Cities and urbanization has been a constant theme of development — and consequently of this blog. Urban economist Ed Glaeser in his book, “Triumph of the City: How Our Greatest Invention Makes Us Richer, Smarter, Greener, Healthier, and Happier” argues that case. In a guest post on Freakonomics, Glaeser says that “to get America growing again, it’s time to unleash our cities.”
A wonderful side-effect of blogging is that readers help you with your education. Long-time readers know of my obsession with urbanization as an instrument of development. So whenever an article on the importance of cities and urbanization appears in the popular media, I get a dozen emails from people telling me about it. One such piece is the NY Times magazine Dec 17th piece “A Physicist Solves the City” by Jonah Lehrer about Geoffrey West. Thanks to all who send me stuff to read and I sincerely appreciate your help with my continued education. Urbanization and cities matter to me, and so does my education.
Rediff recently published a slide show titled “India’s soaring ambition: 5 new cities by 2015“.(Hat tip: Sudipta Chatterjee.) I am thrilled to see that some Indian leaders are thinking big. Narendrabhai Modi, the chief minister of Gujarat leads in thinking big about India’s urbanization. Continue reading
In the February 2010 issue of Pragati I argue why India needs new livable, sustainable and well-managed cities. The text of the article appears below, for the record.
Cities are the engines of growth. Therefore, a policy that promotes urbanization of the population is an indispensible instrument for economic growth and development. In the following TED Talk, Paul Romer, a world-class growth economist at Stanford, makes the case.
Urbanization of the population implies greater demand for housing in cities. There has to be a portfolio of housing options available for the diversity of people which constitute a city. I am familiar with the property prices in the San Francisco Bay area, one of the highest in the US. Even I get a sticker shock when I see the prices of housing in Mumbai. I cannot imagine how the poor manage to survive. Which partly explains why about half of Mumbai’s 11 million people live in slums.
Last week Saturday I was at the ISB in Hyderabad to attend a working group on urbanization. One of the most important components of urbanization is housing. At the ISB, Dhaval Monani is working on affordable housing and has plans in place for putting up low cost around 250 sft homes (on 450 sft land parcels) for around Rs 2 lakhs (or $4,000). They will be built around industrial areas which are often situated in the outskirts of cities. That’s an exciting project.
In a short article in SEED magazine, theoretical physicist and president of the Santa Fe Institute, Geoffrey West explains “why the future of humanity and the long-term sustainability of the planet are inextricably linked to the fate of our cities.”
A few excerpts below the fold. Continue reading
One of the consistent themes of this blog has been that India should think big. My favorite quote in this context is from Daniel Burnham, the fabled Chicago architect who said that we should think big:
Make no little plans. They have no magic to stir men’s blood and probably themselves will not be realized. Make big plans; aim high in hope and work, remembering that a noble, logical diagram once recorded will never die, but long after we are gone will be a living thing, asserting itself with ever-growing insistency. Remember that our sons and grandsons are going to do things that would stagger us. Let your watchword be order and your beacon beauty. Think big.
Navi Radjou’s blog post titled, “India’s Rural Innovations: Can They Scale?” in harvardbusiness.org concludes with:
I strongly believe that the only way India can sustain its long-term economic growth is by unleashing and harnessing the creativity of its grassroots entrepreneurs, especially in rural areas. But here is the challenge: these grassroots inventions don’t scale up. Indeed, most rural innovation initiatives such as DesiCrew and grassroots inventions like Mitti Cool, however impressive they may be, are sadly limited in their impact to a local or regional market of a few hundred customers, and end up employing no more than a dozen workers in the local community. What is missing is a mechanism to cross-pollinate and scale up these bright ideas among India’s 250-million-strong agricultural community which lives scattered across more than 600,000 villages.
I find the paragraph interesting. Continue reading
Nicolai Ouroussoff writes that “We long for a bold urban vision” in his NY Times piece “Reinventing America’s Cities: The Time Is Now.” Below the fold are some selected excerpts.
India too needs a bold urban vision, as I have been arguing for a while. Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it) for India, most of India does not live in cities. India does not have to reinvent its cities — it has to build new ones. Fortunately though, the world has learned a lot about building livable cities and India does not have to go about reinventing the wheel: India has to be smart enough to learn from the mistakes the others have made. India can — and must — build efficient cities. That’s the only way out for the hundreds of millions trapped in villages in rural India.