Urbanistan needs to be more inclusive, equitable: President

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New Delhi, Nov 12 (UNI) Emphasising on the need for urbanisation to be more inclusive and equitable, President Pratibha Patil today said developing countries must spend more on urban infrastructure to support the millions migrating to the cities every year.

''High urban population growth has put urban infrastructure under severe strain. Urban housing and supply of basic utilities have not kept pace with demand,'' she said and called for increased focus on development of urban infrastructure.

The President was addressing a gathering after inaugurating the 'World Congress On Urban Infrastructure in Developing Countries' here.

Stating that the global urban population has overtaken the global rural population for the first time in history, Ms Patil said this trend is expected to continue.

''As per UN estimates, more than two thirds of the global population will be living in cities by 2025 and that 95 per cent of the current urban growth is taking place in developing countries.

This poses an acute challenge to developing countries in terms of making available urban infrastructure and facilities as well as in structuring urban planning and urban governance,'' she said.

She suggested that public-private partnerships could be initiated in sectors of sanitation, garbage disposal, street lighting, water supply, development and maintenance of gardens Noting that there was little coordination between agencies involved in urban infrastructure development plans, Ms Patil mooted the concept of a nodal agency which could look at integrating construction work of infrastructure elements like roads, public water points, water conservation taps, low cost toilets and community sanitation.

She said India is conscious of the fact that cities contribute over 50 per cent of the country's GDP and that focused attention is needed for the improvement of existing conditions of infrastructure like provision of affordable housing, drinking water and sanitation in addition to medical facilities.

''It is a matter of concern that along with urbanisation of cities, the population of slum dwellers in Indian cities has also risen from 26 million in 1981 to 62 million in 2001. Households having no facilities of toilets with water points account for 54 per cent, whereas households with no arrangements of a proper sewerage system are 72 per cent,'' she regretted.

Stressing on solid waste management, she pointed out that while cities occupy only two per cent of land, they currently produce 70 per cent of waste and account for a high proportion of greenhouse emissions.

The President also emphasised that there should be a specific focus on using city centres for propagating the rich heritage of a country's art, music and dance and promoting tourism and called upon the delegates to look at modalities and mechanisms through which the international community can support developing countries by transfer of technology, making available financial resources and capacity building.


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