Population growth on the urban socio-spatial pattern in India

Question – Examine the effect of population growth on the urban socio-spatial pattern in India. 2 April 2022

Answer – India’s cities, like China, are an important emerging economy in the world, passing through an “urban-revolution” where population growth has emerged as a major issue. India’s megacities are overcrowded, crowded and polluted and also exhibit significant ‘social polarisation’.

Thus there is a stumbling block for cities, which impedes their ability to be effective economic and social change sites, and hence it is necessary to analyze the impact of population growth on India’s urban areas.

Importance of Socio-Spatial Perspective in Urbanization

  • The socio-spatial perspective in urbanization addresses how built infrastructure and society interact.
  • It assumes that, ‘social space’ operates as both a product and a producer of changes in the urban spaces. Hence it is pertinent to understand how urban spaces and structures impact the social processes that accompany urban population growth.

Impact of Population Growth on the Urban Socio-Spatial Pattern in India

  • Rise of Slums: A total of 13.7 million households, 68 million individuals, lived in such slums, which is 17.4% of the total urban households. The disproportionate concentration of economic activity in these places has over the years increased the congestion rate for a large proportion of migrants from rural and small towns to move to these centers.
  • Spread of slums: The disproportionate growth of the population in a continuous space results in extremely high rents, causing people to settle in poorly integrated and relatively cheap areas, eventually leading to the spread of slums.
  • Differentiated settlement pattern: The prevailing ghettoism among residents of a city when analyzed as different social classes based on social status, economic income, and the industry in which they work, educational background, and so on performance takes place. Those working in bureaucratic informal jobs with the lowest social status often live in slum-like places rather than cohabiting with people from different social strata.
  • Poor sewerage, and water infrastructure: According to the 2011 census, about 38% of urban households in India did not have tap water from treated sources, and 28% did not have a source of drinking water. About 12.6% of households did not have toilet facilities, and were defecating in the open, while 6.0% were using community toilets.
  • Lack of Ecologically Sustainable Green Spaces: Overcrowded Indian cities lack recreational spaces, and there is hardly any free space for green spaces.
  • Toxic and polluted air: After years of neglect of public transport systems and, later economic liberalization in 1992–1993 due to the rise of the middle class, the boom in demand for the automobile sector in cities poisoned these cities, stifling them.
  • Less mobility for senior citizens: Rapidly increasing number of senior citizens in Indian cities, changing demographic structure and deteriorating transport infrastructure have made senior citizens concerned about mobility and independence of senior citizens.

Options for integrating the socio-spatial aspects of urban development

  • Promoting interactions of society with urban space;
  • Considering the social needs of segments of the population like children, elderly and disabled
  • Involve citizens in planning projects (citizen participation);
  • Integrate society into urban planning and into urbanity;
  • Integrate approaches and findings from social sciences and humanities.

The ongoing urban revolution provides a great opportunity for the country to emerge as a developed country for economic, social and ecological transformation. Given the expected positive association between urbanization and socio-economic development, it is commendable that the transition to an urban era offers India a unique opportunity for economic growth and improving the quality of life for a large part of its underprivileged population. However, the success of this development will largely depend on how India is able to design, govern and manage its cities for these strategic objectives, taking into account its socio-spatial patterns.

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