Press Releases

  • Urban India needs a paradigm shift to move towards sustainability
    Policies and directions must address disconnect between sustainability and development in cities

    24 November 2009

    Indian cities are at the forefront of a global shift to an urban society. In recent decades, their growth has been dramatic, and is set in one of the fastest developing economies in the world. Increasing urbanization has led to a pressure on urban infrastructure and deteriorating service delivery in urban areas is a worrisome trend. Improving service quality given the infrastructure constraints and limited capacity, especially with rapidly rising demand is a challenge for the local governments. Good Governance is therefore a prerequisite to achieve efficiency and quality in service delivery. Thus realizing its importance today, The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) with Water and Sanitation Programme (WSP, South Asia and Infrastructure Development Finance Company Ltd (IDFC) organised a two-day conference.

    While inaugurating the conference, Mr Jaipal Reddy, Hon'ble Minister of Urban Development, Ministry of Urban Development, said, “The problems resulting from increased urbanisation are inevitable and recognising this, the govt. instituted the JNNURM (Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission). There is a need for distributional equity and investment in basic services as opposed to building more and more flyovers. 90% of the investment should be spent in issues such as sanitation, slum development, public transport and water. I look forward to the conclusions ad recommendations resulting from this conference and hope that they would be incorporated into the urbanistion agenda after ‘honest and sincere deliberations’.”

    Elaborating on the importance of governance, Dr R K Pachauri, Director General, TERI and Chair IPCC, said, “We need to develop a vision given that India will in the coming years see immense growth and expansion. India is moving towards becoming a major urban society and resources are getting scarce by the day. Hence, urban areas need to bring about a paradigm shift in sustainability. Policies and directions must address disconnect between sustainability, looking at climate change as a major challenge in urban governance. TERI is privileged to be appointed as a Centre of Excellence by MoUD (Ministry of Urban Development) to develop best practices to promote good governance.”

    Recognising the need for reforms, recent years have witnessed an increased focus on urban reforms in the country. In particular; the emphasis is on better provisioning of infrastructure and services to the urban population, especially the poor. Ministry of Urban Development has recently developed indicators for measuring the service delivery, this, in-fact, could be a starting point of a new phase of reforms. Assessing the actual level of service delivery would bring out the gaps in the system, and hence outline areas of improvements. This is also an opportune moment to assess the current service delivery mechanisms and inform the policy process such that current and future development is facilitated by governance structures that ensure an improved quality of life for all.

    The conference provided a platform for showcasing and sharing experience and knowledge. It created a forum for sharing strategies, and best practices to promote good governance in order to create inclusive, sustainable, habitable and credit-worthy cities. It fostered interaction amongst policy makers, government officials, and executives of public and private utilities and representatives of multilateral and bilateral, financial and academic institutions, citizens and NGOs in the urban sector and to deliberate on the following issues:

    1. Promoting good urban governance in order to achieve improvements in service delivery, integration of the poor and the marginalised groups, environmental protection and meaningful participation of local communities.
    2. Ways to recover costs of providing urban services through rationalization of user charges to various groups of consumers, better billing and better collection mechanisms.
    3. Options and ways to enhance the quality and efficiency of the existing systems of service delivery bring down losses and inefficiencies like unaccounted water loss etc.
    4. Issues of equitable access to basic urban services and systems for ensuring availability to all citizens.

    In April 2009, TERI released its report on An Exploration of Sustainability in the Provision of Basic Urban Services In Indian Cities. The report was an outcome of a study that TERI undertook to explore the provision of urban basic services in Indian cities and developed a framework for guiding Indian cities towards sustainability. The study included comprehensive assessment of state of urban service delivery in water, transport, power, solid waste and buildings sector with an in-depth assessment of Governance issue that over-arch the whole. The study came up with recommendations for service delivery improvements as well as improvement in governance mechanisms to facilitate the same. More recently TERI has been recognized as Center for Excellence in Urban Governance by the Ministry of Urban Development (MoUD) and through this TERI intends to take forward and implement some of its recommendations.