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India On 'Brink Of Urban Revolution', Says Study
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India is on the "brink of an urban revolution" with its population in towns and cities expected to reach 600 million by 2031, according to a new UN-backed report which pegged the gap in urban infrastructure investment in the country over the next 20 years at $827 billion.
Over the last two decades, India's urban population increased from 217 million to 377 million and this is expected to reach 600 million, or 40 per cent of the population by 2031, said the New Climate Economy Report by the The Global Commission on the Economy and Climate released on Tuesday.
"India is on the brink of an urban revolution. The current pattern of urbanisation is largely taking place on the fringe of cities, much of it unplanned and outside the purview of city codes and bylaws, and is already imposing high costs. Unprecedented growth is leaving municipal governments with critical infrastructure shortages and service gaps," it said.
The report said that in India, the gap in urban infrastructure investment is estimated at $827 billion over the next 20 years, with two-thirds of this required for urban roads and traffic support.
Urban air pollution was projected to become the top environmental cause of premature mortality by 2050, it said.
Among the rising costs of unmanaged, unstructured urban expansion in India is urban pollution which caused 620,000 premature deaths in 2010, up more than sixfold from 2001.
Recent estimates show that the cost of environmental degradation, largely driven by sprawling cities, is "enormous" and is reducing India's GDP by 5.7 per cent or about $80 billion annually.
"Some 44 per cent of India's rapidly growing carbon emissions have urban origins, emanating from transport, industry, buildings and waste. This highlights the potential benefit of a new model of urban development," it said.
The 90 largest Chinese cities account for over $6 trillion while cities in India generating two-thirds of GDP, 90 per cent of tax revenues, and the majority of jobs, with just a third of the country's population.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called the report timely as it comes just one week before a major climate summit he will be hosting on the sidelines of the annual gathering of world leaders for the UN "General Debate".
India is Asia's third-largest economy after China and Japan. It needs faster economic growth to create work for the one million young people who enter the workforce every month.
The government plans to develop a new number of "smart cities" and heavy investment is being made in improving infrastructure.
The country plans to launch 2 trillion rupees ($32.9 billion) worth of infrastructure projects this year, Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari said last week, as the government seeks to upgrade the country's creaking roads, railways and ports.
The Indian infrastructure market is expected to touch $6.6 trillion by 2025, which will be nearly 12.5 per cent of the Asia-Pacific, according to consultancy firm PwC.
The increase in infrastructure spends in the country is likely to be driven by sectors like housing, telecom, healthcare, education, transportation, among others, it said.
"Overall, India's share of the Asia-Pacific infrastructure market is expected to continue to grow, reaching around 12.5 per cent or $6.6 trillion by 2025," PwC said.
The quality of India’s infrastructure is ranked 85 among 148 nations in the Global Competitiveness Report for 2013-14 published by the World Economic Forum.