If India continues with the current trend of “poorly planned, sprawling and unconnected” pattern of urbanisation, it could impose an estimated cost of upto USD 1.8 trillion by mid-century to the country, a new study today said.
The new report ‘New Climate Economy on India’s urbanisation potential’ said that better and smarter urban growth could be an economic opportunity for India worth up to 6 per cent of GDP by 2050.
“Better, smarter urban growth could be an economic opportunity for India worth up to 6 per cent of GDP by 2050,” according to the latest research from the New Climate Economy.
The New Climate Economy is flagship project of the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate, which is a major international initiative to examine how countries can achieve economic growth while dealing with the risks posed by climate change.
It provides independent and authoritative evidence on the relationship between actions which can strengthen economic performance and those which reduce the risk of dangerous climate change.
“Continuing the current poorly planned, sprawling, unconnected pattern of urbanisation could impose an estimated cost of between USD 330 billion and USD 1.8 trillion by mid-century. At the household level, this equates to more than 20 pc of average household incomes,” the report said.
Analysing satellite data of night-time lights, this report finds that Indian cities that were more compact in 2002 experienced faster economic growth from 2002-2012 and that better, smarter urban growth could be an economic opportunity for India with significant savings at the household level.
“On average across a sample of 479 Indian cities, a 10 per cent increase in a city’s dispersion index in 2002 is associated with a 0.4-0.9 per cent point decrease in economic growth over the subsequent period,” it said.
It noted that there are a number of negative impacts or costs associated with India’s current urbanisation model, ranging from increased costs of providing public infrastructure and services, transportation costs, traffic casualties, traffic congestion, air pollution, and health risks, among other considerations.
“The costs of providing public infrastructure and services are likely to be as much as 30 per cent higher in more sprawled, automobile-dependent neighbourhoods compared with more compact, connected locations.
“14 of the world’s 30 most polluted cities are in India, and outdoor air pollution in Indian cities is estimated to cause around 1.1 million premature deaths per year. India also has the largest number of total traffic deaths of any country: 137,572 were officially reported in 2013,” it said.
The report said that in India, urban sprawl is different than in other countries and is best understood as a low density of built-up floor space per unit of land area, combined with severe overcrowding per unit of built-up area. “For example, Mumbai homes have only about 30-square-feet per person, less than a quarter of the comparable availability in urban China.
“Countering urban sprawl in India will require a greater emphasis on appropriate or good density combined with adequate provision of accessible and well-connected infrastructure and services,” it said.
The report also recommended reforms and progress in three key areas to help deliver social and economic benefits for urban India.
“Reform of land regulations to manage urban expansion to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of land use. Expansion of sustainable urban infrastructure to encourage appropriately compact, connected, and coordinated cities.
“Reform to strengthen urban local government, accountability and financing,” it said.
The report has been prepared by the Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations (ICRIER), the WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities, the New Climate Economy (NCE) and the Coalition for Urban Transitions, in partnership with the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the Global Spatial Research Program on Spatial Development of Cities at the World Bank.
India’s urban population reached 420 million or 33 per cent of its total population in 2015 and this is expected to almost double to 800 million by 2050, with close to 400 million more people living in towns and cities by 2050.
By 2031, 75 per cent of India’s national income is expected to come from cities and the majority of new jobs will be created in urban areas, the report said.
“Poorly planned, sprawled, private-vehicle dependent model of urban growth can have significant economic, social, and environmental costs which undermine prosperity,” it said.