To prepare for INDIAN SOCIETY for any competitive exam, aspirants have to know about Urbanization. It gives an idea of all the important topics for the IAS Exam and the Economy syllabus (GS-II.). Important Urbanization terms are important from Economy perspectives in the UPSC exam. IAS aspirants should thoroughly understand their meaning and application, as questions can be asked from this static portion of the IAS Syllabus in both the UPSC Prelims and the UPSC Mains exams.


  • Urban development as a reflection of the overall development process cannot remain outside the purview of the political system of the country. Accordingly, the politicians and the civil servants in India take the most active part in the policy formulation process in the urban context.
  • While India changes to new India, one of the profound morphological changes witnessed will be increasing urbanization which is closely linked to modernization and industrialization.

  • Urbanization indeed is the process of becoming urban, moving to cities, changing from agriculture to other pursuits common to cities, such as trade, manufacturing, industry and management, and corresponding changes of behavior patterns.
  • It is the process of expansion in the entire system of interrelationships by which the population maintains itself in the habitat.
  • Urbanization refers to the population shift from rural to urban residency, the gradual increase in the proportion of people living in urban areas.


  • Indian towns are growing more on the basis of tertiary rather than the secondary sector. It is very ironic that cities in India have developed as a result of the growth of the tertiary sector. The growth in the communication sector, transport, services and construction were the main factors for the growth of Indian cities.
  • But in developed countries it is the manufacturing sector which led to the growth of cities.
  • Southern India is more urbanized than that of Northern and Eastern India. This is because of the historical, socio-cultural and educational resource factors widely available.
  • With the introduction of globalization in India, the development of South India was very high due to high FDI and establishment of various kinds of industries in these states.


  • Urbanization as a structural process of change is generally related to industrialization, but it is not always the result of industrialization.
  • Urbanization results due to the concentration of large-scale and small scale industrial and commercial, financial, and administrative set up in the cities; technological development in transport and communication, cultural and recreational activities.
  • Urbanization is an integral part of economic development, As the economy develops, there is an increase in the per capita income and also the demand for non-farm goods in the economy.
  • In the context of India, the process of urbanization is seen as a socio-cultural process, an economic process, and a geographical process.


As a socio-cultural phenomenon It is a “melting pot” of people with diverse ethnic, linguistic, and religious backgrounds. E.g. kolkata
As an economic process The city is a focal point of productive activities. It exists and grows on the strength of the economic activities existing within itself. E.g. Mumbai
As a geographical process It deals with migration or change of location of residence of people and involves the movement of people from one place to another.

  • Urbanization in India can be traced back to the ancient Indian period.
  • Harappan urbanism in Indus valley civilization is considered to be the first phase of urbanization in India.
  • Harappan cities had a long period of urbanization for about 600 years (between 2350 BC and 1750 BC). Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro are the two important cities in Indus valley civilization.
  • The onset of the British East India Company changed the nature of the urbanization process extraordinarily.


  • In 1687- 88, the first municipal corporation in India was set up at Madras.
  • In 1726, Municipal Corporation was set up in Bombay and Calcutta.
  • In 1882, a resolution was passed and according to which, a panchayat was to be formed at the village level, district boards, taluqa boards, and municipalities also came into existence.
  • At that time Lord Ripon was Viceroy of India, and for this, Lord Ripon is known as the father of local self-government in India.
  • Lord Ripon’s resolution of 1882 provided for the introduction of principles of local self-government in the municipalities.
  • The resolution is regarded as the Magna Carta of Local self-government in India. Lord Ripon is known as Father of Local Self Government in India.
  • The formation of three metropolitan port cities of Mumbai (Bombay), Kolkata (Calcutta), and Chennai (Madras).
  • Creation of a chain of hill stations such as Darjeeling, Shimla, Mussoorie, Lansdowne etc. in the Himalayan region and In South India.
  • The modification of the urban landscape of the existing cities with the introduction of civil lines and cantonments.
  • The introduction of railways and modern industry.
  • The improvements in urban amenities and administration.
  • The Initiation of modern education by establishing some colleges and universities in major urban centers.
  • After Independence urbanization began to accelerate due to the country’s adoption of a mixed economy, which gave rise to the development of the private sector.


Urban governance is a complex issue and poses a formidable challenge in today’s public management in our country. For those living in India’s metropolitan areas, daily living can be chaotic and trying, the unfortunate result of poor urban planning, creaking infrastructure and ineffectual governance.

  • minimum population threshold;
  • population density;
  • proportion employed in non-agricultural sectors;
  • presence of infrastructure such as paved roads,
  • electricity, piped water or sewers;
  • presence of education or health services.


Urban Governance:

  • The 74th amendment act has been implemented half-heartedly by the states, which has not fully empowered the Urban local bodies (ULBs). ULBs comprise of municipal corporations, municipalities and nagar panchayats, which are to be supported by state governments to manage the urban development.
  • For this, ULBs need clear delegation of functions, financial resources and autonomy. At present urban governance needs improvement for urban development, which can be done by enhancing technology, administrative and managerial capacity of ULBs.


Urban Finances:

  • Though the performance of municipalities on revenue mobilization and spending levels varies across States, it can generally be said that even after the 74th Constitutional Amendment, the financial position of the municipal institutions has not improved commensurate with their functions and responsibilities. Further, the position of the smaller municipal institutions is much worse.
  • The basic requirement of financial sustainability must be intertwined with the need for financial powers.
  • States should ensure that the law gives sufficient powers to the local bodies regarding taxes that are more appropriately collected at local levels. State Governments should ensure that all local bodies switch over to the ‘unit area method’ or ‘capital value method’ for assessment of property tax in a time-bound manner.


Administrative Reforms Commission (ARC) in its 6th report mentioned measures to strengthen the urban governance:

  • Urban local bodies should be given responsibility for water supply and distribution in their territorial jurisdiction whether based on their own source or collaborative arrangements with other service providers.
  • Sanitation, as a matter of hygiene and public health, must be given priority and emphasis in all urban areas. In all towns, advance action for laying down adequate infrastructure should be taken to avoid insufficiency of services.
  • Community participation and co-production of services should be encouraged by municipal bodies. This should be supplemented by awareness generation.
  • In all towns and cities with a population above one lakh, the possibility of taking up PPP projects for collection and disposal of garbage may be explored.
  • Municipal bodies should be encouraged to take responsibility of power distribution in their area.
  • Urban Transport Authorities, to be called Unified Metropolitan Transport Authorities in the Metropolitan Corporations, should be set up in cities with population over one million within one year, for coordinated planning and implementation of urban transport solutions with an overriding priority to public transport.


