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Infrastructure for Inclusive Urban growth

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Following up on the first and second meetings of the G-20 Infrastructure Group under India’s presidency at Pune in January and Hyderabad in March, the third and the final meeting is scheduled at Narendra Nagar near Rishikesh from today. This newspaper welcomes the delegates from the twenty member countries, including the EU as well as the guest countries and international organizations which are  deliberating on the theme of ‘Financing Cities of Tomorrow- Inclusive, Resilient and Sustainable’.

This issue is important because whether we like it or not, there is a massive migration from the country to the town: the ‘urban’ has become the new centre of economic growth. However the challenge for governments across the world is to ensure that infrastructure and housing in the urban centres is marked by the three key words given in the theme – inclusive, resilient and sustainable.

Cities have to be inclusive – for while the housing needs of all those who are in the formal sector- professionals and tax paying entrepreneurs – all those who have bank accounts can be addressed by the market, the state and the civil society have to step in to  provide the support for the new migrants to the city, and those who are currently staying in informal settlements. True, the PM Jan Awas Yojana is now addressing these issues – but it will require more than finance and political will. Many economists as well as social scientists have pointed out that not having a fixed address is actually a big hurdle in accessing several social benefits and getting the feel of being ‘settled’. Again, housing for EWS will have to be supplemented by physical and social infrastructure – schools, hospitals, shopping and recreation centres for making the place hospitable.

The next key term is Resilient, and in the context of Infrastructure, it stands for a set of principles, key actions, and guidelines to ensure continuity of critical services such as energy, transport, water, wastewater, waste, and digital communications, which facilitate the achievement of SDGs. Sustainability is both ecological and economic – for unless there is focus on ‘reduce, reuse and recycle’, and unless the infrastructure created is not affordable, the stakeholders may not get the sense of ownership and involvement.

As many G-20 nations, especially the UK, France, Canada, South Korea and Japan have already resolved many of these issues, this will be a good forum to share best practices on the legal, technical, financial and policy front. There is no point in reinventing the wheel, and this network of experts will therefore help those at the helm of political decision making to take a more informed view of the challenges in the sector.