India's cities grow fast, develop slowly

Tue Aug 3, 2010 6:17am EDT
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By Rina Chandran

MUMBAI (Reuters) - It happens every year. When monsoon rains lash Mumbai, the city turns into a cesspool, which along with its potholed roads and gridlocked traffic, mocks its ambition of becoming a global financial center.

India has Asia's third-largest economy and the increasing global clout that goes with it. It is already home to a quarter of the world's 20 most densely populated cities.

One of them is Mumbai, India's financial capital, where some 18 million people crowd into slums and skyscrapers, stretching the city's amenities and making it less attractive for investors.

While rapidly modernizing cities such as Shanghai and Sao Paulo are winning business from centers such as London and New York, the slow pace of urban development in India is harming its cities, which by 2030 will be home to about 590 million people -- nearly twice the population of the United States today.

Indian cities over the next two decades will also house 40 percent of the country's population and generate some 70 percent of new job opportunities, McKinsey Global Institute (MGI), the research arm of consultancy McKinsey, estimates in a report.

To cater to this growth, India needs to invest $1.2 trillion in capital expenditure, mainly infrastructure, over that period, an eight-fold increase of current spending levels, MGI said.

"Across all major quality-of-life indicators, India's cities fall well short of delivering even a basic standard of living for their residents," the report said.   Continued...