Postcards of change: Stories of hope from bleak urban landscapes

Written by Express news service | New Delhi | Updated: Feb 10 2014, 09:05am hrs
A growth in India's urban population has come with its accompanying problems: crumbling infrastructure, absence of clean water and sanitation. In Transforming Our Cities: Postcards of Change, well-known economist Dr Isher Judge Ahluwalia documents innovations from across the country that have ushered a change for the better and brought hope to our bleak urban landscape. The book will be released on February 10 in New Delhi at an event presided over by finance minister P Chidambaram.

Published by HarperCollins, Transforming Our Cities is the latest addition to the Express Book Series, which was instituted in 2006. A collection of Ahluwalia's columns published in The Indian Express and The Financial Express that have been revisited, it records cases of transformation in Urban India.

The examples are heartening and address some of the most pressing challenges facing Indian cities. There is Magarpatta City on the outskirts of Pune, a shining example of how urban areas can expand to accommodate the needs of urbanisation without hurting the interests of landowners through forced or unfair acquisition and then there is Vijayawada whose municipal corporation took up the challenge of relocating slum dwellers and successfully implemented an initiative under a public-private partnership model to provide housing to the urban poor.

We need to ensure that our governments plan and manage our cities so as to deliver services in line with our expectations and aspirations. We need to voice our concerns when this does not happen and help bring about the change we expect. The good news is that change has begun in urban India, and it is making a difference in a few cities, says Ahluwalia.

The postcards of change come from all corners of India: From Navi Mumbai which is showing others the way in sewage treatment, from Rajkot, one of the cleanest cities and from Karnataka where a project has brought water 24x7 at an affordable cost to about 30,000 households in three of its cities. These are just a few of the case studies recorded in the book.

Isher's stories cut across barriers of geography and politics as she has been so wonderfully non-partisan in choosing the datelines for her postcards. She tells you that all is not lost, and a lot more remains to be done, says Shekhar Gupta, Editor-in-Chief, The Express Group.

The book release will be followed by a panel discussion on 'The State of Our Cities'. Panelists include Arun Jaitley, Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha, Jyotiraditya M Scindia, Minister of State for Power, Dr Sanjaya Baru, Director for Geo-economics & Strategy, International Institute for Strategic Studies and Barkha Dutt, Group Editor, NDTV.