Urbanisation and Urban water and waste water

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  • Depinder Kapur is currently Senior Fellow at Shiv Nadar University, as Faculty in the Masters in Water Science and Policy Course.
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Urbanisation and Urban water and waste water

I am initiating a series of posts on Urbanisation, Urban Planning and Urban water and waste water. Coming from urban water and sanitation work background, I am trying to understand this in the wider urbanization and urban planning context of my teaching at Shiv Nadar University, Delhi, where I am developing lectures and learning content on Urban Water and Waste in Global South. 

Definitions of urbanization are usually defined as normative population transition. 

Can urbanization be defined as follows? 
*Urbanisation is a result of political(determines the type of urban form) and economic change(of surplus from agriculture).
*It is manifests itself in emergence of physical built environment and concentrated human settlements in cities and towns, as distinct from rural areas. It contradicts or collaborates with the cultural and social past, depending on the political and culture superstructure created.
*And leaves an enhanced governance and environmental footprint.•      

Emerges from a rural agriculture surplus and/or capital extracted from colonies. Emerges in contradiction with the rural.•      
Is an outcome of political and economic change. The economic context(industrial/commercial/administrative), the relations of production that it entails, not only define the form of urban settlement/town, but also the culture and values of urban life. The culture and values in turn re enforce the production relations and social norms.      
Usually comes accompanied with an enhanced governance and environmental footprint as compared to rural."

Is there any better definition ?

Kindly input.
Depinder Kapur is a Senior Fellow at Shiv Nadar University, Delhi. He has lead the Sanitation Capacity Building Platform(SCBP) of National Institute of Urban Affairs learning, research and advocacy on decentralized and non sewered sanitation( scbp.niua.org). His professional engagements have been with AKRSP(Program Officer Forestry), SPWD(Sr. Program Officer), CARE(Director NRM), Oxfam(Program & Advocacy Director), WaterAid India(Country Head) and WSSCC(National Coordinator) and as an independent consultant.

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Re: Urbanisation, Urban Planning and Urban water and waste water

What is Urban Planning?

Is it just an idea? Is it a Vision statement of an ideal city?
Is it subject of design, architecture and planning domains only ?
Is it only about land use spatial planning for a city?
Is it guided by Legislation?

Urban Planning when carried out under the Legislation of statutory Development Authority( eg. Delhi Development Authority DDA Act in India), through the instrument of City master Plans amounts to :

An ENTITLEMENT LEGISLATION instrument for residents of a Town/City. Entitlement to a certain minimum housing provision, to infrastructure, environment, social, economic and cultural development opportunities. In that sense, urban planning is an important entitlement for the residents of a city/town. It binds the town/city authorities to DEFINE what the entitlement of its residents is and to make PLANS to DELIVER the same in each planning cycle. This would also apply to other countries.
Depinder Kapur is a Senior Fellow at Shiv Nadar University, Delhi. He has lead the Sanitation Capacity Building Platform(SCBP) of National Institute of Urban Affairs learning, research and advocacy on decentralized and non sewered sanitation( scbp.niua.org). His professional engagements have been with AKRSP(Program Officer Forestry), SPWD(Sr. Program Officer), CARE(Director NRM), Oxfam(Program & Advocacy Director), WaterAid India(Country Head) and WSSCC(National Coordinator) and as an independent consultant.

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Re: Urbanisation and Urban water and waste water

depinder wrote: *Urbanisation is a result of political(determines the type of urban form) and economic change(of surplus from agriculture).


This is a historical definition and one more recently put into question by archeological findings. But regardless of that, I think modern urbanization is rather driven by a trade surplus with the necessary advances in agricultural output driven by secondary improvements though infusion of capital and mechanization (and transport of food over longer distances).

Thus as urbanization is largely driven by trade-routes/junctions, with peri-urban sprawl often located along regional roads, this is probably a factor to take into account when designing the needed water infrastructure.
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Re: Urbanisation and Urban water and waste water

Even the earliest civilisations and their urban trading centres of Indus, Mesopotamia and Chinese, were all river valley civilisations. Dependent on agriculture surplus from nearby areas. Trading was possible because there was agriculture. And the fall or decline of these civilizations was due to collapse of agriculture production.

Only a surplus in agriculture creates condition for urbanisation to happen. 

The definition I am proposing defines the three critical aspects - the cause of urbanisation, the manifestation of built environment different from rural settlements and the emergence of a new superstructure of governance. 

