Statement by India during the 26th Session of the Governing Council of...

Statement by India during the 26th Session of the Governing Council of UN-Habitat in Nairobi

26th Session of the Governing Council of UN-Habitat
8th – 12th May, 2017 at Nairobi, Kenya

Statement by
Mr. M.Venkaiah Naidu,
Hon’ble Minister of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation, Urban Development and Information & Broadcasting,
Republic of India
&
Leader of the Delegation to 26th GC of UN-Habitat

Excellencies, Dignitaries and the Delegates,

On behalf of India and on my personal behalf, I would like to thank the UN-HABITAT for this opportunity to share our views on the theme of ‘Opportunities for the effective implementation of the New Urban Agenda’. We are particularly happy on the sub-themes identified for this 26th session of the Governing Council, which include `towards Inclusive, sustainable and adequate housing for a better future’, `Synergies and financing for sustainable urbanisation’ and `Integrated human settlements planning for sustainable urbanization’.

This session particularly assumes significance as we are meeting after adopting the Quito Declaration on Sustainable Cities and Human Settlements for All,’ in October, 2016, and in the background of our agreement on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable development in September, 2015. Thus, we have evolved a vision, set our goals and targets and enlisted a New Urban Agenda. Now it is indeed time to collectively focus on actions - the methods and strategies, for achieving the goals, targets and new agenda. I am happy to share India’s vision for achieving the commitments agreed upon, for sustainable development of housing and urban development, and the human settlements at large.

About one-third of India’s population – 377 million people, live in its 7935 cities and towns. Urban centres have acted as a pillar of Indian economic growth; urbanization has brought in significant contribution to the Indian economy, with over 60 per cent of India’s gross domestic product coming from the cities and towns. Thus, an understanding of the contemporary and emerging challenges and opportunities of urbanisation in India, highlight, inter-alia, the following:

  • • Urbanisation is an important emerging reality in India, and is poised to accelerate in the coming decades

  • • Urbanisation has made significant contributions to India’s economic growth and poverty reduction, and managing and facilitating the process of urbanization is essential for India’s structural transformation

  • • The growth of cities is to be so managed through planned interventions, and aligning urban land markets to the forces of India’s urbanization

  • • Strengthening public transport forms while focussing on reduction of urban air and water pollution and emission levels.

  • Housing is a key sector with significant economic and social impacts for the Indian economy, and there is an urgent need to address Infrastructure deficits across cities and towns so as to ensure urban quality of life and local economic development

  • Governance holds the key to well managed cities and towns and urban development is a shared responsibility of the different tiers of government and of the public and private sectors, and

  • Financing urban development is a challenge that most countries encounter in managing urbanization.

India has been consistently making efforts towards deepening and enhancing the role of urbanisation in the developmental process with wide ranging initiatives. Urban governance has been identified as a critical area for comprehensive development of cities and towns. A strengthened Municipal System envisioned through the 74th Constitution Amendment Act, which provides appropriate and adequate powers, functions and financial autonomy, including planning mechanisms, has helped in making the cities self governing entities, with community participation and accountability; Measures that advocate earmarking a specified percentage of municipal budget for the urban poor, ensuring tenurial security for the urban poor and incorporating urban poor in city fabric through earmarking land for urban poor in the city planning process are some major initiatives that have helped in promoting the cities as inclusive entities. Reform measures in the form of promoting e-governance, ensuring community participation and accountability through public disclosure are important components adopted towards restructuring governance for improving quality of urbanisation. Thus, the reform focus of the current initiatives primarily addresses the issues of improving governance, enabling financial empowerment of the municipal system, ensuring optimality in land use, land utilisation and in promoting inclusive urban development and initiatives for capacity building at all levels.

Inclusiveness is the cornerstone of all development initiatives in the housing and urban development sector in India. Adequate and affordable shelter is a priority area and towards facilitating the same, India has embarked on a major mission of `Housing for All’, which envisages provision of 20 million houses by 2022 through a set of policy and action interventions in urban areas. Appropriately integrated with financial, technology and governance components, along with people centric emphasis, this special intervention is a reflection of reaffirmation of India’s commitment for ensuring affordable housing for all with a component of improved quality of life. A legislative initiative has also been put in place towards ensuring transparency and accountability in real estate sector to protect the interest of the customers, even while ensuring larger delivery of affordable housing. Efforts to revise the already available Urban Housing and Habitat Policy at the National level, putting in place a rental housing policy towards improving the availability of houses for new entrants in cities and the formulation of model building bye-laws to promote orderly growth are some of the initiatives that would enable cities to grow as inclusive, competitive and sustainable entities.