As per NITI Aayog:

  • Well-run ULBs should have the power to raise financial resources including through municipal bonds.
  • Introduction of Standardised, time-bound, audited balance sheets across ULBs would help improve financial management as well as spur further reforms in this area.
  • Indian cities also need to overhaul their municipal staffing and introduce appropriate skills to achieve administrative efficiency.
  • Similarly, to speed up the process of cleaning up municipal solid waste, NITI Aayog suggests the creation of an authority at the Centre to spread the use of Waste to Energy plants.
  • Such an authority may be called Waste to Energy Corporation of India (WECI) and placed under the Ministry of Urban Development. WECI may set up world class Waste to Energy plants through PPP across the country.
  • Its mandate may include key functions of preparing standard tender documents, prequalify vendors and allot to ULBs and cluster of ULBs, and ensure priority clearance for qualified vendors, among others.
  • Strict enforcement of traffic rules through fines in case of violations can induce behavioral change and could greatly reduce both the travel time and pollution.
  • Incentives may be created to encourage vehicle-sharing systems such as Ola and Uber. This will reduce the number of vehicles on the road reducing both congestion and pollution.
  • There is a need for a national metro rail policy that will ensure that metro projects are not considered in isolation, but as part of a comprehensive plan of overall public transportation.


  • Rapid Mass Transport (RMT) for a better transportation system.
  • Reform of the urban water sector.
  • Efficient use of urban land.
  • Long term strategic urban planning with the overall regional planning perspective.
  • The environmental sustainability of urban development
  • Investment in new urban infrastructure assets and maintenance of assets.
  • Need to strengthen urban governance
  • To strengthen the ‘soft infrastructure’.



The criteria for classifying an area as urban may be based on one or a combination of features, such as:



For the Census of India 2011, the definition of urban area is as follows;




Statutory towns

● All places with a municipality, corporation, cantonment board or notified town area committee, etc.

● These towns are notified under law by the concerned State/UT Government and have local bodies like municipal corporations, municipalities, municipal committees, etc., irrespective of their demographic characteristics as reckoned on 31st December 2009. Examples: Vadodara (Municipal Corp.), Shimla (Municipal Corp.) etc.


Census town

All other places which satisfied the following criteria:

1. A minimum population of 5,000;

2. At least 75 percent of the male main working population engaged in non-agricultural pursuits; and

3. A density of population of at least 400 persons per sq. km.


Urban Agglomeration (UA):

  • It is a continuous urban spread constituting a town and its adjoining outgrowths (OGs), or two or more physically contiguous towns together with or without outgrowths of such towns.
  • An Urban Agglomeration must consist of at least a statutory town and its total population (i.e. all the constituents put together) should not be less than 20,000 as per the 2001 Census. At the Census 2011, there were 475 such UAs/Towns.

Urban Agglomerations/ Towns by Class/ Category: Census of India 2011


Class Population
Class – I

Class – II

Class – III

Class – IV

Class – V

Class – VI

Population of 100,000 and Above

Population of 50,000 and 99,999

Population of 20,000 and 49,999

Population of 10,000 and 19,999

Population of 5,000 and 9,999

Population of less than 5,000

Out Growths (OG):

  • It is a viable unit such as a village or a hamlet or an enumeration block made up of such a village or hamlet and clearly identifiable in terms of its boundaries and location.
  • Some of the examples are railway colonies, university campuses, port areas, military camps, etc., which have come up near a statutory town outside its statutory limits but within the revenue limits of a village or villages contiguous to the town. At the Census 2011, there were 981 Out Growths.


  • It refers to the increased exemplifications of the characters of urbanization in a city or its surrounding rural area.
  • It results from excessive development of urban traits. Due to the expansion of the range of urban activities and occupations, greater influx of secondary functions like industry, the increased sophistication and mechanization of life and the influx of urban characters into the surrounding rural area, over urbanization gradually replaces the rural and traditionalistic traits of a community.



  • Suburbanization is closely related to over-urbanization of a city. When cities get over-crowded by population, it may result in sub-urbanization. Delhi is a typical example.
  • Sub-urbanization means urbanization of rural areas around the cities characterized by the following features:
    • A sharp increase in the ‘urban (non-agricultural) uses’ of land,
    • Inclusion of surrounding areas of towns within its municipal limits, and
    • Intensive communication of all types between town and its surrounding areas.


Counter urbanization or de-urbanization:

  • It is a demographic and social process whereby people move from urban areas to rural areas. It is, like suburbanization, inversely related to urbanization. It first occurred as a reaction to inner – city deprivation.
  • Counter urbanization is the process by which people migrate from urban to rural communities (the opposite of urbanization) for various reasons, including job opportunities and simpler lifestyles.


Satellite towns:

  • A satellite town or satellite city is a concept in urban planning that refers essentially to smaller metropolitan areas which are located somewhat near to, but are mostly independent of larger metropolitan areas. Satellite cities could be self-sufficient communities outside of their larger metropolitan areas.




Social factors:

  • There are numerous social benefits attributed to life in cities and towns.
  • People get better facilities in an urban area like education, sanitation, housing, health care, recreation, and living standards to lead a good social life in general.
  • Due to these reasons, more and more people are prompted to migrate into cities and towns to obtain a wide variety of social benefits and services which are not presently available in rural areas.


Economic factors:

  • There is a strong relationship between urbanization and economic growth.
    • Urbanization
    • Economic growth.


Employment opportunities:

  • In the rural sector, people have to depend mainly on agriculture for their livelihood. But Indian agriculture is depending on monsoon; therefore, in drought situations or natural calamities, rural people have to migrate to cities.
  • The depressed economic conditions of the area, availability of opportunities, availability of land holdings are the most vital determinants for the population movement.
  • Urbanization creates millions of job opportunities for the growing youth population as well as rural sector people.


