Resources Research

Culture and systems of knowledge, cultivation and food, population and consumption

Posts Tagged ‘urban development

Big cities, large appetites, fewer farmers

leave a comment »


By March or April 2016 the populations of several of our smaller Class I cities (those whose populations are 100,000 and more) will pass certain marks. These marks mean little by themselves, but ought to be used by city administrations (municipal council and civic services departments) to judge for themselves how essentials are being provided for and used: food, water, sanitation, electricity, waste.

There are now 152 towns in the National Urban Information System, which is – if I have understood this national urban administration maze – under the Urban Infrastructure Development Scheme for Small and Medium Towns (which goes by the utterly unfriendly acronym of UIDSSMT). This is described as: “a component of JNNURM. The Mission aims to encourage reforms and  fast track urban infrastructure and services delivery, community participation, accountability of ULBs/parastatal agency towards citizens.”

As you can see, the Ministry of Urban Development likes dreadful acronyms, and likes keywords such as ‘component’, ‘reform’, ‘fast track’, ‘services’, ‘infrastructure’, ‘PPP’ and anything else that sounds large, technical and expensive.

The JNNURM which got all this going in the first place (the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission) turned ten years old in December 2015. Its ideas, assumptions and performance ought to have come under careful scrutiny at least on this occasion. It didn’t because there’s so much else to be distracted by when it comes to smartening up cities and towns in India these days.

The JNNURM favoured 65 cities for what it called a “higher level of resources and management attention” and with typical confusion also said these 65 ‘mission cities’ are under the Urban Infrastructure and Governance (UIG) programme. But, as I have written about here earlier, there are many towns in India whose populations are growing quickly, because of which ‘services’, ‘infrastructure’ and more modest levels of ‘resources and management attention’ all become programmes (with complicated balance sheets, naturally).

And so we have the Smart Cities Mission and the Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT) – I’m still working out how it fits together with everything else going on in the Ministry of Urban Development.

Here’s what the officialese says: “Smart Cities Mission is based on the idea of developing the entire urban eco-system on the principles of complete and integrated planning.” Leaving aside the question of whether non-Smart cities (and towns) are destined to remain unsmart and unacronymed, 100 cities have been selected to become smart.

Nor is that all. There is an Urban Rejuvenation Mission (which goes by the, erm, unprepossessing acronym of URM) which the ministry says it is finalising which seems to have very much to do with infrastructure development, but on a much larger canvas of 500 cities, “to be implemented over a period of 10 years from 2014-15 to 2023-24”.

Nowhere in this plethora of programmes and schemes and grand visions have I seen anything that remotely refers to foodstuffs that city populations need, every day, week, month and year.

And so to return to March or April 2016 when the populations of several of our smaller Class I cities (those whose populations are 100,000 and more) will pass certain marks. Using the 2001-2011 decadal growth rates for the urban centres, and adjusting for lower growth rates for the most recent three years (to account for factors such as fewer work opportunities in these centres, rising urban costs of survival compared with the slower increase in wages for informal work, and the benefits of the MGNREGA, here is a summary that shows the sort of change we continue to see in towns and cities.

Chhindwara and Guna in Madhya Pradesh, Nabadwip in West Bengal, Bhusawal in Maharashtra, and Modinagar and Sitapur in Uttar Pradesh will all have reached or crossed the mark of 200,000 residents. Likewise, Vadakara in Kerala, Ganganagar in Rajasthan, Haldwani in Uttarakhand, and Karur, Udhagamandalam and (all three in Tamil Nadu) will all have reached or crossed the mark of 250,000 residents. And moreover Farrukhabad-Fatehgarh in Uttar Pradesh, Satna in Madhya Pradesh, Jalna in Maharashtra and Navsari in Gujarat will all have reached or crossed the mark of 300,000 residents.

What is the impact of these increases in the populations of these cities? Using the recommended dietary allowance (prescribed by the National Institute of Nutrition) this is what the population increases mean for the provision of food essentials. Every day in 2016, Sitapur in Uttar Pradesh will need 92 tons of cereals, 8 tons of pulses and 20 tons of vegetables. Compared with the city’s needs in 2001 (when the previous census was done) Sitapur will consume 23 tons more of cereals, 2 tons more of pulses and 5 tons more of vegetables – every day.

