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A Reluctant Urban Transition: Should India pursue an accelerated urbanization strategy?
KTH, School of Architecture and the Built Environment (ABE), Urban Planning and Environment, Urban and Regional Studies.
(English)Manuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Despite adding 292 million inhabitants to its urban population between 1960 and 2010, the level of urbanization in India has remained considerably low. Recent efforts on behalf of the government, however, illustrate a shift from a previously passive approach to urban development to a more active one, signifying a concerted effort to accelerate urbanization. In an attempt to better understand India’s contemporary urban narrative, this paper sets out to examine its urban transition between 1960 and 2010, and to speculate on its future growth trajectory. In doing so, it seeks to explore the questions, why has India’s urbanization failed to take-off? And, should India be pursuing an accelerated urbanization strategy? Findings suggest that India’s urban transition has been underpinned by processes of demographic change, leading to dramatic increases in both urban and rural populations; a dynamic that has slowed urbanization. It also finds that, despite there being a strong relationship between the level of urbanization and the level of economic growth, no compelling relationship between the speed of urbanization and the speed of economic growth was found. This suggests that pursuing an accelerated urbanization strategy may not lead to the intended economic outcomes. This goes to show that the relationship between urbanization and economic growth is complex, and that urbanization on its own is not a panacea for development. Urbanization strategies thus need to be complimented and reinforced by a range of other development policies.

Keywords [en]
India, demographic change, accelerated urbanization, economic growth, national urban policy
National Category
Economic Geography
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-236526OAI: oai:DiVA.org:kth-236526DiVA, id: diva2:1257399
Note

QC 20180926

Available from: 2018-10-19 Created: 2018-10-19 Last updated: 2018-10-30Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Rapid Urbanization: An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Urban Transition in Developing Countries
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Rapid Urbanization: An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Urban Transition in Developing Countries
2018 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

This thesis is concerned with the challenges posed by the contemporary urban narrative in developing countries. It is premised on the notion of the urban transition, which posits that as a country develops it undergoes a transformation from a predominantly rural society to a predominantly urban one. Throughout most of history, the urban transition was largely a phenomenon confined to what are considered todays developed countries; however, sometime around the middle of the 20th century, this began to change and the urban transition began to takeoff in developing countries. The contemporary urban narrative differentiates itself from historical accounts in that it is unfolding at an unprecedented pace and scale, placing significant pressure on urban areas. With the pressures of rapid urbanization and rapid urban growth already outstripping the capacities of local governments, planning and managing the urban transition is arguably one of the most important topics of the 21st century. In an attempt to identify approaches for managing the unprecedented pace and scale of the contemporary urban narrative, this thesis sets out to investigate the forces underpinning it. It has been organized into two parts: the first part comprises a comprehensive cover essay setting out the overarching research agenda and the second part comprises a series of five articles that make up the empirical analysis. Both sections can be read independently or constitute a single entity.

The main contribution of this thesis is the introduction of a multidisciplinary framework for conceptualizing the urban transition in developing countries and its application to several case studies. The so-called ‘Rapid Urban Growth Triad’ situates the components of urban growth (rural to urban migration, urban natural population increase and reclassification of rural areas as urban) within their dominant theoretical discourses. As such, it views urban natural population increase as a demographic factor effected by changes in fertility and mortality patterns, rural to urban migration as an economic factor resulting from rural push and urban pull dynamics, and reclassification of rural areas as urban as a political/ administrative factor which occurs through the annexation of neighboring settlements, rural areas upgraded as urban, settlements crossing defined population thresholds and changes in urban definition. The framework offers explanatory power to the previously neglected components of urban growth and serves as a diagnostic for examining the urban transition under a range of circumstances.

Utilizing the new conceptual framework as the primary mode of analysis, this thesis employs several demographic accounting techniques to disaggregate urbanization into its individual components of urban growth and computes their individual contributions to the overall urban increment. China, Nigeria and India have been selected as notable case studies, as these three countries are expected to account for the largest increase in urban population over the coming decades. The findings indicate that rural to urban migration has been the dominant component of urban growth in China, while urban natural population increase has been the dominant component in Nigeria and India; furthermore, in all three case studies, reclassification has made a more sizable contribution than initially understood. Moreover, it was found that in some instances the policies being prescribed to manage the urban transition did not match the identified sources of growth, suggesting a potential policy mismatch. This thesis also reveals several dynamics pertaining to the unprecedented pace and scale of the urban transition and the relationship between urbanization and economic growth. Collectively, these findings offer a more nuanced account of the urban transition in developing countries.

Despite the urban transition being a universal event that unfolds in nearly all countries of the world, this thesis finds that it does not necessarily unfold in a uniform manner, suggesting the notion of multiple urbanization trajectories. These findings have implications for existing policies, which tend to be based on a rather outmoded understanding of the urban transition. Ultimately, this thesis calls for more informed (evidenced-based) approaches for understanding and managing the urban transition in developing countries.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: KTH Royal Institute of Technology, 2018. p. i-xiii, 60
Series
TRITA-ABE-DLT ; 1824
Keywords
urban transition, rapid urbanization, rapid urban growth, components of urban growth, economic development, developing countries, national urban systems, China, Nigeria, India
National Category
Economic Geography
Research subject
Planning and Decision Analysis
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-236539 (URN)978-91-7729-982-0 (ISBN)
Public defence
2018-11-14, F3, Lindstedtsvagen 26, Stockholm, 09:00 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Note

QC 20181022

Available from: 2018-10-22 Created: 2018-10-22 Last updated: 2019-11-14Bibliographically approved

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