Why the World Needs an Urban Rejuvenation for Sustainable Urbanization

Problems Arising from Massive Urbanization

With the increasing urbanization of the world and the developing world in particular, there is an urgent need to address the problems arising from rampant urbanization and growth of Metropolises and Megapolises.

Indeed, it has been estimated that in a few years time, nearly 60% of the world’s population would be living in cities and urban regions which means that the already creaking and groaning infrastructure in most cities worldwide would be subject to further stresses and strains.

Urbanization brings with it its own set of problems including pressure on the urban systems such as Water and Garbage Management, Housing, Transport, Power and Energy management, and the all important imperative of maintaining law and order.

For instance, already there are reports that most Indian cities such as Bangalore, Mumbai, and Delhi would run out of groundwater by 2020 which means that urgent action is needed.

In addition, the so-called and much dreaded Day Zero or the day at which the city’s taps would run dry has been reached in Cape Town in South Africa that has caused some law and order issues there.

Apart from this, Shimla in India is also grappling with acute water scarcity that has made its tourist dependent economy take a hit on account of being unable to provide its residents and visitors with potable water.

Some Suggested Solutions

Thus, we need a solution to all these problems if we are to avoid large scale social unrest over the deteriorating quality of life in urban regions. Indeed, already there are instances of riots and flare-ups over resources and the much talked about road rage incidents due to overcrowded roads and inefficient traffic management is taking a toll on the motorists and commuters in many cities worldwide.

Moreover, with climate change making its presence felt, it is likely that sudden and extreme variations in weather such as the severe summers and the intense rainfall and extremely cold winters are all leading to massive chaos on the streets of major metros.

There cannot be a more persuasive case for urban rejuvenation than the examples cited so far.

Big Picture Thinking

Having said that, most of the solutions that are being proffered are mainly temporary fixes and short term solutions and hence, there is a need to think in terms of the Big Picture here.

While some politicians want to limit migration to the cities so that there is no overburdening of the city’s infrastructure, this is at best a diversionary tactic, though it is indeed worth considering since migration from other regions due to people being unable to find employment back home is very much a reality the world over.

A practical and a realistic solution would be for the Central Government to address the root causes of the problem such as providing funds for development of backward regions so that migrants from there can instead, find jobs in their native regions.

In addition, some experts also call for limiting the number of cars and privately owned vehicles in the cities so as to avoid traffic congestion and pollution.

Again, this is a worthwhile solution, though there would be resistance from the residents of cities. Alternately, the Odd Even Formula that was tried out in Delhi last year can be extended to all cities and throughout the year so that there is more impact.

For those critics of this solution, we would like to point out that Singapore has a similar policy in place wherein it restricts the number of cars on the streets each day of the week.

Water and Power Management

Perhaps nothing illustrates the dilemma facing policymakers as far as urban management is concerned than the way in which water is used by the residents of cities.

Indeed, even in the midst of water scarcities, we find that water is wasted in leakages and poor transportation due to faulty pipelines and the pumps in the water management system.

The same is true for electricity wherein large scale pilferage and theft happens along with other inefficiencies such as malfunctioning transformers and power cables that are cut due to the digging of the roads.

Indeed, one of the most cited complaints is that different municipal departments do not coordinate with each other and resort to undoing the good work done by another department in no time.

This calls for better coordination and cooperation among the various departments so that such problems can be avoided.

Smart Cities and Immediate Measures

The emerging Smart City paradigm is often touted as the answer to the woes of urban residents and this is where urban administrators and experts can come together to put in place measures and policies that are enabled by the use of technology and follow the Smart Governance model.

Already, many countries worldwide are experimenting with Technology driven urban management and the Indian government, in particular, has earmarked separate funds for actualizing the Smart City model.

Lastly, what we also need are some immediate measures to tackle the pressing and urgent problems associated with urban living and this is where political will is needed since absent the political solutions, cities would deteriorate further.

In other words, while the longer term solutions can be implemented, it is the need of the hour for bipartisanship and coming together of all stakeholders to address the looming crises such as the ones mentioned in the introductory section. To conclude, there is every possibility of social unrest if urban regions continue on the same path and hence, it is in our collective interest to tackle them.

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