India has the second-largest urban population in the world after China. India’s urban population (about 30% of the total population in 2011) is almost equal to the total population of the USA. The rate of urban growth is on the upswing. People by the hundreds of thousands are arriving in the mega and metropolitan cities, swelling urban India by more than five per cent annually. This stupendous growth of population is the cause of numerous socioeconomic, and environmental problems, Some of the important problems of urban India which have been briefly presented below, are the shortage of:
- housing, and
1. The problem of Space and Scarcity of Residential Accommodation
Urban growth in India, especially after Independence has been tremendous. The area and size of some of the metropolitan cities, like Mumbai, Kolkata, Delhi, Chennai, Hyderabad, and Bangalore are growing at an unparalleled scale. There is urban sprawl in these cities. The urban population has increased more than five times during the last four decades. The growing population demands more space which is not easily available because of physical and geographical constraints. The island nature of Mumbai and the saltwater in eastern Kolkata are some such constraints. The scarcity of space leads to the high price of land and high rents for offices and residential accommodations. Since people cannot afford high rents, it is the main cause of unwanted growth of slums and squatters.
According to one estimate, there is an annual shortage of about two million houses in Indian cities. This has forced low-income group, people, to live in slums or occupy footpaths and road pavements. The number of such slums and pavement dwellers is rising by leaps and bounds in the metropolitan cities of India.
2. Inadequacy of Social Amenities
In most of the cities of India, there is growth and not urbanisation, In fact, the number of people is increasing in the cities while the infrastructural facilities and civic amenities are quite inadequate. With the greater concentration of people in urban places, the social amenities like housing, electricity, drinking water, transport, sanitation, sewage disposal, educational institutions, hospitals, parks, playgrounds, and recreational facilities are under great stress.
Unemployment is the state of being involuntarily out of work. In India, the rate of urban unemployment which in more than 3 per cent annually is increasing progressively. According to one estimate, about 25 per cent of the workers in urban centres are unemployed. The high rate of unemployment and underemployment often leads to a high rate of crime.
4. Problem of Transport
Transport bottlenecks and traffic congestion are the major problems of most of the Indian cities. The larger town grows, the more important its functions become. The workers and commuters need more transport facilities. Unfortunately, the roads in most of the cities, especially in the old towns (down-town) are narrow which cannot cope with the growing pressure of passengers, travellers, and commuters. The number of private vehicles is rising steeply. It leads to traffic congestion, delays, irritation, and tension. If the number of vehicles is allowed to increase at the present rate without widening and upgrading the roads, the whole transport system of the major cities may collapse. Ideally, 1500 vehicles should use a single lane for one hour. In Delhi 5000 to 10000 vehicles occupy the space.
5. The Energy Crisis
The shortage of energy is universal in urban India. The shortage of energy reduces the industrial production of goods and their distribution. In fact, energy depends on industrial growth, the efficiency of transport and human comfort. The peak power demand in the metropolises, million and class one cities is increasing day by day and power situation is not geared to meet it.
6. Inadequacy of Water Supply
Water is the first and foremost necessity of human life. In fact, water is life, and man cannot survive without k The average per head consumption of water in Kolkata is 250, in Mumbai 175 and only 80 litres in Delhi against 1200 litres in Los Angles and 1100 litres in Chicago. The acute scarcity of water in the urban places of India may be appreciated from the fact that in Chennai, Hyderabad, Jaipur, Jodhpur, Nagpur, Shimla, Solan, Surat, Udaipur, Vadodara, etc. only one to two hours of water supply in a day is permitted. The National Capital (New Delhi) also regulates water supply to only about four hours a day.
7. Environmental Pollution
Environmental pollution is the other serious problem of all the million and megacities of India. It is not only air-pollution caused by smoke emitted from vehicles, but factories and houses, water and noise pollutions are also equally serious. The WHO has shown that Delhi has the highest particulate matter of 2.5 microns in diameter, among 1600 cities. These can invade lungs and cause serious health complications. The scarcity of dumping grounds makes the rural-urban fringe unhygienic and less conducive for human health. The problem of garbage disposal (hazardous plastics, metal and package) is thus quite serious in most of the Indian cities and urban places. Unfortunately, most of the garbage is dumped into the rivers or along their banks. The cities like Mumbai, Kolkata, and Chennai continue to discharge a major part of their garbage into the sea. In Delhi, through numerous nallah (drains), the sewage and polluted water are drained into the Yamuna River. Occasionally, the highly polluted water of Yamuna flows into the taps of the residents of Delhi causing numerous water-borne diseases The local governments lack the resources and technical expertise to deal with the trash and garbage crisis of an increasingly consumerist behaviour of the urban people.
8. Unemployment and Social Tension
In urban places, especially in the million and Class I cities, people immigrate in search of jobs and economic benefits. Usually, they come alone to cities leaving their families in the villages. In the urban areas, they are exposed to the glitz and insensitivity of urban people who have gross disregard for the feelings and sentiments of their fellow citizens. In such a situation, the immigrants face cut-throat competition for jobs. Many of them may not find jobs and become unemployed.
9. Increase in Crimes
Increasing urban crimes are disturbing the peace and tranquillity of modern cities. According to sociologists, unemployment is the main cause of crimes in urban areas. The unemployed youths indulge in crime like abduction, extortion, kidnapping, murder, pick-pocketing, rape, robbery, snatching, and theft. The slums are especially infested with unemployed criminals who, in due course of time, become habitual offenders. Material culture, growing consumerism, selfishness, stiff competition, lavishness, increasing socioeconomic disparities, rising unemployment and loneliness are some of the main reasons for this menace. It is not only the poor, deprived and slum-dwellers who are prone to such crimes, but many youngsters from the well- off families also indulge in criminal activities. In addition to this, gambling, alcoholism, drug addiction, crimes against females and property, prostitution, and social tension create a new cultural milieu in which traditional forms of life are ignored. The new values and lifestyles may not be according to our oriental values.