How do we call a city prosperous? Is Mumbai, with its super-rich and glamour quotient or Delhi, with its powerbrokers and the well-connected, prosperous?
In the recently concluded sixth edition of World Urban Forum organised by UN-Habitat at Naples, an interesting document called State of the World’s Cities Report, 2012 was released. This report attempts to redefine urban prosperity by proposing an alternative model that is holistic and integrated and ensures promotion of a collective well-being and fulfilment of all. This report redefines a prosperous city based on five
important and interesting criteria.
First, a city must contribute to economic growth through productivity, income generation and employment opportunities for all, and provide adequate living standards for its population. Secondly, it should deploy the infrastructure, physical assets and amenities like water, sanitation, waste management, electricity, roads, public transport and IT that are required to sustain both people and the economy
A prosperous city should provide for social services like education, healthcare, recreation, safety and security that are required for improved living standards, and enable the people to maximise their potential and lead fulfilling lives. As the fourth, but very important criterion, the city can be considered prosperous when poverty and inequalities are minimal and the city ensures gender equality and protects the rights of various communities. As the fifth criterion, the city, in its march towards economic development, should ensure that the environment is protected and the city’s natural assets are preserved for the sake of sustainable urbanisation.
This report, in short, focuses on shared, balanced and sustainable development. In reality, we may rarely find all the above five dimensions in equal measure. For example, a city like Mumbai maybe high on infrastructure, but grossly unequal and unsustainable. Based on the status of the above five dimensions, a city’s specific ‘City Prosperity Index’ can be prepared. This would help the city planners and the government to address specifically the deficit areas and make necessary policy interventions.
From what we saw here, how many Indian cities would qualify to be called ‘prosperous’? In fact, based on the above five-fold criteria, most cities in Western Europe and America would also not qualify to be called truly prosperous. The Scandinavian cities, probably, would be the closest to the above definition of a prosperous city. Such a prosperity index would reveal where our loopholes are and which are the areas we need to concentrate upon.
Since India is fast moving into the urban century with rapid urbanisation, we need to revisit our urban development strategy.
The author is municipal commissioner of Ahmedabad