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Urbanization, Urban India and Metropolitan Cities in India.

Urbanization, Urban India and Metropolitan Cities in India By Dr. V. Nath Concepts Publishing Company, New Delhi, 2007, Pages 396, ISBN- 13: 978-81-8069- 412-7, ISBN-10: 81-8069-412-7, Rs. 750

The present book is an attempt to study the process of urban growth, urban development constraints, urban policies and strategies to produce an integrated rural-urban model of urban development in India. It is a collection of essays by the author, Dr. V. Nath, a geographer by training, a practicising development economist, policy maker and analyst, who had written these essays over a period of about 45 years during his diverse job and life experiences in India and abroad. The essays provide the reader a comprehensive understanding of the urban development trends, processes, problems, scenarios and strategies for a balanced rural-urban growth. Since these essays are written by an expert, they provide an added value of giving an incisive and critical account of 50 years of urban development and metropolitan planning in India.

The book is divided into two sections. The first section deals with urban development and urban process in India. It contains 7 chapters (chapters 1-7). In this section the author has discussed the principle processes of urban development, looked into newer concepts of urban growth and suggested new approaches like an integrated growth concept of rural and urban areas with corridor development approach and integrated urban fringe development to achieve a balanced state of urban development in Indian cities. The second section deals with metropolitan India and contains 11 chapters (Chapters 8-18). In this section the author has raised specific problem-oriented issues like poverty, housing shortages and infrastructure inadequacies experienced by our few major metropolitan cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkota and Chennai. The author also highlights a few ideal city models such as that of Bangalore, which needs to be replicated in order to achieve the same level of urbanization and efficiency. Regional planning and Master Plan for large metro cities is also suggested for integrated development of rural and urban areas.

The author asserts that urbanization must be looked upon as an integral part of the process of economic development of the country and not as abnormal or undesirable phenomenon. Rapid growth of the cities has led to a skewed pattern of urbanization. The excessive concentration of urban population in metropolitan cities has given rise to a plethora of urban problems such as creation and proliferation of slums, scarcity of water and electricity and other civic amenities. As financial resources of municipal corporations to meet the growing demand for essential services are meagre, the author has recommended large increases in public and private investments for expansion and improvement of urban housing and infrastructure. The author also notes that developing suitable strategies for rapid urban growth pose a challenge for development planners and policy makers. These strategies must satisfy two essential conditions: First, they must meet the needs for gainful employment, housing and essential services of the rapidly increasing urban population at acceptable economic and social costs. Secondly, they must ensure that urban growth contributes to national and regional economic growth, particularly through growth-inducing rural-urban interactions.

The author has also laid emphasis on the need to integrate rural and urban development for regional development. It is true that only about one-fourth of India's total population is urban but more than 60 percent of the GDP comes from urban areas. With increasing emphasis on integrated rural and urban development, the problem of stagnating villages as well as uncontrolled urbanization in few large urban centres of importance can be easily addressed. The author has also dealt with the issue of development of peripheral rural regions or suburbs around the big cities, which are zones of very high rural-urban interaction. Since further concentration of industries within city centres is undesirable, or is in some cases impossible, there is a growing tendency to locate industry on the urban periphery and this had led to growth of satellite industrial township in the suburban areas. The development of industrial areas in Thane-Kalyan region outside Mumbai city and of industrial townships like Faridabad, Shahadra and Ghaziabad around Delhi, are examples of such direction.

The author also introduces certain new urban concepts such as 'hinterland', 'urban corridors', etc. in chapters 6 and 7. The purpose of introducing such concepts is to understand the fact that a city has a functional relationship with its periphery and, therefore, for a holistic development of both, regional and urban planning should be well integrated for the purpose of development.

In the section on Metropolitan India, the author observes that the growth of metropolitan cities is essentially a post-independence phenomenon in India. The number of metropolitan cities grew from 1 in 1901 to 23 in 1991 and 35 in 2001. There has been a disproportionate rise in the growth of population in such cities. Much of the development in such cities has occurred in a spontaneous, haphazard and unplanned manner. All these developments have created problems related to the provision of civic amenities, spatial and economic disparities, crime and insecurity and environmental pollution. Among all the spatial, social and economic problems, the author is more concerned about the visible issue of urban poverty and its spatial and social manifestation in slums and lack of environmental infrastructure across all metropolitan cities of India. In order to deal with problems of housing and basic services for the in-migrants, the three megalopolises of India--Kolkota, Mumbai and Delhi--formulated their perspective plans in form of Master Plans. However, year after year, such plans have achieved very little to solve the problems of metropolitan cities as pointed out by the author in chapter 9 of section 2.

The author has also provided a detailed insight on planning aspect of metropolitan cities in India. In chapters 12, 13 and 14, he has discussed the salient features of urban planning of Delhi. For Delhi, redevelopment of both Shahjahanabad and New Delhi, are important issues before the planners. Moreover, the author has provided a detailed study of a South Delhi residential colony in chapter 14, which has moved from an ideally liveable situation, to virtually non-liveable one due to deterioration in the physical as well as the social environment. The author feels that the metropolitan cities are the melting pots of different cultures and classes of people and should, therefore, be dealt with in a very sensitive manner.

The author strongly advocates the need for the implementation of better regional plans and master plans for our metropolitan cities. For a city like Delhi, which is functionally interrelated to so many satellite towns, the implementation of a National Capital Region Master Plan is an emergent need so that the whole functional region falls within the purview of a single plan document.

Thus, the book is essentially an interesting reading for one who wants to gain insight into the processes of Indian urbanization with policy implications. It is also suitable for unbanalogists, urban planners, research scholars and students, interested in India's urban and metropolitization problems.
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Author:Kumar, Vinod
Publication:Political Economy Journal of India
Article Type:Book review
Date:Jan 1, 2010
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