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Economic reforms open up news challenges

Economic reforms in India has a direct relation with the growth of urban infrastructure. Such reforms that took shape in the last one decade has already boosted investments, resulting in improved infrastructure and income growth to millions in the country. These investments and the lure of cities have also led to their expansion and rise in population. Rapid urbanisation has thus transformed our cities. But this also means that urban population will cross over 600 mn in the next 15 years. In such a scenario, there will be a multi-fold increase in the demand for every basic service such as water supply, urban mobility and transportation, waste management, sewage treatment and provision of affordable housing.

The exploding population of our cities and their expanding horizons are already under putting civic resources under stress. Policy makers are aware of the fact and the upcoming challenges but are yet to address the concerns at a large scale.

Due to high influx of people, policy stagnation at various state levels, there is still a huge deficit of urban infrastructure. Considering the current deficit in the infrastructure, there is a need to implement reforms to improve all facets of urban infrastructure including urban mobility, urban planning, urban living, green cover and land management. While mixed land and high rises are a solution, country needs something more.

There is a need to address several aspects of urban infrastructure for holistic and sustainable development to meet these requirements. These can be inclusive growth, adequate financing and strengthening of local governance. In addition to these, housing needs of millions of citizens living in our cities has to be addressed.

Of these aspects, financing is one of the most critical elements. As per the 12th Five Year Plan, India spends $17 per capita per year in urban infrastructure, whereas the most benchmarks suggest a requirement of $100. The investment required for building urban infrastructure in India, over the next 20 years, is estimated at approximately US$ 1 trillion. For such a quantum of investment, public private partnership should be encouraged in addition to other modes of funding such as Infrastructure Debt Fund and Tax Free bonds.

Initiatives such as the Smart Cities Mission, Housing for All, Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT) and setting up of the Infrastructure Investment Trusts (InVits) will go a long way in achieving this target.

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