India has launched major initiatives for the urban sector, which are aimed towards strengthening the urban system to enable it to play a more positive and significant role in national economic development and in improving access to services to the entire population. The Smart Cities Mission envisages development of 100 smart cities to enhance the quality of urban life and to provide a clean and suitable environment. The Mission for Rejuvenation and Transformation of 500 cities with above 100,000 population aims to create infrastructure that has a direct link to provision of better services to the people. The Heritage City development and Augmentation programme intends to support core infrastructure aimed at revitalization of heritage sites and nearby areas. The National Urban Livelihood mission envisages citizens to be adequately skilled to gain beneficial livelihoods and also to contribute to the economy. Such specific urban development related Missions are further supported by special programmes such asMake-in-India, Digital India, Skilling India and Start up India which all together aim to reinvigorate and re-energise the cities as engines of economic growth and empowerment and as centres of improved quality of life. In addition, for promoting a symbiotic and ecologically sustainable rural urban continuum for ensuring integrated development of rural and urban settlements, a National Rurban mission is under implementation. This Mission is aimed at making the villages smart by creating Rurban clusters through the application of Urban Planning concepts for development of infrastructure and basic services.

In the context of India’s commitment to implementing the Sustainable Development Goals and the New Urban Agenda, with focus on `sustainable cities and human settlements for all’, India has evolved an agenda that would enable the transformation of India in its economic as well as social tenets. The basic components of the agenda would include,

Firstly, economic growth and productivity, through fully planned and sustainable human settlements, with focus on improved mobility, well distributed employment avenues, intense use of technology and innovations, managed through e-governance and connected through a smart grid, facilitated by self regulation norms;

Secondly, improving quality of life covering sanitation and providing public facilities with easy access;

Thirdly, inclusive development, through promoting composite living with adequate and affordable housing for the urban poor and senior citizens;

Fourthly, sustainability and issues of climate change focussing on improved public transport, eco-friendly transport modes, including for local travels, facilitating barrier-free pedestrian movement, rainwater harvesting along streets and buildings, drainage systems, solid and liquid waste management, including treatment and reuse, waste reduction options, efficient energy use, including reduction in usage, longer life integrated road systems, and disaster preparedness;

Fifthly, urban safety, with safe buildings and streets promoting crime-free society and access to social justice and gender equity; and

Sixthly, urban greens and open spaces, which would be green plantations and barrier-free buildings.

For effectively implementing its vision of the new urban agenda, India would rely on certain levers to make cities work towards greater productivity, inclusion, sustainability, and rural-urban linkages, these include:

  • • Putting in place an integrated urban policy consistent with the principle of co-operative federalism that would be driven by consideration of efficiency, inclusion and sustainability, and which would work towards universality of the urban agenda across different tiers of the government.

  • • Initiatives to Harmonize agglomeration economies through elimination of barriers to the flow of factors of production, namely, capital, land and labour; promotion of compact and cluster urban development within a regional and rural-urban framework; boosting economic density and providing support to initiatives that favour synergies and innovations; and creating skilled human resources.

  • • Promoting complementarity of rural-urban continuum by harnessing their mutual strengths and advantages for integrated development

  • • Promoting inclusive urban development with a mix of strategies that would consist of universalization of basic services, including education and health; governing cities on principles of social cohesion and civic engagement; access to housing as a tool for alleviating poverty and as a growth escalator; putting in place a strategy for reducing “working poverty”.

  • • Recognizing and actively promoting the centrality of sustainability in urban policy following a country-wide approach to urban development, addressing issues of emission levels, atmospheric pollution, pollution of water and soil, and degradation of urban spaces. The new urban agenda focuses on cutting down of waste, savings in energy consumption, particularly in buildings, and protection of green spaces. These are not merely technical problems but are proposed to be addressed with education, citizens’ participation, and campaigns for environmental protection.

  • • Empowering municipalities and other local level institutions to manage and maintain infrastructure services, implement the right processes to increase productivity and deal with exclusion and build capabilities in public services.

  • • Strengthen housing finance systems, so as to enable and to improve access to affordable finance to all, in clear recognition and understanding of the role of housing as an instrument of household level well being and as an economy booster

  • • Enhance access to social justice and gender equity, so that no section of society is left untouched in the economic development process, and

  • • Development of a robust urban information system, so that decisions are well informed and promote transparency and accountability and also focus on desired target groups.

India explicitly recognizes the role and importance of urbanization and cities in the process of its socio-economic transformation, and affirms its commitment to the larger goals of urban equity and eradication of poverty; inclusive urban prosperity and opportunities for all; productivity, competitiveness, diversification and innovation; and urban resilience.

We would like to once again reiterate our commitment to successful implementation of the Sustainable development Goals and the New urban Agenda, and towards the same, India would be happy to both share its experiences and learn from the experiences of member nations in improving the quality of life of millions of people in the ever urbanising globe.

Thank you.

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