Political Factors:

  • Most schemes for improving rural conditions are justified on the grounds that they will reduce migration to cities. Yet, economic growth is strongly linked to urbanization.
  • Various suggestions as policy guidance have been made from time to time in the light of rapid urbanization.
  • The National plan documents, recommendations of different committees a commission set up by the government, governments policy on slums and town improvement, various schemes, the Urban Land Policy, Housing Policy, Policy on the urban environment, infrastructural arrangements serve as important indicators of the government of India’s perspective of urban development.
  • Such a range of policy contents reflects the highly complicated character of the urban development process.


Modernization and changed lifestyle:

  • Modernization and drastic change in today’s lifestyle of people plays a very important role in the process of urbanization.
  • Nowadays, urban areas are becoming more technology savvy with highly sophisticated communication, infrastructure, medical facilities, dressing code, enlightenment, liberalization, and social amenities availability.
  • Most of the people have a view in their minds that they can lead a better and happy life in cities.
  • As a result, people are migrating towards the cities, and the cities are growing rapidly by absorbing more and more people day after day.


Rural-urban transformation:

  • Many localities have become more fruitful and prosperous due to the discovery of minerals, resource exploitation, or certain agricultural activities; hence cities start emerging.
  • It is a well-known fact that the increase in productivity leads to economic growth and higher value-added employment opportunities.
  • This trend normally contributes to the development of land for use in commercial properties, socio-economic support institutions, transportation, and residential buildings.



  • The distribution of goods and services and commercial transactions in the modern era has developed modern marketing institutions and exchange methods that have given rise to the growth of towns and cities.




Urbanization and Status of Women:

  • Status of women in urban areas is higher than that of women in rural areas. Urban women are comparatively more educated and liberal.
  • They are not only aware of their economic, social and political rights but they also use these rights to save themselves from being humiliated and exploited.
  • The average age of girls at marriage in cities is also higher than the corresponding age in villages.
  • The status of urban women, because of being comparatively educated and liberal, is higher than that of rural women However, in the labour market, women are still in a disadvantaged situation. The labour market discriminates against women and is opposed to equality of opportunity.
  • Divorce and remarriage are new phenomena that we find among urban women. Today, women take more initiative to break their marriages le­gally if they find adjustment after marriage impossible.
  • Politically, urban women are more active today. The number of women contesting elections has increased at every level. They hold im­portant political positions and also possess independent political ideologies
  • It may, thus, be concluded that while rural women continue to be dependent on men both economically and socially, urban women are comparatively independent and enjoy greater freedom.

Urbanization and Caste:

  • A person in a city derives his status not only from caste but also from other considerations. It will not be wrong to say that caste identity tends to diminish with urbanization. Urbanites participate in networks which include persons of several castes.
  • Urban-dwellers do not strictly conform to caste norms. There is a change in commensal relations, marital relations, social relations, as well as in occupational relations.
  • Likewise, caste solidarity was not as strong in urban areas as in rural areas. Caste panchayats were very weak in cities.


Urbanization and Kinship:

  • The increasing number of inhabitants in a settlement beyond a certain limit affect the relationship between them and the character of the city.
  • The greater the number of individuals participating in a process of interaction, the greater is the potential of differentiation between them whereby the personal trails, the occupations, the cultural life and the ideas, and beliefs and values get widely separated.
  • These variations give rise to the spatial segregation of individuals. The bonds of kinship, neighborliness and sentiments of living together for generations are absent among these people due to such diverse origin and backgrounds.
  • Thus, the increase in numbers involves changed the character of the social relationship, the absence of anonymity and the segmentalization of human relationship.

The current model of urbanization is being designed around concepts like smart cities and export-oriented industrial corridors:

Smart Cities Mission:

  • The Smart Cities Mission aimed at promoting cities that provide core infrastructure and give a decent quality of life to its citizens, a clean and sustainable environment, and the application of ‘Smart’ Solutions.
  • This includes assured water and electricity supplies, efficient sanitation, solid waste management, and public transport, adequate healthcare and education facilities, and affordable housing, especially for economically-weak sections of society.
  • Beyond these basic requirements, such cities must also offer robust information technology connectivity, which will allow for citizen participation in community matters and improved local governance.


The Importance of Smart Cities Mission:

  • With 70% of India’s built environment for 2030 yet to take shape, its impending urban transformation also represents significant opportunities for domestic and international investments.
  • The Mission will cover 100 cities and its duration will be five years from 2015 to 2020. The Mission is implemented by the Ministry of Urban Development (MoUD).
  • SCM will be operated as a Centrally Sponsored Scheme (CSS) where the central Government proposes to provide financial support up to 100 crore per city per year. An equal amount, on a matching basis, will have to be contributed by the State/ULB.
  • To achieve sustainable growth, the cities will have to become more liveable and safer with clean air, adequate infrastructure, reliable utilities, and opportunities for learning and employment.
  • All 100 Smart Cities have established their SPVs, constituted their City Level Advisory Forum (CLAF), and all cities have appointed PMCs, indicating that all these Smart Cities are in Mission mode.
  • Integrated Command and Control Centres (ICCCs) becoming operational in 15 cities has resulted in enhanced efficiency in governance, management of traffic, law enforcement, improved citizen grievance redressal, and reduced criminal incidents on city streets and public spaces.
  • Smart Cities and AMRUT programs have opened up avenues for local industry and global players to participate in the development of cities across such sectors as utilities, housing, mobility, telecommunications, information technology, healthcare, education, and recreational facilities.
  • Smart cities mission is also playing a vital role in creating new opportunities for better management of waste: For example, Agra – which houses the Taj Mahal plans to install 2,93,000 garbage containers tagged with radio frequency identification (RFID). These waste containers will be tracked throughout the city to ensure they are used to their maximum efficiency.


Relevance of smart cities in sustainable urban development:

Engines of inclusive economic growth Of the 121 crore Indians, 83.3 crore live in rural areas while 37.7 crore stay in urban areas, i.e. approx. 32 % of the population.
Rapid and haphazard urbanization Mass movement of people from villages to cities in search of a better life, drawn by the lure of riches and money has resulted in the haphazard urbanization with increasing slum population.
Traffic With overcrowding in the cities, traffic congestion becomes a problem, increasing the time it takes to commute over even small distances.
Share in GDP Cities contribute to 63 % of Indian GDP. The increasing population has caused extreme stress of urban amenities.
Health problems The concentration of a large population living in squalor in slums in the urban sprawl makes it a haven for the spread of diseases. Environmental concern: Vulnerability to risk posed by the increasing man-made and natural disaster is increasing.


