Press Releases

  • TERI launches a study on making Indian cities sustainable

    17 April 2009

    With the rapid pace of urbanization worldwide, urban sustainability has become a very important issue today. According to the State of the World's Cities Report 2008/09, nearly 60% of the world’s population will live in urban areas within the next two decades, and it is in the developing countries that this growth will take place most rapidly. In the light of the above, this study on exploring sustainability in the provision of basic urban services in Indian cities, as a step towards making cities more sustainable, was initiated by The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) in partnership with SUI (Sustainable Urbanism International) and Arghyam with the support of Dr Nandan Nilekani and Mrs Rohini Nilekani. The report was launched by Shri Anwar-ul Hoda, Member, Planning Commission, Government of India and present on the occasion were Dr R K Pachauri, Director- General TERI, Dr Nandan Nilekani, Co Chairman, Infosys Technologies Limited, Dr M Ramachandran, Secretary, Ministry of Urban Development, Government of India and Mr S Sundar, Distinguished Fellow, TERI.

    India is growing rapidly, with 27.8% of its population residing in urban areas in 2001, which is expected to increase to 40% by the year 2030. According to the Planning Commission, increasing population, coupled with continued urbanization and current economic development trends, is likely to result in the emergence of 60–70 cities with one million plus population by the year 2021. Indian cities are clearly emerging as the key drivers of economic growth, with almost 52% of the country's GDP (gross domestic product) coming from these urban areas.

    Welcoming the guests, Dr R K Pachauri, said "This is a significant day for an issue so critical to the Indian society that has been neglected for so long. Given the growing rate of urban centres, it is essential for these to be sustainable that can come with a psychological change among the people. I want to thank Dr and Mrs Nilekani for their vision and support to the report. I hope that the information in the report is isseminated and I hope to see its implementation in India."

    Rapid growth in India has resulted in the concentration of economic activity in urban centres and increased the pressure on basic service delivery systems. The stress on urban infrastructure has resulted in a greater number of people that need to be served, inadequate revenues to cover costs, and the need for capacity augmentation, both in terms of skills and physical infrastructure. The escalating demand for basic services, coupled with the widening socio-economic divide between the rich and the poor, has resulted in a serious deterioration of access and service quality across all urban service sectors, namely, transport, power, water supply, sanitation, health, education, and so on. Poverty, traffic congestion, bad air quality, high noise levels, lesser green areas and open spaces, scarcity of water, long power cuts, unhygienic living conditions leading to serious diseases, are all increasingly putting our cities under the threat of unsustainability.

    Elaborating on the importance of making cities sustainable, Dr Nandan Nilekani, said "The challenges faced by cities are many—financial, political, cultural etc. that have marginalized its importance. However, in recent times people have realized its importance as engines of creativity, polity and economy. This report has come at the right time when the new government is soon going to be elected. This report will provide useful inputs to the next cycle of urban reforms. As money is now being spent to develop cities, its sustainability is important. The report has put the dimension of urban development in public space for debate and discussions."

    As a step towards the larger goal of making Indian cities more sustainable, this study aims to identify processes to make service planning and delivery in Indian cities more sustainable in the following five urban sectors: water, solid waste management, transport, Buildings and power.

    Recognizing that deficiencies in the existing governance structures adversely impact urban service delivery, in addition to the above-mentioned five sectors, this study also looks at 'governance' as a separate sector.

    TERI also hopes that the recommendations emerging from this study will influence public policy and become part of urban development policies and programmes in India. Now that TERI has been recognized by the Ministry of Urban Development as a Centre of Excellence in Urban Development with a focus on urban governance and buildings sectors, this gives it an opportunity to translate its recommendations into practice.