Indian Megacities


As the capital of Uttar Pradesh, India’s most-populous state, Lucknow has attracted hundreds of thousands of migrants from rural areas, swelling the city’s population. Yet the city hasn’t completed any major new sewage infrastructure since before the country won independence in 1947. As much as 70% of residents don’t have sewage service, leaving much of the waste to flow directly into the main river, the Gomti, which has become a stinking cesspool.

Wall Street Journal has an article on India’s megacities with the tagline that they are choking India. But is that really what is happening in India? There is an inherent understanding that there is a conflicting dichotomy between urban and rural regions. But even if it does exist, quotes in the WSJ article itself contradict its byline:

Shami Shafi, a 35-year-old laborer in Lucknow, has seen his daily income drop by half in recent months to 50 rupees, or about $1, for carrying bags of potatoes and other goods in a local market. But “I’m not going back to my village,” he says. If work gets harder to find, “I’ll just go to another city.”

Atanu Dey, noted economist and widely-respected proponent of urban India points at the real culprits of urban problems.

4 thoughts on “Indian Megacities

  1. I’m confused by your post – Atanu Dey says “Yes” the cities are in fact choking India. You seem to be questioning that. Yes? Cities may be better than the rural alternative, but that doesn’t mean they don’t present economic and health issues on a severe magnitude.

    • I think Atanu is referring to the fact that in spite of the obvious economic and health issues that mega cities present, they are definitely more efficient. Cities physically do not choke us but rather the unsustainable living conditions of the people compounded by governmental irregularities do.

  2. I think I see what you are saying, however, but the “unsustainable living conditions” are not feasible UNLESS you are in a city. Those specific maladies (tons of human raw sewage going into a river on a daily basis) can’t be produced in a rural environment.

    Cities are only more efficient when the necessary public infrastructure is in place. When it is not (as linked to above) you get serious health and economic issues. People will clearly just go from boom city to boom city, causing massive overpopulation and all that it entails. When it gets too bad, they move on, leaving poisoned and now bubble burst cities laying in their wake.

    This is why urban planning is important. Building infrastructure to this year’s needs is horrific. Anyone who has driven the “Beltway” in Washington, DC can attest to this. By the time it was constructed, it was 5 years too small. When they expanded it, again, too small.

    • I couldn’t agree more and as this blog’s title suggests, I’m a firm believer in urban planning 🙂 Left to their own accord, cities are rarely efficient and need public infrastructure to streamline activities to enhance quality of life.

      Houston has a similar problem to what you described in DC. More ring roads they build, more they encourage sprawl. However, feeder roads parallel to interstates specific to TX lead to more sprawl. But that’s a topic for another post.

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