HRIDAY Mission: Its Specific objectives are:

  • Planning, development and implementation of heritage sensitive infrastructure.
  • Service delivery and infrastructure provisioning in historic city core areas.
  • Preserve and revitalize heritage wherein tourists can connect directly with city’s unique character. Develop and document a heritage asset inventory of cities – natural, cultural, living and built heritage as a basis for urban planning, growth and service provision & delivery.
  • Implementation and enhancement of basic services delivery with focus on sanitation services like public conveniences, toilets, water taps, street lights with use of latest technologies in improving tourist facilities/amenities.
  • Local capacity enhancement for inclusive heritage-based industry.


RURBAN Mission: The larger outcomes envisaged under this Mission are:

  • Bridging the rural-urban divide-viz: economic, technological and those related to facilities and services. Stimulating local economic development with emphasis on reduction of poverty and unemployment in rural areas.
  • Spreading development in the region.
  • Attracting investment in rural areas.


PM Awas Yojana:

  • It was launched on 25th June 2015 which intends to provide housing for all in urban areas by year 2022.
  • The Mission provides Central Assistance to the implementing agencies through States/Union Territories (UTs) and Central Nodal Agencies (CNAs) for providing houses to all eligible families/ beneficiaries against the validated demand for houses for about 1.12 cr. As per PMAY(U) guidelines, the size of a house for the Economically Weaker Section (EWS) could be upto 30 sq. mtr. carpet area, however States/UTs have the flexibility to enhance the size of houses in consultation and approval of the Ministry.


Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT) Mission: The purpose of mission is to:

  • Ensure that every household has access to a tap with the assured supply of water and a sewerage connection.
  • Increase the amenity value of cities by developing greenery and well-maintained open spaces (e.g. parks)
  • Reduce pollution by switching to public transport or constructing facilities for non-motorized transport (e.g. walking and cycling). All these outcomes are valued by citizens, particularly women, and indicators and standards have been prescribed by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (MoHUA) in the form of Service Level Benchmarks (SLBs).


National Urban Transport Policy:

  • The objective of this policy is to ensure safe, affordable, quick, comfortable, reliable and sustainable access for the growing number of city residents to jobs, education, recreation and such other needs within our cities.


National Mission on Sustainable Habitat: To promote:

  • Improvements in energy efficiency in buildings through extension of the Energy Conservation Building Code (ECBC) – which addresses the design of new and large commercial buildings to optimize their energy demand;
  • Better urban planning and modal shift to public transport – make long term transport plans to facilitate the growth of medium and small cities in such a way that ensures efficient and convenient public transport;
  • Improved management of solid and liquid waste, e.g. recycling of material and urban waste management – with special focus on development of technology for producing power from waste.


National Urban Housing Fund

  • The Union Cabinet has approved the creation of Rs 60,000-crore National Urban Housing Fund to finance the government’s Housing for All programme, which aims to build 12 million affordable housing units in urban areas by 2022. This is a step in the right direction

Deen Dayal Antyodaya Yojana (DAY) – National Urban Livelihood Mission (DAY-NULM):

  • This scheme is aimed at addressing the livelihood concerns of the urban poor.

Industrial Corridors:

  • The Government of India is developing 5 major industrial corridors in various states.

India’s first monorail

  • It will be thrown open to the public, eight years after it was first proposed, with the Maharashtra government. With this, India will join countries like the U.S., Germany, China, Japan, Australia and Malaysia that run monorails.

City Projects – Several new cities have been developed in recent year, some of the prominent examples are:

  • Dholera SIR (Gujarat)
  • Gujarat International Finance Tec-City (Gujarat)
  • Palava (Maharashtra)
  • Lavasa (Maharashtra)
  • Gurgaon (Haryana)
  • Smart City Kochi (Kerala)
  • Haldia (West Bengal)
  • Navi Mumbai Airport influence Notified Area (Maharashtra)
  • Wave City (National Capital Region)

Examples of Public driven Urban Development Projects

  • Dholera (SIR)
  • Gujarat International Finance Tec-City (GIFT)

Examples of Privately driven Urban Development Projects

  • Lavasa
  • Palav


Challenges in implementation

  • Financing The total investment approved under the smart city plans of 90 cities has gone upto Rs 1, 91,155 crores. Banks financing these projects as of now is the major reason of a considerable increase in the number of non-performing assets. The government is recently taking steps to finance these projects by making changes in the budget and certainly the problem will be addressed soon.
  • Lack of Center-State Coordination – Fruitful implementation of a project can be done only if there is a coordination between various government bodies. There is a need for proper regulation when it comes to planning for the development of smart cities. Both horizontal and vertical co-ordination is the requisite right now.
  • Availability of Master Plan – Most cities in India do not have their master plans and development plans in place. This is a tragic situation about developing them into smart cities. The presence of both the requisites is the key to the implementation and encapsulation of the smart city project as that is where the changes would be monitored and there is no other way to make it simple, better and efficient. Unfortunately, most cities in India lack the presence of it.
  • No time figure attached to the plan – The entire smart city plan is a one big plan which should get all the clearances on time. Everything should be online and timely which unfortunately is not happening in this case. The most important step to be taken in this context would be setting up a single regulatory body which monitors all the requisite approvals for the project. Doing this will address two major issues one of coordination and one would be the timely execution. Also, the body should be solely responsible to cater to the financial requirements.
  • Availability of facilities – India as of now is not that equipped when it comes to skilled manpower and advanced technology requirements for developing 100 smart cities. That is a huge number and requires a lot of skilled efforts. For creating skilled labor and capacity building, not much funds have been allocated by the center and state in such initiatives. Such projects involve training, research and a hefty database for execution. This is a huge problem in India as it is an area which has not been focused upon as of now. These programs help in many ways like time bound completion.
  • Corruption à This point probably was meant to be from the first as this is the root cause for all above challenges. Both at center and state level corruption is responsible for all the co-ordination mismatch and time lag happening. The financial constraint also somehow creeps in because of this issue. Corruption in India is a challenge which has always been a reason for non-execution or ineffective execution of most big projects in the country.


