In 2018, over half of the world’s population was living in cities. By 2050, this number is expected to shoot up to 66%. India will be the largest contributor to this increase in urban population, with an addition of 404 million urban residents. Even more than housing new urban residents, Indian cities will play a critical role in the country's economic growth, with urban areas already contributing up to 70% of the Indian GDP in 2011.
However, the growth of Indian cities differs from that of cities in the West. Not only are Indian cities among the fastest growing in the world, but this growth is unplanned, haphazard and detrimental to sustained economic growth and quality of life. Policymakers in India often view urbanization as a failure, resulting from insufficient rural development; they fear density and often blame it for the high congestion and pollution levels in cities. In fact, the failure to plan and manage urban growth is what leads to congestion and pollution in Indian cities.
Our research aims to tackle the problem of haphazard urban expansion and its management, focusing on issues that are unique to Indian cities. To that end, we have produced a position paper that dismantles the idea that Indian cities should try to prevent growth and showcases instead on how growth can be better managed. Moreover, it highlights key tactics and ideas to transform disorderly growth into better planned cities and suggests what India can and cannot do to similarly improve density management in urban areas.
Going forward, we aim to develop an India-specific urban sprawl index that brings together different indicators and accounts for the ground realities of Indian urban growth patterns. The index will also translate that information into a format that will be compelling to policymakers and the public.