Liveable cities

In the 21st century, keeping our cities liveable will be a major challenge both for India and for Europe. The problems are wide-ranging, from pollution and congestion to stress...    (Read More....)

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In the 21st century, keeping our cities liveable will be a major challenge both for India and for Europe. The problems are wide-ranging, from pollution and congestion to stress and depression.

During the 20th century, Indian cities saw a phase of untrammelled and unplanned growth. Today, the average city’s quality of life is going down by the day. Millions of families are affected by pollution, congestion, urban poverty, and a shortage of housing, drinking water supply, sanitation, sewage treatment, and waste collection. Yet, in order to accommodate the current rate of urbanization, the country needs to build the equivalent of at least one mega-city every year. Not surprisingly, it is investing billions of euros into creating clean cities and ‘smart cities’.

In Europe, the problems may be less visible but they are as challenging. Experts are outcompeting each other in a saturated market, while the space to experiment with new solutions has become limited. There is decreasing public capital to invest in urban development, even though the European economy is heavily dependent on its cities. At the societal level, cities show increasing difficulties in coping with their cultural diversity. Isolation and stress among the urban population also give rise to a major health threat: depression and anxiety. 

Challenges Opportunities
Europe ·      Outcompeting of urban developers and architects

·      Since 1993, the 20 largest metropolitan areas in Europe have achieved annual income growth of 1.6%, a quarter of the 6.2% recorded by their counterparts in the emerging world (Brookings Global MetroMonitor)

·      Each year, 25% of the EU population suffer from depression or anxiety (WHO); stress and burn-out on the rise in urban regions

·      Impressive expertise on urban planning, but saturated market and decreasing means

·      Research culture

India ·      Terrible living conditions in the cities (e.g. in 2013, Mumbai was ranked India’s most liveable city, even though its inhabitants inhale the equivalent of 2.5 packets of cigarettes per day (WHO)

·      Many more cities are needed: 150 new mid-sised cities or 18 Mumbais

·      Urbanization rate: every minute during the next 20 years, 30 Indians will leave a village to settle in a city; urban population of 590 million by 2030

·      Billions of euros are being invested in urban development and clean ‘smart’ cities

We propose bringing European expertise to tier-three Indian cities, while building knowledge about the role of space in India, and how it is acclimatized to facilitate human happiness. Of course, any solution must tackle the scale of urbanization in India. Our ongoing project focuses on Belgian companies and researchers, and cities in Karnataka, where we are implementing some of the lessons learnt thus far.

What follows is a list the publications in this focus domain.

Four focus domains of the India Platform A concept note for the India Platform focus groups