The Future of Indian Cities: Finding Answers in Questions

Posted By: Anita Arjundas|Dated: February 25, 2014

Cities…much maligned and much lusted after. What is it about cities that makes them hotbeds of chaos, pollution, and decay, and at the same time centers of innovation, creativity, and wealth creation?

The Future of Indian Cities

In the history of urbanism, we recently crossed an important milestone: 50 percent of the world’s population now lives in cities. And yet, the quality of urban life is almost always a point of heated discussion in cities across the world.

In the Indian context, quality of urban life or the livability of our cities assumes even more importance as our cities grow faster than anticipated or planned. On one side, this is driven by job creation, entrepreneurship, and technology. On the flipside, urban administrations are ill able to cope with the demands on infrastructure, public services, environment management, administration, and policy making.

Cities are dynamic, living organisms, constantly evolving and changing. The Development Plans & Vision Statements of cities or their infrastructure and governance roadmaps cannot therefore be static in time—as is often the case. They need to be constantly revisited and revised if our cities are to remain sustainable. Some important questions that we need to keep asking ourselves include:

  • How will the city remain relevant with the passage of time? What will be its drivers? How will it remain competitive?
  • How will we preserve its culture?
  • How do we reshape its urban centers, business districts, and suburban areas?
  • How do we build a robust transportation system and where should such a system extend based on the city’s economic and social roadmap and land use?
  • How does it meet the needs of its citizens in an environmentally sustainable manner – water, sanitation, housing, healthcare, education?
  • How do we add new cities or new nerve centers with linkages to existing cities that can help spread the benefits of economic development while de-stressing the existing infrastructure?

These are big questions, perhaps most useful as guidelines or sounding board for action points. There are noteworthy examples of cities worldwide who have successfully addressed these questions and/or re-engineered themselves to handle change: Curitiba, Vancouver, Singapore, and Manchester are frequently praised as models for urban development.

How did these cities succeed? The Government, private sector, citizens and citizen groups all played an active role in addressing these questions and making our cities sustainable. Policymakers create business environments that support the private sector in creating sustainable and livable infrastructure, new economic centers, and affordable housing. And citizen groups voice opinions on city culture, lifestyle aspirations and planning, and priorities for policymakers.

On the ground, citizens define the character of a city by managing their own neighborhoods, adopting green practices, and infusing a strong civic sense in our children; in helping preserve culture and identity even as we embrace the benefits of a global economy.

What future do you see for Indian cities, or for your own city? What part can you play in it? How can we all make our cities more sustainable?

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About the author:

Anita Arjundas

Currently CEO of the Real Estate sector, Anita has been influential in successfully establishing the Group’s focus on sustainable urbanization. She leads our pan-India presence in residential development under the Mahindra Lifespaces brand and integrated business cities under the Mahindra World City banner. Anita earned her MBA from BIM (Bharathidasan Institute of Management), Trichy and is a recipient of the Women in Leadership Award (20090 from the WILL Forum, India for driving gender equality in the workplace.

The views expressed above are those of the author, and not necessarily representative of the views of the Mahindra Group.


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  • Citizencaneandabel

    “How will we preserve its culture?” is such an interesting question….how do you preserve if cities are always changing and updating, if they are the cutting edge of ‘modern’?  some loss of culture (read: tradition) is inevitable as the present makes way for the future. some like the shiv sena in mumbai try to stop it, but it is inevitable.  how can we make cultural CHANGE positive, on the whole?  Because simple preservation is not possible.  cities just do not stop changing.  Even the things that stay the same are different, because the changing context around them shifts their meaning….so for me the qeustion is, how can we promote change that strengthens cultural richness rather than destroying it?

  • HEMANT

    WHY ARE WE NOT THINKING OF FOLLOWING THE SYSTEM OF ALLOWING ONLY ODD REGISTRATION NUMBER VEHICLE TO BE ON ROAD ON ODD DATE AND EVEN ON EVEN DATE. SO THAT TRANSPORTATION TRAFIC PROBLEM WILL GET REDUCE AND OTHER GOVERNMENT TRANSPORT WILL GET  MORE FREE ROAD AND WILL SERVE THE PUBLIC WITH HIGHER EFFICIANCY.
    THERE IS ALSO A POSSIBILTY THAT WE CAN FOLLOW SUCH AS KEEP SEPRATE PATHS FOR GOVERNMENT TRANSPORT AND SEPRATE PATHS FOR PRIVATE TRANSPORT.
    LET TRY OUT THEN WE CAN RECTIFY THE SYSTEM IF REQUIRE, 

    • http://www.jvasishtha.com Jagdish

      I know this has been done in China during olympics time, but I see challenges of both public acceptance and enforcement by traffic cops. Maybe the first step would be to ask the companies to implement it for their employees.

  • http://www.jvasishtha.com/ Jagdish

    We lack open lung spaces in our urban towns. In Bangalore for example there is Lal bagh and small parks in some residential layouts but there is a clear need for more open spaces both for recreational and sports purposes. One idea is to re-look at the need for BDA (Bangalore Development Authority) shopping complexes with the advent of private shopping complexes now mushrooming all over the town. The BDA complexes could be converted into innovative open spaces proving needed relief from concrete jungle. 

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