Urbanisation and water and sustainable sanitation systems therefore can be better understood with this definition. That these urban water and sanitation systems are part of the larger reality of rural and urban.

Euro centric thinking, based on the relatively independent urban sector that is divorced from rural, perhaps makes the western experts see urbanisation as separate from rural.

Perhaps because of thi, the United Nations and other institutions of west, define urbanisation only in terms of density of population and non agriculture employment.  
Depinder Kapur is a Senior Fellow at Shiv Nadar University, Delhi. He has lead the Sanitation Capacity Building Platform(SCBP) of National Institute of Urban Affairs learning, research and advocacy on decentralized and non sewered sanitation( scbp.niua.org). His professional engagements have been with AKRSP(Program Officer Forestry), SPWD(Sr. Program Officer), CARE(Director NRM), Oxfam(Program & Advocacy Director), WaterAid India(Country Head) and WSSCC(National Coordinator) and as an independent consultant.

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Re: Urbanisation and Urban water and waste water

Looking at ancient agriculture driven urbanization doesn't seem very helpful with modern forms of urbanization in the global south though.

Due to artificial fertilizer inputs (and cheap transport) there is a sufficient agricultural surplus nearly everywhere, and only additional capital input in the form of mechanization frees the labor necessary to drive modern urbanization.

I think the main two issues with the euro-centric view is that there is a very high level of mechanization in agriculture already and thus the question of labor availability to drive urbanization does not come up at all and that there is usually too much focus on long established and relatively large cities.

On the first order, modern urbanization seems not happen primarily in the existing larger cities, but rather in the rural growth centers that quickly expand into smaller cities once there is a stable trade and industrial base with year round availability of labor. Only then do these new urban inhabitants start to move into larger cities for finding better employment there.
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Re: Urbanisation and Urban water and waste water

The euro centric view sees urbanisation as a natural process of moving away from agriculture. Divorced from its historical process(agriculture surplus driving urbanisation as well as industry and trade). As teaching community, we are very careful not to present urbanisation as - "what exists is real". 

Rural to urban transformation in global South cannot simply be explained as rural areas growing up into cities.

Most cities not just in Indian sub continent but also Africa - have seen urbanisation emerge from a colonial transition when cities grew as centres of the Administration and Army(called cantonment areas) and new colonial settlements away from the old town. The sewerage systems were provided for only in the new colonial settlement areas.

As post independence urbanisation progressed in India, with planned expanded cities - slums emerged with as much if not larger frequency, transforming Indian cities and so also perhaps other countries cities into slums. The book "Slumming India" by Gita Dewan Verma in 2001 is an excellent exposition of how Indian cities became slums dominated cities.

The current status of economy - the remittance economy - has resulted in rural areas transforming into urban like settlements in some parts of India. This is really not urbanisation, it is a remittance economy based settlements. Again something that the euro centric thinking of urbanisation of global North ignores and therefore comes up with explanation of mechanisation of labour in agriculture, fertilizers use, etc. 

European cities one can see, the small and medium populated cities, are actually de populating? They have nothing to do with a rural demography change. 

What is important in all this is to understand - is the role of urban planning and how cities are expected to grow in the current times. In India we have an elaborate system of Urban Planning that is systematically being dismantled or reduced to a formal paper exercise. And with it, the fate of millions of people and their entitlement to water and sanitation services is in peril. 
Depinder Kapur is a Senior Fellow at Shiv Nadar University, Delhi. He has lead the Sanitation Capacity Building Platform(SCBP) of National Institute of Urban Affairs learning, research and advocacy on decentralized and non sewered sanitation( scbp.niua.org). His professional engagements have been with AKRSP(Program Officer Forestry), SPWD(Sr. Program Officer), CARE(Director NRM), Oxfam(Program & Advocacy Director), WaterAid India(Country Head) and WSSCC(National Coordinator) and as an independent consultant.

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Re: Urbanisation and Urban water and waste water

Colonial city development are an interesting historical case-study, but with the exception of modern day charter cities and planned special economic zones, also rather less relevant to modern day urbanization.

You seem to be mainly interested in urban growth of primary & secondary cities and how to prevent slums from forming or improving the conditions there. This is actually quite close to the textbook case of urbanization and maybe ironically also quite euro-centric (as in based on western developments in the early and mid 20th century).

I agree that this is an important topic, but statistically speaking not where the bulk of the urbanization seems to happen today.

A quick overview of global urbanization trends can be found here .

