Learning from China: India’s Urbanization Needs Better Institutional Tools
Increasingly today, more and more media articles are comparing Indian and Chinese urbanization. The highly publicized launch of Urban Mela, a German-Indian urban reflection summit which will start on October 27, illustrates a particular fervor around the urban issue in India. In light of this event, it is interesting to note that analyses from both the media and academics (please refer to this article from the India Center for Advanced Study at the University of Pennsylvania published this summer in The Hindu) point to the poor mobilization of Indian institutions in the urban planning of the country as the main challenge to its current urbanization. It is an argument that is often supported by a comparison between Indian urbanization and the Chinese urban planning mode. China founded the development of its cities on specialized institutional bodies that intervene at each stage of its urban development. The Chinese government integrated urban planning into its primary prerogatives, while India is working on tenders for private sectors and externalizing the resolution of urban issues.
For example, the urban development project “Vision Mumbai” of the private firm Mumbai First won the tender for urban development in Mumbai. The project calls for a long-term urban strategy that would guide the urban planning of Mumbai on all fronts: public transport, the creation of new business centers, housing, and striking an environmental balance. But will the project be able to deliver?
A report from the McKinsey Global Institute released in April 2010 provides an overview of India’s urban perspectives in 2030:
• 590 million Indians will live in cities, increasing the urban population from 30% to 40% (twice the current population of the United States)
• 270 million dollars in extra assets will be needed to accommodate the 70% increase in urban jobs
• The urban middle class will reach 91 million households (it is currently at 22 million today)
• The number of cities with more than one million people will increase from 42 to 68 (35 in Europe today)
• $1.2 trillion USD will be invested to meet the demand for capital in Indian cities
• 700 to 900 million m² of commercial and/or residential spaces will be built, approximating the size of one Chicago per year
• 7,400 km² of subway will be built, 20 times more than the past decade combined.
These illustrative figures, along with the virtual absence of government funding and planning tools, show the scale of the work that begins today in a country whose population is predicted to soon exceed that of China.