  • Others:
    • Digital security.
    • Legislation and policies.
    • Lack of confidence or reluctance shown by citizens (lack of clarity around benefits).
    • Interoperability.
    • Existing infrastructure for energy, water, and transportation systems.




  • Overcrowding is a situation in which too many people live in too little space. Overcrowding is a logical consequence of overpopulation in urban areas.
  • It is naturally expected that cities having a large size of population squeezed in a small space must suffer from overcrowding.
  • This is well exhibited by almost all the big cities of India.
  • For example, Delhi has a population density of 11,320 persons per sq km (Census 2011) which is the highest in India. This is the overall population density for the Union Territory of Delhi.
  • This leads to tremendous pressure on infrastructural facilities like housing, electricity, water, transport, employment, etc. Efforts to decongest Delhi by developing ring towns have not met with the required success.



  • The poor sanitation condition is another gloomy feature in urban areas and particularly in slums and unauthorized colonies of urban areas. The drainage system in many unorganized colonies and slums is either not existing and if existing are in a bad shape and in bits resulting in blockage of wastewater.
  • These unsanitary conditions lead to many sanitation-related diseases such as diarrhea and malaria.
  • Unsafe garbage disposal is one of the critical problems in urban areas and garbage management always remains a major challenge.
  • The 2015-16 National Family Health Survey (NFHS-4) states that more than 50% of households have access to improved sanitation facilities in all states/UTs except Bihar and Madhya Pradesh.

Housing and Slums

  • There is an acute shortage of housing in urban areas and much of the available accommodation is of sub-standard quality.
  • With large scale migration to urban areas, many find that the only option they have is substandard conditions of slums.
  • Slums are characterized by substandard housing, overcrowding, lack of electrification, ventilation, sanitation, roads, and drinking water facilities.
  • They have been the breeding ground of diseases, environmental pollution, demoralization, and many social tensions.
  • The United Nations Centre for Human Settlements (UNCHS) introduced the concept of “Housing Poverty” which includes “Individuals and households who lack safe, secure and healthy shelter, with basic infrastructures such as piped water and adequate provision for sanitation, drainage and the removal of household waste.”





Ease of Living Index

● It is developed by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs seeks to:

● Drive an evidence-based approach for future interventions and investments to deliver Ease of Living outcomes

Catalyze actions to improve the quality of life in Indian cities

Track broader development outcomes including the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG 11- Sustainable cities and communities)

● Serve as a basis for dialogue with citizens and urban decision-makers on key strengths and areas demanding improvement.


Global Livability Index 2019

● The Economist Intelligence Unit’s livability rating quantifies the challenges that might be presented to an individual’s lifestyle in 140 cities worldwide.

● Each city is assigned a score for over 30 qualitative and quantitative factors across five broad categories of Stability, Healthcare, Culture and environment, Education and Infrastructure.





Making cities sustainable means creating career and business opportunities, safe and affordable housing, and building resilient societies and economies. It involves investment in public transport, creating green public spaces, and improving urban planning and management in participatory and inclusive ways.

TargetsBy 2030, ensure access for all to adequate, safe and affordable housing and basic services and upgrade slums

Strengthen efforts to protect and safeguard the world’s cultural and natural heritage.

By 2030, reduce the adverse per capita environmental impact of cities, including by paying special attention to air quality and municipal and other waste management.


Transportation and Traffic Problem

  • With traffic bottlenecks and traffic congestion, almost all cities and towns of India are suffering from an acute form of transport problem.
  • Transport problems increase and become more complex as the town grows in size.
  • With its growth, the town performs varied and complex functions, and more people travel to work or shop.
  • Due to less penetration of public transport, high-income individuals are buying more private vehicles causing more traffic jams and air pollution, which in turn decreases the efficiency of public transport.
  • Also, the penetration of public transport is less, which makes people use a private vehicle instead of Public transport.

Energy crisis

  • With the demand for power consumption increasing day by day because of industrialization and the increasing use of electronic gadgets of various types, almost all the cities in India face this problem.


  • Urbanization can lead to unemployment. People are drawn to urban areas in the false hope of a better standard of living, better healthcare and job opportunities. This leads to one of the most obvious bad effects of urbanization-the growth of crimes.



  • Urbanization leads to trafficking of women and children from both urban as well as rural areas. Some women and children are even trafficked across the borders for prostitution, cheap- labour and adoption.



  • Gambling is an organized and planned activity in many urban centers. People living In cities have a craze to make money. So, they are ready to espouse many means to make money. Gambling gives them an opportunity to make instant or quick money.


Climate Change

  • The rapid, inadequate, and poorly planned expansion of cities can also leave urban populations highly exposed to the effects of climate change.
  • The migration from rural areas to cities is at least partially driven by the increasing prevalence of extreme weather; however, cities tend to be located near the sea or natural waterways, where they are at more risk of flooding.

For example:

Recent floods in Mumbai due to extreme rainfall



The solution to the problem:


• Proper sewage drainage-water supply

• Integrated coordinated governance framework for cities.

• People should be taught not to put garbage in rivers, and plastics shouldn’t be thrown in rivers.

• Model of linking flooding with rainfall.

• If communities are involved, given the task, responsibilities, and resources, including finance beforehand, then there will be prompt action.

Social Instability

  • Rapid and unplanned urbanization can also quickly lead to urban violence and social unrest. Widening inequalities also tend to be more starkly visible in urban than in rural areas.
  • The combination of inequality, competition for scarce resources such as land, impunity from the law, and weak city governance increase the risk of violence and potential breakdowns in law and order.
  • Urbanization can also create connected and cascading effects.

For example, high population density fuels property bubbles while a shortage of affordable housing contributes to social exclusion, with this combination threatening to destabilize the wider economy and increase social instability.

Health Condition

  • The condition of health in some poor urban areas is worst compared to rural areas. There is a huge loss of life due to basic amenities like drinking water, clean air, etc.
  • Providing health care services to the growing urban population is a major challenge before the government health care delivery system.
  • With the rapid pace of urbanization, industries and transport systems grow rather out of proportion. These developments are primarily responsible for the pollution of the environment, particularly the urban environment.


