The Opinion of Sangeeta Prasad Managing director, CEO, Mahindra Lifespace Developers

The UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA) predicts that future increases in the world’s urban population will be concentrated in just a few countries. India, China and Nigeria are together expected to account for 35% of the projected growth in the world’s urban population until 2050; of these three, the absolute growth in urban population is projected to be the highest in India. In terms of sheer numbers, the largest urban transformation of the 21st century is thus happening in India, and the Indian real estate and infrastructure industry is a key contributor to this growth.

Engine of growth … an aerial view of Mumbai, India.
Engine of growth … an aerial view of Mumbai, India. © REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui


Is the world prepared to bear the brunt of unsustainable urban growth in India? India’s urbanization is globally relevant for several reasons:

1. A global growth engine propelled by cities 

According to World Bank estimates, India will continue to be the fastest growing major economy in the world, with 7.5% GDP growth predicted in the next two years. It is already one of the most sought-after foreign-investment destinations and is expected to become the third largest consumer economy by 2025. A young demographic base, growing income levels, expanding (globalized) middle-class and stable democracy has propelled India into the league of major global economic powers.


2. An urban laboratory for the world

Ninety percent of the world’s urban population growth by 2050 is expected to occur in Asia and Africa, in countries with socio-economic profiles comparable to India. Interestingly, India is currently at a unique tipping point in its journey of urban development, with 300 million new urban residents projected by the same year.


3. India’s contribution to the UN SGDs

The world is now in the third year of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) and making Indian cities inclusive, sustainable, resilient and safe is critical to achieving the global 2030 Agenda.


4. Lessons in mobility

India’s transportation demand has grown by more than eightfold since 1980. We are navigating our way around resulting challenges such as economic loss from pollution, congestion and inefficient fuel use. The magnitude and complexity of our mobility-related challenges is unique to the Indian context and has resulted in a tailored approach. In rural India, the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY) has focused on building all-weather roads at a rate of 130km a day. At the national level, policies such as the National Urban Transport Policy & the National Electric Mobility Mission Plan 2020 seek to provide safe, affordable, quick and sustainable access; and achieve fuel security and leadership in electric mobility.