regulatory bottlenecks. The mandate now is to transform and increase the use of land, expand infrastructure, and most importantly, speed up execution, sums up the report.