To quote two relevant parts for some of the global south:

Africa is the fastest growing and youngest region in the world. [...] The region has the highest urban growth rates in the world, but a relatively low share of population living in urban areas. [...] Small and intermediate cities, not the largest ones, will absorb a bulk of the region’s urban population growth in the future.

Which corresponds to my earlier comment and personal experience in Eastern and Southern Africa.

In South Asia, [...] despite the common perception, urban population growth is mainly driven by natural growth and in-situ reclassification rather than rural-to-urban migration. Congestion and weak urban management may also undermine South Asian cities’ pull factors.

Which is also similar to the above mentioned process of growth due to trade and industrialization in the periphery, but centered around what are likely historical cities.

Overall I think this common blind-spot for small urban development is less a problem of the euro-centric views and education of urban-planners, but more of a general problem of top-down and largely centralistic governance and funding priorities.
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Re: Urbanisation and Urban water and waste water

In India and elsewhere, Urban Planning is seen as outdated anti development, hinders private capital to invest in new infrastructure and growth of cities. This attack on relevance of urban planning, is coming from technocrats and even from some Urban Planning University heads( CEPT University being one), often at the behest of private builders and commercial interests that dominate urban development now. Urban planning has been reduced to Real Estate development as a priority.

Except for the large and ever growing large metros, most small and mid level European cities are facing pressure of decay and declining populations. In contrast, cities in India and global south are growing - even the small and middle level towns, many of them faster than the metros. How Urban Sanitation solutions are perceived in today - can be understood easily from the urban sanitation programs and technology systems being taken up in India under the second phase of clean india(Swachh Bharat Mission).

How is urban sanitation perceived in the Master Plans of cities of global south? Often the discussion on decentralised vs. centralised sanitation systems or even a mix of the two systems - is seen as a technology issue. Divorced from urban planning or a long term perspective of urbanisation and sanitation in global south. 

Those who wish to study urbanisation, will need to take a stand on the relevance of urban planning. And to do this, a good understanding of what urban planning is, is required. To understand how urban planning evolved,  how the goals of urban planning were very similar it was in the socialist and capitalise countries post World War 2. What implications this had for housing and habitation and with it for water and sanitation infrastructure. And how these urbanisation goals have changed since the last three decades to give up most of the lofty aims of the 1960-70s. 

Slumming India - the book by Gita Dewan Verma, 2001, highlights this process well. The experience of three Indian cities - how they dealt with the conundrum of urban planning, housing and sanitation services. The book offers an eye opening understanding of urbanisation and urban planning and how the best of intentions of some of the NGOs and civil society in India, failed the urban poor ins securing their legal entitlements as per Urban Planning mandate.

This thread on urbanisation, urban planning and water and sanitation - is meant to highlight the need for a ground understanding of each domain as well as the intersectionality of the three domains. 
Depinder Kapur is a Senior Fellow at Shiv Nadar University, Delhi. He has lead the Sanitation Capacity Building Platform(SCBP) of National Institute of Urban Affairs learning, research and advocacy on decentralized and non sewered sanitation( scbp.niua.org). His professional engagements have been with AKRSP(Program Officer Forestry), SPWD(Sr. Program Officer), CARE(Director NRM), Oxfam(Program & Advocacy Director), WaterAid India(Country Head) and WSSCC(National Coordinator) and as an independent consultant.

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Re: Urbanisation and Urban water and waste water

Thanks, Depinder,

What you say is also true of the global North.  How is urban sanitation perceived in the Master Plans of cities of global south? Often the discussion on decentralised vs. centralised sanitation systems or even a mix of the two systems - is seen as a technology issue.   We need to move these issues onto the public policy table and break the silence.

Thank you for pointing out  the need for a ground understanding of each domain - urbanisation, urban planning and water and sanitation  - as well as the intersectionality of the three domains.

Carol
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Toilet availability is a human right and well-designed sanitation systems restore health to our cities, our waters and our soils.
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Re: Urbanisation and Urban water and waste water

Dear SusanA Members, 
The ULBs and others, always are loyal to the projects done by them, previously.
Ideally the implementing agencies, can opt for process which have proved themselves and been useful to communities. 
Another factor to follow is when the old projects have satisfied all ie ULB, Community and the agency taking care of the functionality of the projects.
Well wishes.
Prof. Ajit Seshadri, Faculty in Marine Engg. Deptt. Vels University, and
Head-Environment , VigyanVijay Foundation, Consultant (Water shed Mngmnt, WWT, WASH, others)Located at present at Chennai, India
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