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TECH TALK: India’s Challenges: Atanu Dey (Part 2)

March 30th, 2007 · No Comments

Atanu Dey’s second post discusses the creation of new cities:

My view is that the problem of rural development has to focus on the development of rural people, not the development of villages. Villages are not the proper object of analysis when it comes to economic growth, and hence economic development. By insisting on the development of villages, scarce resources, which could have been more efficiently used elsewhere, are wasted. There is another way of using the same resources, and that is the development of cities. It seems to me that the answer to rural development lies in urban development. Paradoxical but true.

About 70 percent, or 700 million Indians, live in villages. Clearly, there is no possibility of urbanizing them by migrating them to the existing cities which are already bursting at the seams. All of the major cities are little more than mega-slums. Practically all Indian towns and cities are unplanned and inefficiently use land and other resources. They are arguably inadequate for the current residents, leave alone adding hundreds of millions more people to them. The existing urban centers would do with a massive makeover but we cannot afford that. (Fires, earthquakes, carpet bombings have benefited many other cities in the past.) So there is clearly a need to have new urban centers to accommodate the hundreds of millions of people who need to be in cities for economic growth and development. And that is the greatest opportunity that India provides to everyonepeople rural and urban, firms domestic and foreign, governments, NGOs, multinational entities . . . the list goes on.

Imagine building absolutely new cities from scratch for 600 million people. Imagine 600 new large cities of one million people each. Imagine building houses, schools, shopping centers, parks, factories, roads, public utilities, hospitals, libraries, . . . And now imagine doing that using the best urban planning known to humanity. Take whatever humanity knows about the best way to get things done, and use that to design and build cities that can develop and sustain the people for generations.

That is the greatest opportunity we have of building from scratch which is not available to any developed economy.

In a nutshell, this is what Atanu Dey is saying: India needs economic growth for development to occur; for economic growth, urbanization of the majority of the population currently living in 600,000 small villages is a necessity; the current urban centers cannot accommodate the present urban population adequately, leave alone taking on any additional burden. Hence the proposition has forced itself on us: we need new urban centers to accommodate the hundreds of millions who must get out of villages for Indias economic growth.

The question before us: how do we do it before we run out of time? Think it over.


TECH TALK India’s Challenges+T

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