Growing urban pressures

Published: Saturday 31 October 1992

-- INDIA has been witnessing an explosive urbanisation. The percentage of total population living in urban areas increased from 17.3 in 1951 to 25.7 in 1991. But during 1981-91, the annual rate of urban growth decreased to 3.09 per cent, compared to 3.83 per cent per year during 1971-81.

The rate of urbanisation slowed down in all major states except Kerala and Himachal Pradesh, where there was an acceleration. The overall decline in the tempo of urbanisation is a matter of concern to some demographers as the stage of slowing down has usually been reached in other countries after a very high level of urbanisation. Even today, India is basically a rural country with 75 per cent of the population living in villages.

From 1901 to 1991, the number of towns has doubled from 1,811 to 3,609. But over the years, the urban population has got concentrated in big towns. Whereas in 1901, 26 per cent of the urban population lived in Class-1 towns (population over 1,00,000), in 1991, this figure was 65.2 per cent. Even here, there is considerable concentration. Half the population living in Class-1 towns was living in million-plus cities and a little over a quarter in the four five-million-plus cities. All these cities are under considerable stress, whether it is housing, education, health, transport, water or other services. The result is that, on the one hand, large cities are becoming "problem cities" or "cities with all types of shortages," whereas, on the other, small cities are becoming "neglected cities."

(Source: P P Talwar and Nirmal Sawhney, Pattern of Urbanisation in India -- Some Highlights, published in Asian People and Cities.)

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