The disease plaguing urban planning in India- The New Indian Express

The disease plaguing urban planning in India- The New Indian Express

It is raining. Raining afflictions. Rural India was always vulnerable to a pendulum of dire extremes, oscillating between floods and drought conditions. Now the cities have come together. Already on the verge of exploding, Indian cities, both metropolitan and Tier II, are experiencing flooding with a frequency never seen before. Instead of getting smarter, they are images of misery with no plan. Luxurious skyscrapers, luxurious bungalows, or slums, none are spared the periodic deluges.

The southern part of the country, until now considered better managed, has also signed the instrument of accession to this hell. Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Karnataka, Kerala, not a single state can claim to be honorable exceptions. Comprehensive urban planning has never been our strong suit, at least since Harappa. So dazzling, postmodern cityscapes emerge with no more thought for basic overall resource management (water, power, traffic, waste generation) than sprawling shacks. Unplanned growth leads to further clogging of storm drains and sewer lines. The catastrophe extends from the micro to the macro level.

The two national rankings, LEADS (ease of logistics in different states) and Swachh Survekshan, have in fact created some competition between states and cities for improvement. Some interesting effects are visible, like the states above at the bottom of the places jumping on the logistics and cleanliness parameters. But it is largely static. Indore is still the cleanest city (it has topped the list for years) and Gujarat is still the best in infrastructure. Not much is being improved through reforms in local urban agencies, which remain inefficient, corrupt and policy-ridden. No Indian city makes the cut in terms of being world class. Not even Delhi, which remains shrouded in noxious smog, or Mumbai, where floods are as common as local trains. In fact, it is incredible that we do not pay attention to the signs of illness that assail us around us. Make no mistake about what those signs tell us: it is reform or perish.

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