Sustainable urban development requires active private sector participation
July 7, 2009, New Delhi: The Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation Minister Kumari Selja has said that the current model of urbanisation lacks space and resources for the urban poor.
Delivering the inaugural address at the launch of the Habitat Business Forum in Delhi, she said that resource- and capital-intensive planning mainly facilitates amenities for urban upper classes in terms of large apartment complexes, shopping malls, multiplexes and parking lots. She said that the capital intensity of urban growth creates a divide between the rich and the poor, raising the prices of basic amenities and making these inaccessible to the poor.
The minister said it is critical that cities devise institutional frameworks for themselves that satisfy the requirements of good urban governance. She said that it is essential that urban local governments translate national policies and programmes into local action. Therefore, access to land, shelter and basic services is not only essential for physical well-being but is also vital for people’s ability to earn a living. A holistic and integrated approach in response to the specific needs of each area needs to be adopted along with adequate resource back-up.
Mrs Selja said that sustainable development needs to be inclusive and different from mere economic development of the past. Its benefits must last well into the next generation, and beyond. She said that the private sector’s role in contributing towards this cause has to be recognised and promoted on a large scale. Also non-government organisations (NGOs) can serve as effective agents for creating public awareness at the local level, for mobilising community action, and for voicing local concerns.
The minister said that cities are booming, yet economic policies targeting growth and job creation have not translated into better living conditions for the urban poor. Meeting the aspirations of all urban dwellers is a daunting task, but providing the minimum basic services is something which requires immediate attention.
She said that raising the standard of living, improving education and health facilities and ensuring equality of opportunity are all desirable and essential components of overall economic development. Recognising these challenges, the government has taken several measures both at policy and programme level.
The National Urban Housing and Habitat Policy, 2007, which was framed after wide consultation with all the stakeholders, seeks to focus the spotlight on ‘habitat’ with a ‘Regional Planning approach’ as well as to strengthen the role of government as an ‘enabler’ and ‘facilitator’. The core focus of this policy is providing affordable housing for all with special emphasis on the vulnerable sections of society, especially the urban poor.
Referring to the recently announced scheme - Rajiv Awas Yojana, the minister said that this is an effort to have a slum-free India in the next 5 years. She said that the government would extend support to states that are willing to assign property rights to people living in slum areas. This scheme has offered slum dwellers and other urban poor the hope of living in a decent and dignified environment and owning a low-cost home.
Towards the end of her inaugural speech, Mrs Selja expressed the hope that the Habitat Business Forum will help in evolving appropriate strategies and action plans to identify the possibilities for an increased role and involvement of the private sector in addressing the issues of inclusive and sustainable urbanisation.
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