Giving the urban Indian a better life – Urgent Need for Sustainable Urbanization in India | 6 November 2023 | UPSC Daily Editorial Analysis

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What's the article about?

  • It talks about the issues of urbanization in India and suggests some remedies.


  • GS1: Urbanization, their problems and their remedies


  • As the world commemorates World Cities Day, the theme of “Financing Sustainable Urban Future for All” aptly highlights the critical need to channel finances effectively to address the growing challenges faced by cities.
  • Among these challenges, air pollution stands out as a major concern, particularly in India, where a significant portion of cities grapple with severe air quality issues.


  • Alarming Reality of Air Pollution in India:
    • A report by The Energy Policy Institute at Chicago (EPIC) paints a grim picture, revealing that out of the 50 most polluted cities globally, 39 are in India.
    • This alarming statistic underscores the detrimental impact of air pollution on the health of Indian citizens, with an average individual losing 5.3 years of life expectancy due to pollution-related illnesses.
    • In Delhi, the situation is even more dire, with residents losing an average of 11.9 years of life expectancy.
  • Root Causes of Air Pollution:
    • The factors contributing to India's air pollution crisis are multifaceted. The expansion of “grey” infrastructure, characterized by a focus on real estate development, road widening, and vehicular traffic, has led to the shrinking of green spaces and increased emissions.
    • Moreover, the burning of paddy straw, construction activities, and industrial pollution further exacerbate the issue.
  • Shifting Paradigms: Embracing Sustainable Urbanization:
    • Addressing India's air pollution crisis requires a fundamental shift in urban development strategies.
    • A paradigm shift towards sustainable and “ecological urbanization” is essential. This entails prioritizing public transport, creating pedestrian-friendly infrastructure, promoting cycling, and regulating construction activities.
  • Enhancing Public Transport and Decongesting Roads:
    • Investing in robust public transportation systems, including buses, is crucial to reduce reliance on private vehicles.
    • Additionally, congestion taxes on private cars during peak hours and odd-even number plate restrictions can effectively discourage car usage.
  • Curbing Industrial Pollution and Embracing Green Vehicles:
    • Zero tolerance for industrial pollution and real-time monitoring systems are imperative to curb industrial emissions. Transitioning to green vehicles, such as electric vehicles, can further reduce vehicular pollution.
  • Protecting Urban Commons and Fostering Community Engagement:
    • Urban commons, including ponds, water bodies, urban forests, parks, and playgrounds, play a vital role in maintaining air quality. These spaces must be protected and expanded by urban communities.
  • Empowering Citizens and Strengthening Governance:
    • Empowering citizens through participatory governance mechanisms is essential to ensure effective implementation of pollution control measures. People must be actively involved in monitoring pollution levels and advocating for sustainable urban development practices.

Way Forward:

  • India's air pollution crisis poses a significant threat to the health and well-being of its citizens. Embracing sustainable urbanization principles, strengthening governance, and empowering communities are crucial steps towards creating cleaner, healthier, and more livable cities for all.

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