Pandemic and Urbanisation

  • IASbaba
  • June 8, 2020
  • 0
UPSC Articles
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Topic: General Studies 2:

  • Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors
  • Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization, of resources 

Pandemic and Urbanisation

Context: The pandemic has given us an opportunity to reconsider our habitation model

Did You Know?

  • Between the year 1 CE and the start of the Industrial Revolution (around the early 1800s), the decadal growth of the global population was around 0.8 per cent
  • However, in the last 180 years, the global population clocked a decadal growth rate of over 11 per cent.

Possible reasons attributed to population explosion post the industrial revolution 

  • Concentrated production centres i.e. rise of Cities. London became the first modern city to cross the one million population mark around 1800. By 1960, world had 111 such cities. By 2018, there were 548 such cities in India and China alone.
  • Improved medicine – This increased the average lifespan of humans
  • Technological progress – Electrical, Electronics and Cyber revolutions
  • The era of fossil fuels – which provided vast amount of energy at cheaper cost
  • Relative peace at global levels post WW-II due to emergence of International institutions like UN, WHO & WTO

Criticism of present-day Urbanisation

  • Concentrated: The population growth rate has been largely urban and metro-centred. 
  • Requires Heavy investment: Going by present trends, India will build a new Chicago every year to accommodate new urban dwellers. This will require about $2.5 trillion of investment until 2030
  • Energy intensive: Today, cities consume two-thirds of the global energy consumption 
  • Environmental Degradation: Cities account for more than 70% of greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Increased Population densities. For Ex: The Dharavi slum in Mumbai has a mind-boggling density of 3.75 lakh persons per sq km.
  • Productivity: An average Mumbaikar daily spends 95 minutes commuting between office and home, wasting nearly 10% of his time.
  • Safety issues: Eight people die every day in Mumbai in local train-related accidents, and in Delhi, five people lose their lives in road accidents.
  • The “Domino” effect: In megacities even a minor and local failure is compounded into a catastrophe. In China in 2010, due to some broken cars and road repair work, a minor traffic problem expanded quickly into a massive jam of 120 kilometres
  • Prone to Natural and man-made disasters:  Nearly every hot-spot of the COVID-19 outbreak is a congested urban centre.
  • Unequal in its effects: Congested low-income urban spaces not only bear disproportionate disease burden, they also bear the brunt of air pollution, water contamination and crime infestation
  • Ever-dwindling space and choked infrastructure: UN projected that by 2030, 28 per cent of the world population will live in dense, congested spaces

Despite the criticism why megacities are aspired?

The advantages claimed for megacities are:

  • Economies of agglomeration 
  • Generation of jobs
  • Generation of new ideas and innovations through multi-disciplinary interactions.

However, the above advantages are no longer valid:

  • Once cities expand beyond one million, they start to experience dis-economies of scale with pressure on every urban necessity increasing exponentially 
  • More people means more vehicles, more vehicles mean need for more roads and increased pollution, which mean more hospitals, more energy and more waste
  • Also, these advantages have been largely nullified with advances in digital technologies that have made online interactions numerous, equally rich in content and covering a wider range of disciplines
  • Digitisation has apparently resulted in the loss of cities’ innovative advantage.

Way Ahead: Alternative habitation philosophies: –

  • Gandhiji’s model of gram Swaraj
  • APJ Abdul Kalam’s vision of providing urban amenities in rural areas 
  • Nanaji Deshmukh’s idea of self-reliant village development
  • The basis of all these three models is that agriculture, industry and service sectors move in sync for sustainable development, which is in harmony with nature. 


New technology, the carbon constraint and diseconomies of congestion and density must force us to review our urbanisation landscape.

Connecting the dots:

  • Smart Cities mission
  • Chennai Floods in 2016 – reasons

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