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May 5, 2009 / zanzi

Day One

Monday the 4th of May rolled by pretty fast. The inaugural session featured speeches by the following:

Mr Indrajit Pal – Director General, EPTRI

Mr Guenter Dresruesse – Country Director, GTZ

Mr D Muralidhar Reddy – Executive Director, APIIC

Mr Juergen Bischoff – Director GTZ ASEM

Mr D Narasimha Reddy – Vice Chancellor, JNTU

Among the interesting points that came up was Dresruesse’s observation that ‘sustainability’ originated as a term in 16th century Germany. It was taken forward by foresters (led by Karl von Clausewitz, I think he said; the idea that Karl die Grosse was an environmentalist is intriguing enough to rate mention) in the 18th century. It came into its own at Rio 1992, with GTZ taking it up in 1994, in its economic, ecologic and social dimensions.

GTZ’s concerns, as reflected in its operations, are four-fold:

– sustainable urban development

– industrial development

– sustainable consumption and consumer protection

– environmental governance

The lovely campus we are staying at for the first fortnight of this summer school belongs to the Environment Protection Training and Research Institute, a society established in 1992 that has earned quite a good reputation for its excellent work. The Andhra Pradesh Industrial Infrastructure Corporation is interesting too. It has a hundred thousand acre land bank, and has increased spending on upgrading its developed industrial areas to environmentally sustainable parks. This project has been extended across eight zones, and we’ll be visiting one of the sites later this week.

The inaugural keynote was delivered by Amitabh Kundu of JNU, who also serves on the National Statistical Commission (which benefitted us through his use of graphs and figures). Titled ‘Indian Urban Scenario in a Global Perspective’, his talk opened with a quote to the effect that you can start your journey tomorrow and reach your destination yesterday. A projection of the percentage of working-age population based on World Population Prospects 2004 revealed that the Indian urban population growth rate has fallen from its 3.8% high during 1971-81 to 2.7% in recent years.

Why this decline? Kundu’s proposition was that the causal agency is the increasingly exclusionary character of cities. BPL persons have decreased from 54% in 1972 to 8% in Delhi today, with the national average having become 24% from similar proportions. This is because cities have no place for the poor, with the systematic clearance of slums and discouragement of rural-urban migration. Every state wants to ‘clean up’ a city and make it ‘world class’ in order to attract global capital.

Kundu touched upon elite capture by the middle class, and it was revisited during the deconstruction of the talk later on in the context of decentralization, where Michael Lipton and Pranab Bardhan were mentioned. Kundu’s emergent hypothesis was that poverty has declined but it has got concentrated in remote regions, this being disadvantageous in many respects:

– much more difficult to eradicate

– severe environmental degradation in tribal areas

– affected areas are not on the ‘visibility map’ so agencies lack incentive

Kundu stressed on sanitation concerns being responsible for considerably lower life expectancy in rural areas, with incidence of cholera, dysentery and the like. He sketched a linkage between this and the installation of informal rather than official tubing systems. Though hand-pumps and tube-wells increase water distribution coverage, they increase susceptibility to contaminated water mixed with sewage by drawing it from shallow sources too close to the ground. The equity concern was made explicit in relation to this example.

The talk used statistics on towns by size to show that smaller towns (sizes IV, V and VI) are disappearing, having witnessed a decline in absolute numbers between 1971 and 2001. This indicates that the mechanism for big villages becoming small towns has stopped functioning.

Kundu quoted “Creation of a large number of agglomerations” and “restructuring economic geography” from the recent World Development Report. The Indian Planning Commission’s, or Ahluwalia’s, stance is that when growth rates go up from 3% to 9%, regional inequality can be taken care of, but it is important to keep the growth rate high. Not everyone can run at the same speed even when there is 9% growth rate, said Kundu. All this marks a significant departure from the focus of the WDR 2006. Titled ‘Equity and Development’, it suggested prioritization of access to basic resources, with environmental consideration, over a high growth rate.

Using nonparametric plots, Kundu showcased indicators of economic well-being, arguing that a ‘degenerated periphery’ has developed 15-20 km away from cities. Income and household size as well as literacy decline, while morbidity and mortality rates etc. increase 20-40 km from the city centre. With respect to the MDGs, India may well half poverty from its 1990 level of 38% to 19% by 2015. Some of the 9% growth rate will take care of consumption rise, as defined by the Indian Planning Commission defines it. Kundu pointed out that this is by no means the whole story. This rise in consumption does not translate into increased food intake among the calorie-intake-deficient population, and is constituted by spending on other items even in the case of persons who were earlier BPL. Health, sanitation and mortality rate are equally important factors in the MDGs, and on these counts India falls far short of halving 1990 levels.

A Q&A session followed. An integrated summary of the queries with their responses follows.

Q1. ‘Urbanization centres moving from Latin America and Africa to Asia and India’ – this is not the case. Kundu’s presentation sought to oppose this argument. A particularly relevant chart revealed India’s urban population growth rate to be one of the lowest among Asian and other developing nations. Since this rate has gone down in India, it is hardly the future epicentre of urbanization.

Q2. India tops the list on the WHO hunger charts. For more on nutrition and how the calorie-intake-deficient number has not gone down despite income growth, a paper by Usha Patnaik (JNU) is worth looking up.

Q3. A study by Sumit Guhasa demonstrates that a decline in fertility has slowed population growth rate. This is a factor to be considered in addition to the effect of the decline in migration.

Q4. Fixed cultural mindsets can offer rural resistance to the introduction of sustainable innovations. One has to understand poverty-linked inertia and overcome it using suitable methodologies. That is a challenge for the development practitioner.

Q5. 200 million people can be employed in Indian agriculture (one hectare per person, 200 million hectares gross agricultural land). Hence an estimated 550 million others will need employment in other sectors by 2050. But other integrated practices that support agricultural diversification (e.g. carbon credits, rural banking services) can add employment in villages.

Q6. Rural and urban development is interlinked and the balance between the two has to be closely conducted in order to utilize these linkages.

Q7,8,9. These raised specific concerns:

– A fishing community in a Maharashtrian village – threatened livelihoods due to various interlinked reasons.

– Backward classes in a Gujarati village – lack of service provision due to discrimination by government officials.

– Naxal areas in Jharkhand/Chattisgarh – accessibility concerns.

Two questions that struck me as worth pursuing subsequent to Kundu’s presentation are listed below. These were taken up for discussion during the deconstruction session next morning.

Q. What are alternative ways to make cities ‘world class’ without making them exclusionary in character?

Q. What development pathways have a counter-approach to concentration of poverty et al in remote pockets?

As an aside, one of the points that came up while we deconstructed the talk pertained to the distinction between equity and equality. A law professor once explained the difference between equality and equity to me this way: equality is giving every person a car; equity is making sure that every person has driving lessons, a car filled with gas, and a key to actually drive that car.

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One Comment

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  1. witch hazel hemorrhoids / Jan 20 2013 2:07 pm

    It’s nearly impossible to find knowledgeable people in this particular subject, but you seem like you know what you’re talking about!
    Thanks

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