Q) “Inadequate infrastructure in urban areas is making urban poor vulnerable.” In this light, discuss the challenges posed by the urban infrastructure and condition of urban poor.
The Covid-19 pandemic has upended the world as we know it. In the subsequent blame game, dense cities occupy pole position. Prima facie, this looks like a fair accusation given the extent of the outbreak in Mumbai, Delhi, New York and London.
Conditions of urban poor
∙ High vulnerability:
♣ Indian cities are vulnerable to multiple disasters like urban floods, urban heat islands, air pollution, inaccessibility of potable water etc.
♣ For instance, When the monsoon hits Mumbai this June, the city, which is already fighting the coronavirus pandemic, will be staring at another major challenge: vector-borne diseases.
♣ People living in slum areas – ‘urban poor’ are also prone to suffer from waterborne diseases such as typhoid and cholera, as well as from more fatal ones like cancer and HIV/AIDS.
♣ Also, women and children living in slums are prone to become victims of social evils like prostitution, beggary and child trafficking. Slum dwellers in general and regardless of gender, often become victims of such social evils.
∙ Proliferation of slums: – land to people ratio in cities has been exacerbated. Also there is lack of hygienic and sanitation in slums leading to various health problem living there.
∙ Non-inclusive development: Urban poor are not receiving the benefits of the development – rich are getting richer with development while poor are getting poorer. E.g. India is quite far behind in inclusivity index.
∙ Degradation of environment and habitat: Urban commons like lake, urban forests, green areas in Cities are adversely affected due to the need for development, for instance, Aarey forests in Mumbai.
∙ Development at the cost of poor: The peri-urban areas where tribes live are being occupied for establishments of industries without proper compensation and rehabilitation.
∙ Hectic life: as per a survey people in mega cities are spend more time in office than home. Family life has been affected adversely.
∙ Lastly, hunger, malnourishment, lack of quality education, high infant mortality, child marriage, child labour are some of the other social problems prevalent for urban poor.
Challenges of infrastructure in urban areas across India:
∙ Large cities control a significant share of the Indian economy, the propulsive industries, and new economic opportunities.
∙ A majority of cities in India face hard challenges related to housing, transport, electricity, water supply, pollution, and congestion.
∙ Internally, most cities are also marked by significant social exclusion, crime, and violence.
∙ The health systems in megacities like Delhi and Mumbai are also overburdened and face a shortage of hospital staff and beds.
∙ Class I cities (more than a lakh population) have 1.4 beds per 1,000 people. Delhi has 1.5 beds per 1,000 people whereas Mumbai has one bed per 1,000 people.
∙ This congestion is most evident in slums in large cities and poses a grave health and environmental challenge.
∙ The risk of contagious diseases is more potent in these areas as residents also suffer from a lack of basic services such as safe drinking water and sanitation.
∙ The low number of COVID-19 tests conducted in these towns reveals a lack of capacity, which, in turn, distorts the scale of the current crisis.
∙ The challenges of urban poverty and congestion cry for more attention, more government support. Further neglect will lead to grave health and environmental challenges.
∙ City infrastructure across India is in disrepair, and 2017 gave us a series of unfortunate examples in Mumbai: multiple building collapses, a stampede after a pedestrian bridge collapsed, lamentable monsoon floods, and a horrific fire in the Kamla Mills complex ‘Housing for All’ policy should be pursued with a vigorous annual review that ranks States on the basis of performance. The Centre should also take its own National Urban Transport Policy on developing cities around mobility networks seriously.
∙ Urban governance policies, although mainly in the domain of the States, must be aligned with national commitments on reduction of carbon emissions under the Paris Agreement, and to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 11.
∙ There is a need for a plan of action to achieve sustainable human settlements. It should ensure adequate shelter, water, energy, sanitation and solid waste management, along with other elements.