Urban Livability in India

Image of an Indian city

So it turns out that Bangalore is considered as one of the most livable cities in India. This recent news article depressed me. I have been living in Bangalore for 8 years now in two phases and I am not particularly happy with the quality of living in this city. Horrendous traffic, lack of efficient public transport, poor urban planning, very few places to visit – what does it say about the state of cities in India if this one if considered as one of the most livable?

Unfortunately, the headline was definitely click-baity. The study only considered 6 cities in India; there are 40 other cities with a population of over 1 million. Maybe the quality if life in these ‘smaller’ cities is better than the larger urban agglomerations? I have been pleasantly surprised by visits to cities such as Bhopal, Nagpur, Thiruvananthapuram. They all felt more ‘livable’ than the bigger cities. But I have not lived in any of them for an extended period of time to form a more informed opinion.

So what ails big Indian cities? I am sure there are enough experts who have studied this in detail. This is my layman’s analysis:

  • Pace of Growth – Cities have grown too big too fast for the administrative bodies to manage.
  • Corruption – need I say more?
  • Capabilities – Many of the fastest growing cities lack, in my opinion, administrative expertise and know-how in understanding what makes a big city ‘tick’?

So what are the elements that help make big cities livable?

A quick search online throws up many websites that have listed the key factors that make a city a ‘world’ city. Here are my personal comments:

  • A powerful association that is easy to appreciate – London has the arts and history, Paris has architecture and food, New York has finance and action. Closer home, Mumbai has architecture and food, Delhi has power and history, Kolkata has heritage and Chennai has culture.
  • Willingness to engage with the wider world – These cities are open to people and inspiration from all over. Yes, the language you speak is important, but possibly less so than in other cities.
  • Public spaces – Areas where the diverse population can get together and enjoy the sights and sounds. Places where residents can enjoy a pleasant day out with friends or family.
  • Accessibility – easy to use, reliable (and cheap) modes of transport where people do not have to rely primarily on private means of transport.
  • Entertainment – Enough options to cater to a diverse range of tastes.

I am biased, but all things considered, I would rank Mumbai as the closest to a ‘world’ city that India has. If only there was a way to solve the dire housing problem in the city…

Image courtesy Yash Bharadwaj on Unsplash

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