In the same way, every day in 2016 Navsari in Gujarat will need 137 tons of cereals, 12 tons of pulses and 29 tons of vegetables. Compared with the city’s needs in 2001 Navsari will consume 31 tons more of cereals, 3 tons more of pulses and 7 tons more of vegetables – every day. Then there is Hosur in Tamil Nadu which every day in 2016 will need 115 tons of cereals, 10 tons of pulses and 25 tons of vegetables. Compared with the city’s needs in 2001 Hosur will consume 77 tons more of cereals, 7 tons more of pulses and 17 tons more of vegetables – every day.

This is an indication of the food dimension of the population change that we are seeing – of ever greater quantities of the bare essentials being needed, but fewer agriculturists and cultivators – that is, fewer farming households growing these and other food essentials in their fields – remaining to support nearby (and distant) urban populations.

These equations are simple enough to understand for the Smart city lot, the JNNURM technocrats and the engineers and financiers running the PPP treadmills. Why then hasn’t daily food budgets of our towns and cities made it to the top of the urban renewal charts of India?


Quiet preparations for scarce water, smaller harvests

leave a comment »

State and district officials will have to turn forms like this (the drought management information system) into preparation on the ground and in each panchayat.

State and district officials will have to turn forms like this (the drought management information system) into preparation on the ground and in each panchayat.

The Ministry of Agriculture through the Department of Agriculture and Cooperation has released its national drought crisis management plan. This is not taken as the signal for India that drought conditions will set in, but to prepare for drought where it is identified. In the fifth week of the South-West monsoon, the trend continues to be that week by week, the number of districts which have recorded less rainfall than they normally receive outnumber those districts with normal rainfall. When this happens over a prolonged period, such as four to six weeks, drought-like conditions set in and the administration prepares for these conditions.

There are a group of ‘early warning indicators’ for the kharif crop (sowing June to August) which are looked for at this time of the year. They are: (1) delay in the onset of South-West monsoon, (2) long ‘break’ activity of the monsoon, (3) insufficient rains during June and July, (4) rise in the price of fodder, (5) absence of rising trend in the water levels of the major reservoirs, (6) drying up of sources of rural drinking water, (7) declining trend in the progress of sowing over successive weeks compared to corresponding figures for ‘normal years’.

On this list, points 1 and 2 are true, 3 is true for June and July until now, 4 and 5 are true, we have insufficient information for 6 and 7 but from mid-May there have been a number of media reports on water scarcity in the districts of peninsular, central and northern India. Thus the state of the ‘early warning’ indicators taken together have triggered the issuing of the government’s drought crisis management plan. Please read the rest at the India Climate Portal.

Written by makanaka

July 18, 2014 at 12:00

Why Rajapakse of Lanka wants to throw out 70,000 Colombo families

leave a comment »

Taking its cue from India, the government of Sri Lanka is targeting urban poor to force them out of their homes in shanty towns, grab the land, and re-develop it for profit.

Using the well-worn routes of citing the home owners’ lack of land titles, and changes in urban planning regulations which are exclusionist, the residents of shanty-towns such as Wanathamulla and Maligawatta in central Colombo are on the point of being forced out of their homes by a government bent on crude accumulation by forced dispossession.

Over 70,000 families – more than 50% of central Colombo’s population – are to be removed and their homes demolished by the Sri Lankan government.

The mass evictions are part of plans by President Mahinda Rajapakse to free-up nearly 390 hectares of inner city land and transform the country’s capital into what his government calls “a South Asian financial hub” (the city of Mumbai, on India’s west coast, is doing just that already).

Via the World Socialist Web Site, which has been following the struggles of the residents, this photo essay provides a glimpse into the harsh living conditions of shanty-dwellers in central Colombo, Sri Lanka.

The pictures were taken by Sri Lankan photojournalist Shantan Kumarasamy.