For example:

Gurugram and Ghaziabad are the most polluted, while Delhi is the worst off among capital cities. ICMR estimates reveal that one in every eight deaths in India is attributable to air pollution, which now contributes to more disease burden than smoking.


The 2015-16 National Family Health Survey (NFHS-4) states that though anaemia has declined, it still remains widespread. More than half of children and women are anaemic. The prevalence of tuberculosis was higher among women (389 per 100,000) than among men (220 per 100,000).







Causes of Air Pollution

● Unplanned urbanization: haphazard growth of urban areas has led to the proliferation of slums and poor public transport has increased the burden of personal vehicles on the road.

Landfills used for waste management also release pollutants in the air.

The rapid urbanization, growth of industries and transport system of recent years if left unmanaged will further exacerbate the problem

● Burning of urban waste, diesel soot, vehicular exhaust, road and construction dust, and power generation.

● Poor governance: the issue of environment and pollution is still to get the policy priority it deserves. While agencies liked CPCB and SPCBs continue to be under-resourced and under-staffed, the multiplicity of the state authorities at the ground level leads to poor coordination, lax enforcement of rules, and lack of accountability as seen in Delhi.

● The absence of environmental governance continues to be a major challenge.







Steps to Combat Air Pollution

● An innovative approach could be to use climate change funds to turn farm residues into a resource, using technological options such as converting them into biofuels and biofertilizers.

Odd-even schemes and, recently, the allowance by the Supreme Court (SC) for only green or zero-emission firecrackers, are the episodic measures that have been used, and still continue to be, to combat this methodical pollution.

● Drafting of the National Clean Air Programme (NCAP), which was intended to build and strengthen the institutional capacity to monitor air quality across India

● Governments should make the use of personal vehicles in cities less attractive through strict road pricing mechanisms like Congestion tax, Green-house Gas tax.

● Need to speed up the journey towards LPG and solar-powered stoves.

● Addressing vehicular emissions is within India’s grasp but requires a multi-pronged approach. It needs to combine the already-proposed tighter emission norms (in the form of BS-VI), with a push for shared mobility and public transport and adoption of alternate mobility technologies.


  • Out of many, few people, who migrate to the urban centers in search of better opportunities, end up as beggars.
  • This problem also has social and moral aspects apart from the economic aspects.
  • Most beggars usually stay in such an unhealthy and unhygienic environment that they develop some of the other diseases. Thus, they become lithe, which means to spread infectious diseases in the city and nearby localities.



  • The supply of water started falling short of demand as the cities grew in size and number.
    Sadly the majority of the cities and towns do not get the recommended quantity of water.
  • The gap in demand and supply of water in four metro cities, viz., Mumbai, Kolkata, Delhi, and Chennai varies from 10 to 20 percent.
  • To meet the growing demand for water, many cities are trying to tap external sources of water supply.
  • The safe drinking water sources are also found to be contaminated because the water in the cities is inadequate and, in the future, the expected population cannot be accommodated without a drastic improvement in the availability of water.


The 2015-16 National Family Health Survey (NFHS-4) states that over two-thirds of households in every State/UT have access to an improved source of drinking water.




For example:

o Mumbai draws water from neighboring areas and from sources located as far as 125 km in the Western Ghats. Chennai uses water express trains to meets its growing demand for water. Bangalore is located on the plateau and draws water from the Cauvery river at a distance of 100 km. Water for Bangalore has to be lifted about 700 meters with help of lifting pumps.

o Hyderabad depends on Nagarjuna Sagar located 137 km away.

o Delhi meets a large part of its water requirements from Tajiwala in Haryana.

The Water Crisis in India:

  • According to a forecast by the Asian Development Bank, India will have a water deficit of 50% by 2030. Recent studies also ranked Chennai and Delhi at the top of the 27 most vulnerable Asian cities in terms of low per day water availability Mumbai and Kolkata follow close.
  • Taps in Shimla went dry in summer of 2018, posing an unprecedented water crisis in the hill town.


Why the water crisis?

  • India’s water crisis is often attributed to the lack of government planning, increased corporate privatization, industrial and human waste, and government corruption.
  • In addition, water scarcity in India is expected to worsen as the overall population is expected to increase to 1.6 billion by the year 2050.
  • Increasing demand:Due to population growth, industrialization, rapid urbanization, increasing needs of irrigation, increase in domestic use, etc. have pushed the demand for water.
  • Over-exploitationof groundwater and surface water.
  • Water pollution: The release of industrial and domestic waste into rivers, lakes, and estuaries has polluted freshwater sources at an alarming rate in India. Those freshwater sources are not fit for drinking or other activities.


Need of The Hour

  • Local communities should cooperate in an environmental management program that secures their right and gains.
  • Prohibit the dumping of chemical pollutants, domestic garbage, industrial waste, toxic substances, and the use of electric current and explosives in the wetland sites
  • Crop Diversification as a solution to reduce water usage in agriculture.
Composite Water Management Index

NITI Aayog first launched and conceptualized the Composite Water Management Index in 2018.

● The CWMI is an important tool to assess and improve the performance of States/ Union Territories in efficient management of water resources.

● The index would provide useful information for the States and also for the concerned Central Ministries/Departments enabling them to formulate and implement suitable strategies for better management of water resources.

  • Aquifer recharge and rainwater conservation through community ponds and recharge wells should be promoted with the involvement of gram sabhas.
  • For example, Lessons can also be drawn from the work of Sankalpa Rural Development Society(SRDS), which has been training farmers of Karnataka on the revival of defunct borewells.
  • Participatory governance is needed to govern water resources. India’s rivers and groundwater can be protected only if the integral interconnectedness of catchment areas, rivers, and rural and urban aquifers is properly recognized.
  • Conservation techniques like zero-tillage, raised-bed planting, and precision have shown good results in soil and water conservation but need further improvement in technology for wider acceptance.



Green cover:

Increasing green cover especially in urban areas must be an indispensable part of urban planning. Other initiatives such as afforestation, the greening of highways, etc. must also pick up.






Importance of Green Cover:

● They assure regulation of the carbon cycle and attenuating climate change.

