The Changing Face of Urbanism in India

Neha Thirani speaks with Rahul Mehrotra, urban planner and chairman of Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design, about the challenges facing "emerging India," including its parasitic gated communities, preservation, and 392 "urban time bombs."
May 18, 2012, 8am PDT | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
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While India's infamous urban slums, such as Dharavi in Mumbai, may be the most prominent urban challenge afflicting the country, Mehrotra observes that the informal city is just one side of the immense challenge that the polarization of the built environment presents.

"What results from that polarization are conditions like gated communities, whether they are vertical gated communities or communities at the edge of the city. Because gated communities usually have their own water supply, sewage disposition, they are actually parasitic on the city because they don't give to the city. They exclude the city but engage with the city on their own terms, and so it's not a two way kind of exchange."

And while the challenges facing India's mega-cities may get the majority of the attention from researchers, academics, and officials, Mehrotra sees the 392 towns of approximately 50,000 inhabitants that "make up the larger landscape of India" as a potential "urban time bomb." He has reason to be optimistic about these areas, however, because, "the possibility for planners and governments to intervene yet exists and is not as complicated as it is in the megacities."

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Published on Thursday, May 17, 2012 in The New York Times India Ink blog
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