The government has placed the Urban Development Authority and the Land Reclamation and Development Board — two civilian bodies — under the authority of the defence ministry, which has already deployed soldiers and police to forcibly carry out evictions.

A number of shanty dwellers, with the assistance of the Sri Lankan Socialist Equality Party, have formed an Action Committee to Defend the Right to Housing (ACDRH) and issued an appeal to all workers and youth to support their struggle to protect their homes.

The World Socialist Web Site has more on the struggle here. Shantan Kumarasamy’s portraits of the people of Wanathamulla and Maligawatta, and their living conditions is here.

Lucknow’s megalomanic mahout

leave a comment »

Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) posters and hoardings in LucknowLucknow is a city beseiged by the blue elephant of the Bahujan Samaj Party and its mahout, the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, Behen Kumari Sushri Mayawatiji. She has taken over a mammoth portion of city land, on both banks of the river Gomti, and upon which gigantic memorials are being built. Scorning all hindrances (such as Supreme Court of India and High Court stays) and opponents (they are fewer and more feeble now) construction is proceeding steadily on a variety of monuments.

It is a landscape based in stone (judging by the delicate pink colour, it must be an expensive stone). There is not a square foot of grass to be seen amongst all the stone acres of Ambedkar Park – whose ‘official’ name is the more impressive Ambedkar Samajik Parivartan Sthal. There is not a tree to be seen in the dusty acres relieved only by dry hot stone columns and pillars, stelae and towers. The scale makes no sense whatsoever – it has no relation at all to the densely packed residential neighbourhoods of Lucknow that this stone landscape has been robbed from.

Ambedkar park in LucknowThe kilometres of stone wall – clumsily ornate – that suround the giant Sthal are edged by a pavement it is impossible to walk on because the struggling saplings embedded in the pavement are enclosed completely by a tight orb of metal caging. To look at this immense folly is to see the senseless diminution of nature, the callousness to humans and a complete insensitivity to a wonderful city’s brocaded history.

Today, the mahout hovers over every chowk in Lucknow like a gorgon, bedecked with multiple rows of blue BSP buntings that line every single street and galli and avenue (except in the cantonment). What has this insensate throwback to pharaonic glory cost the state of Uttar Pradesh? In early 2008, this is what a report in the Indian Express had to say:

Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) posters and hoardings in Lucknow“Uttar Pradesh has an urban population of 34.5 million with a need for 320,000 every year. But consider this: in 2007-08, the government has spent 65% of the Housing department’s budget — meant for housing and urban development projects — on Chief Minister Mayawati’s statuesque tribute to Ambedkar, the Ambedkar Samajik Parivartan Sthal. In the present fiscal, 40% of the department’s budget has been earmarked for this colossal project. A close study of the Housing department’s budget shows that there are only two schemes in the budget of 2008-09 under the Urban Development Scheme — the Ambedkar Samajik Parivartan Sthal and Ramabai Park, which is now part of the Sthal. Of the other 13 schemes, under the head of Urban Development, seven are memorials or parks in the name of Kanshi Ram and Ambedkar, which are being built in the state capital.”

Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) posters and hoardings in LucknowThe mahout with the dinky handbag has unhoused the poor and needy of Lucknow to construct her messianic stone dreams. What of the Gomti and its heritage-rich landscapes? To begin to understand what has been, as the Americans say, paved over, you should read Chinki Sinha’s description, an extract of which is:

“Squeezed in between the river bank and the Dariya Wali Masjid and across from the King George’s Medical College (now called Chhatrapati Shahuji Maharaj Medical University), this was where kite fliers of repute would tug at their strings and fight fierce and colourful battles in the skies. Jafar Mir Abdullah would often stop by at the ground on his way home from La Martinere, where he studied at the time, to see the spectacle. Kan kauwe bazi or kite flying was a favourite sport in Lucknow. As a 10-year-old in 1952, he loved looking at the horizon that was painted in different hues in the twilight hour, the war cries resounding for miles. He loved watching the kite runners as they ran through the labyrinthine streets to grab fallen kites, raising dust as they sprinted.”