● They constitute infiltration zones for water (and thus help prevent flooding and soil erosion) and alimentation of groundwater and contribute to better water quality.

● They are essential to support biodiversity.

Urban green spaces can be one of the factors that attract significant foreign investments that assist in rapid economic growth.


“An inclusive city is one that values all people and their needs equally. It is one in which all residents—including the most marginalized of poor workers—have a representative voice in governance, planning, and budgeting processes, and have access to sustainable livelihoods, legal housing and affordable basic services such as water/sanitation and an electricity supply.”


Efficient and Integral City Planning

  • Lack of proper planning is one of the major causes of urban problems.
  • Hence, the city administration has to take sufficient care in doing comprehensive planning for the improvement of the city.
  • The city planners must have far-sightedness and must take into account the probable growth of the city in at least another 50 years.
  • It is equally important to make use of the latest technological know-how in preparing the plan for the future.
  • Political interference invariably is the hindrance to the implementation of any successful plan.
  • For example, instead of providing houses to slum-dwellers in cities through city development authorities, if through regional planning migrants could be diverted to other areas that may provide attractive employment, the pace of growth of existing cities could be checked.


Urban governance:

  • Better urban planning based on models like transit-oriented development (TOD), integrated and accountable transport authority, empowered local bodies, scientific waste management, etc. can help bring down footprints of urban area challenges.
  • To make sure that tomorrow’s cities provide opportunities for all, it is essential to understand that the concept of inclusive cities involves multiple spatial, social and economic factors.


Better Transportation Facility

  • Most of the cosmopolitan cities of India are overcrowded and are not able to provide the necessary transportation facility to the people.
  • Hence, it is necessary to make proper arrangements to face this problem.
  • The private transport system can be encouraged, along with the existing public transportation system.
  • Healthy competition between the two systems can help solve the problem to a great extent.
  • For urban public transport, a special purpose vehicle (SPV) with participation of public agencies should be set up. The SPV or public procurement authority should make investment in common infrastructure like bus stops, office space, etc. and private bus operators should make investments in rolling stocks (buses).
  • Apart from the engineering and planning, strict enforcement during and after construction is also necessary for the success of Bus rapid transit (BRT) It should be mandatory for each city to prepare a Comprehensive Mobility Plan and link it with the master plans of the city rather than taking ad-hoc decisions for decongesting one road or the other.





Objectives of National Urban Transport Policy

● To bring about better integration of land use and transport planning so as to improve access to jobs, education, etc;

● To encourage public transport and non-motorised transport so that the dependence on personal motor vehicles is reduced;

● To have a more coordinated approach to urban transport management through Unified Metropolitan Transport Authorities (UMTA);

● To offer support for capacity building at the State level;

● To provide concessions for the adoption of cleaner fuel and vehicle technologies so that the pollution caused by motor vehicles gets reduced.


Amendment of Rent Control Acts:

  • Laws that inhibit the construction of new houses or giving of houses on rent must be amended.
  • Adopting Pragmatic Housing Policy like Affordable Housing for All Mission the Mission covers the entire canvas of affordable housing –from the slum dweller living in the most inhumane conditions; to those belonging to the economically weaker sections and middle-income groups who need affordable banking finance; and to those who own a piece of land, but require additional funding to build their house.


Limited Environment Pollution

  • Environmental pollution is becoming a major problem in megacities.
  • New industries should not be given permission to start their establishments near residential areas.
  • On the other hand, industries should be established far away from the cities.
  • The scientific arrangement is to be made to dispose of solid waste, including the garbage.
  • People should be appropriately educated in order to maintain Cleanliness in the City. Voluntary organizations and the media can play a vital role in this regard.


Public Health Delivery system:

Poor health seeking behaviour leads to poor health and nutritional outcomes. Urban populations, largely the poor and the marginalized, are “ghettoized” and “spaced out” because of the inadequacy in urban public health delivery systems to reach them on account of location, their place of work such as construction sites etc.

  • Linkages between ICDS and Health services need to be explored. There are NGOs which have successfully implemented these unified approaches in Urban areas. E.g. SNEHA (Mumbai) runs Maternal and Child Nutrition model successfully by involving volunteers who dedicate two hours per week for community outreach.
  • Mohalla clinics (Primary Health Centre) an initiative of Delhi State Government is an aspirational model that provides a basic package of essential health services including medicines, diagnostics, and consultation free of cost. Several ULBs of Mumbai, Surat, Ahmedabad, etc have made concerted efforts to focus on both Health and Nutrition centres. Similar models/ ideas can be systemized with policy focus to encourage them and build on their efforts.
  • The focus should be on à Extending and Strengthening the Primary care delivery mechanism which will be one-point centre for preventive, promotive and curative services. Community awareness for the same in urban communities can be generated through Jan Andolan, for improved service delivery and Outreach.
  • A unified approach for covering all vulnerable population suffering from ‘urban penalties’ viz- pavement dwellers, rag-pickers, street children, rickshaw pullers, construction/ brick/ lime kiln workers, sex workers, and other temporary migrants, etc. Public health thrust should be on food & nutrition, NCDs, mental health, sanitation, clean drinking water, vector control, etc.
  • Moreover, since one size doesn’t fit all. According to demographic and cultural variations of all States should be explored so that all citizens enjoy health, nutrition and wellbeing.


Manual scavenging:

  • Extensive surveys should be carried out by the State Governments to identify manual scavengers and estimate the number of dry latrines in existence within six months. Following the survey, adequate funds should be allocated for the purpose of eradication of manual scavenging within one year.


Sewerage Management:

  • Sanitation, as a matter of hygiene and public health, must be given due priority and emphasis in all urban areas. In all towns, advance action for laying down adequate
  • infrastructure should be taken to avoid insufficiency of services.
  • Each municipal body should prepare a time bound programme for providing sewerage facilities in slum areas. This should be brought into action through appropriate allocation in the annual budget.
  • Local bodies may impose a cess on the property tax or development charges in order to raise resources for expansion and capacity enhancement of the existing sewerage systems.
  • In order to motivate the local governments to generate additional resources for sewerage management, matching grants may be provided by the Union and State Governments. Community participation and co-production of services should be encouraged by municipal bodies. This should be supplemented by awareness generation.
  • A separate user charge should be introduced in all municipalities, even as a minimum levy, for sanitation and sewerage, as distinct from water charges.

