Department of Engineering Geology and Hydrogeology of the RWTH Aachen University

Urbanisation in India

Panorama View at Hyderabad

India’s rate (less than 30 percent) and growth of urbanization was for a long time still low. Due to economic reforms urbanization increased.  Until the year 2015 the number of megacities in India will increase to nine. Three of them will belong to the 10 biggest cities in the world.

Slow Urbanisation Process

City Growth Implicit High Traffic Volume

Reasons therefore are the Hindu mentality of disregard of urban life as expressed in Gandhi (cf. Nissel 2002). Consequently after independence India’s government established a socialist economic model. This included central control and a five year plan (cf. Gotsch 2009). Thereby a balanced spatial development was envisaged. By meaning that because of the majority of rural villages and agriculture rural areas were preferred to urban centres. The 1976 Urban land (Ceiling & Regulation) Act (ULCRA) limited the amount of land that an individual (corporation) was allowed to own and represented the government’s endeavour of ensuring social land use. On the other hand the act caused a scarcity of land on the formal market. Hence the decelerated economic growth led to the fact, that faster developing countries in Southeast Asia with former lower level of urbanization now are obviously more urbanized than India.
Since India was facing a depth crisis in the 1980’s the economic politic gradually follows a path of transition with focus on high technology. The increasing problems of the country for example the gap in infrastructure and housing led to further steps of liberalisation and decentralisation. 1991, the New Economic Program (NEP) of the then finance minister and present prime minister Manmohan Singh marked a turning point. The NEP aimed towards deregulation and opening the country’s economy for foreign investment.

Urban Growth

Area Extension by Mega-Urbanisation in Hyderabad

The reforms importantly affect the urban centres. Their acknowledging as engines of economic growth leads to special economic programs, like Special Economic Zones (SEZs) and Integrated Townships. In particular the government manage the impact of globalization on the country by the metropolis and especially by the megacities. Thus these cities attract as part of the typical process of economic and demographic development with its environmental changes a large number of people. Given that their urban cores are already saturated a suburbanization process takes place (cf. Nissel 2002). In consideration of India’s still low urbanization rate likewise its accelerating and continuous development, the scope for urbanization remains immense. Approximately the urban population and cities with more than 1 Mio. inhabitants will double until 2025. Consequently the gap of infrastructure and housing remains one of the main challenges for the government. In addition the proportion of the informal sector is high and on the further rise. Likewise the metropolis and megacities are greatly affected by the economies and cultures of migrants at various (global and local) scales.
Therefor the Indian government switched with the 1994 National Housing Policy to a demand driven strategy. Furthermore it aims to mobilise the private sector and to boost the role of local governments (e.g. Municipal Corporations). In this context the 2005 Jawaharlal Nehru Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) is an action package for the development of urban infrastructure and the alleviation of urban poverty. Also some time later many states repeal the ULCRA to liberalise land markets. With the shift of political power from national to state and local level the regional disparities regarding the urbanization process increase. In addition the privatization contributes to polarization and fragmentation. As common denominator 17 corridors for urban development are identified on national level in an otherwise complex urbanization process due to the presented arguments.


Gotsch, P. (2009). NeoTowns – Prototypes of corporate Urbanism: Examined on the basis of a new generation of New Towns – by the cases of Bumi Serpong Damai (Jakarta), Navi Mumbai (Mumbai) and Alphaville-Tamboré (São Paulo). Architecture. Retrieved from .

Nissel, H. (2002). REZENTE BEVÖLKERUNGSENTWICKLUNG IN INDIEN. (Mm. D. P. H. Sektionschef i.R. Hon.Prof. DDr. Erich Reiter, Ed.)Die sicherheitspolitische Entwicklung in Südasien (3/02)  (Vol. 3). Landesverteidigungsakademie (LVAk) und Büro für Sicherheitspolitik. Retrieved March 20, 2011, from

Jasmin Mohr
Jasmin Mohr, PhD Student, National Institute of Technology (NIT) Rourkela, Department of Civil Engineering & RWTH Aachen University, Department of Engineering Geology and Hydrogeology, Research interest: urbanisation and lifestyle, See all posts from Jasmin Mohr
  1. its good. thank u for ur information.

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