Why talk (more) about Small(er) Cities in India?


Policy makers in India started discussing cities and urbanisation as a coherent strategy in last two decades with most discussions aiming at addressing the problems seen in its bigger cities. Our nightmares from these big cities such as traffic snarls, alarming pollution levels, parking woes, slums, and sprawl have been the driver of our policy actions for our small cities as well. 

The challenges faced by small cities are different from the ones from the metropolitan areas not just because of the size but also because each of the cities has different functions, different morphology or a different demographic make up.  Most Indian cities are historic and have continuously been lived in for hundreds and even thousands of years. The original form of many of these cities efficiently supported mixed land use and compact densities without hindrances to functionalities. 

In order to solve the specific challenges faced by these cities it is important to claim the position that small cities should have as themselves and not as cities that can become big cities in the future.  It is important to understand the social, economic, cultural and political trends prevalent in these cities and how urbanisation as a phenomenon differs in its manifestation when compared to bigger cities. The urban solutions for these cities should be based on such realities.

Such solutions would mean that these cities should be able to attract, retain and eventually create talent conducive to its own growth demands. It would mean that natives and migrants live in harmony with their skill-sets complementing the city’s growth. Local citizens, institutions and businesses should be able to benefit from the city’s growth and the economic systems of production, distribution and consumption should be aligned with this growth and mutually complement each other. Through such solutions, these cities should be able to utilise their core competencies, existing social, cultural and economic forces to shape the upcoming infrastructure and networks of the city. As a tourist city, a pilgrim city, a trading hub or a coastal town, they should be able to shape themselves to suit their character and ethos.

Nagrika draws such solutions to shape cities that are unique, authentic and resilient to plan for a more sustainable urban future using the local knowledge. These cities are one of a kind and don't necessarily fit into any template. They are are not inspired by or aspiring to be a big city and are not a copy. Most importantly, they have the resilience to fight the shocks, natural or manmade.