Power Utilities:

  • Municipal bodies should be encouraged to take responsibility for power distribution in their areas. This, however, should be done after adequate capacity building in these organisations.
  • Municipal building bye-laws should incorporate power conservation measures.
  • Municipal bodies should coordinate the layout plans for the distribution networks of power and other utilities.

Increase job opportunities:

National Commission on Urbanization (NCU) (1988) emphasized the necessity for:

● The evolution of a proper spatial pattern of economic development and suitable hierarchies of human settlements.

● An optimum distribution of population between rural and urban settlements, and among towns and cities of various sizes.

● Distribution of economic activities in small and medium-sized growth centres.

Dispersal of economic activities through the establishment of counter magnets in the region.

  • We have been concentrating on the rural areas to provide more job opportunities for rural people through IRDP, NREP, JRY, and such other programs to hold back people in rural areas.
  • It is time now to do something to create better job opportunities for the urban people.
  • This will not only help jobless urbanites but also add to the urban income.







Kudumbshree’s model

(State of Kerala )

● It is a social empowerment scheme, launched by the Government of Kerala in 1998 for wiping out absolute poverty from the State through concerted community action under the leadership of Local Self Governments. Today Kudumbashree is today one of the largest women-empowering projects in the country.

● The program has 41 lakh members and covers more than 50% of the households in Kerala.

● Built around three critical components – microcredit, entrepreneurship, and empowerment – the Kudumbashree initiative has today succeeded in addressing the basic needs of the less privileged women, thus providing them a more dignified life and a better future.



Solid waste management in Okhala

Timarpur Okhla Municipal Solid Waste Management project is the first commercial waste-to-energy facility in India that aims to convert one-third of the Delhi garbage into the much-needed electricity, enough to serve 6 lakh homes.

● It has become the first to get carbon credits from the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in the country in 2013.


Delhi metro

● It is one of the world-class metros. To ensure reliability and safety in train operations, it is equipped with the most modern communication and train control system. It has earned carbon credit points from the UN due to its energy-efficient practices.


Urban observatories:

  • Urban Observatory is a platform that uses data from different sources to enable analysis and visualization over a geospatial platform.
  • Such platforms churn out interesting analyses and visualizations by collating massive datasets. The concept of Urban Observatories was formally initiated at the UN Habitat-II Conference in 1997 in Istanbul.


Significance of Urban observatories:


● It will leverage data analytics to optimize city operations, improve governance, and enhance the economic performance of cities across the country.

● To achieve sustainable urbanization, cities need to become smarter and more efficient. Cities can be ‘truly smart’ if they can leverage data for intelligent decision-making and the establishment of India Urban Observatory will go a long way in realizing this vision.

● It would enable evidence-based policy formulation, capacity building of ecosystem partners on data-driven governance, foster innovation through the development of newer and better use cases thereby enabling solutions at scale and speed.


Solid waste management (SWM):

  • Solid Waste Management is one of the critical parts of sustainable development which is a core issue of Environmental Concern the world over.
  • Most of the dump sites of megacities have reached way beyond their capacity and permissible height limit of 20 meters. It is estimated that more than 10,000 hectares of urban land arelocked in these dumpsites in India.
  • In the case of waste management issue, nuclear, cyber and plastic waste will create a big challenge for clean and pollution-free urban areas.
  • In all towns and cities with a population above one lakh, the possibility of taking up public private partnership (PPP) projects for collection and disposal of garbage may be explored. This should, however, be preceded by development of capacity of the municipal bodies to manage such contracts.
  • Special solid waste management charges should be levied on units generating high amounts of solid waste.


Major issues concerning solid waste management are:

● Absence of segregation of waste at source

● Lack of funds for waste management at ULBs.

● The unwillingness of ULBs to introduce the proper collection, segregation, transportation, and treatment/ disposal systems.

● Lack of technical expertise and appropriate institutional arrangement

● Lack of infrastructure and technology

● Lack of involvement from the private sector and non-governmental organizations

● The indifference of citizens towards waste management due to lack of awareness




A solution to solid waste management:

Masses should be educated for behavioral change in storage and disposal of waste

NGOs and community participation should be encouraged

• State governments should provide financial support to ULBs to improve their waste management system under various schemes and programs.

• Initiatives like Smart Cities Mission, AMRUT should provide significant funding to improve civic services infrastructure.

• Construction and demolition waste should be stored, separately disposed of, as per the Construction and Demolition Waste Management Rules, 2016



● To conclude, it may be said that urbanization wherever it takes place, is bound to create socio economic problems. These problems are to be countered in a planned and scientific manner though they cannot be completely solved.


Previous Year Questions

CSM – 2017 – 10 Marks The growth of cities as I.T. hubs has opened up new avenues of employment, but has also created new problems.” Substantiate this statement with examples.
CSM – 2016 – 12.5 Marks Major Cities of India are becoming more vulnerable to flood conditions discuss.
CSM – 2016 – 12.5 Marks

With a brief background of the quality of urban life in India, introduce the objectives and strategy of the smart city program.
CSM – 2015 – 12.5 Marks

Smart cities in India cannot sustain without smart villages discuss this statement in the backdrop in rural-urban integration.
CSM – 2015 – 12.5 Marks

Mumbai, Delhi, and Kolkata are the three Mega Cities of the country but air pollution is a much more serious problem in Delhi as compared to the other two why is this so?
CSM – 2013 – 12.5 Marks

Discuss the various social problem which originated out of the speedy process of urbanization in India.

Practice Questions

  • Critically examine the issues directed towards sustainable urbanization. Discuss various government schemes to address the challenges arising in the way of urbanization.
  • “Floods have been a recurrent phenomenon in India and cause huge losses to lives, properties, livelihood systems, infrastructure, and public utilities.” In light of the above statement, critically analyze how unplanned urbanization induce problems in India.
  • Discuss various factors that are responsible for increased urbanization in India.
  • Critically examine the success of JNNURM in improving the conditions of urban poor. Substantiate it with the example.
  • What is a ‘city system’? Explain how and why reforming municipal bodies is crucial to reforming city systems.




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