India should focus on sustainable, inclusive urbanisation: Envoy

Pointing out that India will witness a steady surge in urbanisation during the next two decades, a senior German envoy said a sustainable, inclusive and socially balanced process of urbanisation is required in the South Asian country to achieve the current government’s smart cities aspiration.

Hailing Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s initiative to build 100 smart cities in the country as a “good starting point” for urban development, Germany’s Consul General in Kolkata, Michael Feiner said his country is providing support to India in three major sectors including sustainable urbanisation.

“India on a global scale is still lagging behind in terms of urbanisation. The current percentage stands at little over 30. That means, if global patterns are to be repeated, India will see a surge in urbanisation over the next two decades. The number of Indian cities with more than one million residents has grown from 31 in 2001 to 53 in 2011,” Feiner said at a conference on sustainable urban development, organised here by Heidelberg University of Germany and Observer Research Foundation.

“Germany is aiding India in three core areas one of which is urbanisation. The other two are environmental and resource protection and energy conservation. The measures for urban development include sanitary provisions, sewage and garbage planning, urban development, good governance and consultancy for urban administration and lastly climate-friendly urban development.

Feiner said the administration needs to be ready to handle challenges of rapid urbanisation like improving sanitation services, electric supply, sewage and garbage collection, health services, education and better transport and infrastructural facilities.

“Seventeen per cent of urban Indian population lives in slums and another 25-30 per cent in formal settlements. Air pollution is a cause of major health problems. Also, at present there is no sustainable solution to control the massive amount of residential and industrial waste and plastic materials,” he pointed out.

Highlighting the positive side of urbanisation, the envoy said that in spite of the challenges, the process will lead to employment generation, economic growth and qualification of manpower in the country.

Talking on the topic, des Radu Carciumaru, Resident Representative, Heidelberg University, said a smart city should have a network of primary as well as higher education institutes, sustainability and ecology-friendly attributes.

“It should also encourage a vibrant creative and cultural life, make the civil society a quintessential in policy making and have a multi-level comprehensive dialogue between the government representatives and universities, researchers and common people,” he added.


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