With over 300 million people, cities and towns of India constitute the world’s second largest urban system . Based on liberalization policies adapted by Government of India, 40% of the total population of the country would comprise the urban population by the year 2021. It is estimated that by the year 2011, urban areas would contribute about 65% of GDP. Higher productivity is contingent upon the availability and quality of infrastructure . With 11th five-year plan of Government of India now recording a growth rate over 8%, it is estimated that Rs 20, 01,776 crore (at 2006-07 prices) or US$ 488 billion would be required for investment in the infrastructure sectors . Public sector alone is deficit to meet this requirement, so planning commission aims for Public-private partnership (PPP) to meet this investment needs . Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) came into the scene to facilitate and catalyze the pace of urban development and identified 63 major cities (grouped into A, B and C classes) on the basis of population. Cochin is one of the cities identified by JNNURM under its scheme of urban development.
Kerala is a green strip of land located in the southwest corner of India. It has only 1.18% of the total area of the country, but houses 3.43 % of the country’s population. It is one of the most densely populated states in the country with a density population of 819 persons per Sq. Km. As per latest census, the state has registered a total population of 31.80 million and more than 25% of the population lives in urban areas . “Kerala is a development model that is touted in various corners of the developing world. In India, other states look at Kerala’s record of firsts with envy. Dr Amartya Sen, the Nobel laureate, has hailed it as a model”, writes Ramesh Menon . The Kerala Model refers to an interesting phenomenon in the Indian State of Kerala where despite of economic backwardness it has achieved high rate on Human Development Indices. Yes, demographically the state enjoys a very advanced status with rapidly declining birth and death rates, low infant mortality and very high literacy, health delivery system and politically active population, but it has still a long way to go in the sector of urban development in order to meet the international standards of a city. We ought to witness the Kerala model in urban infrastructure and development.
Cochin, “the Queen of Arabian Sea”, is the second most important port city on the western coast of India situated in Ernakulam District of Kerala, located in the central region of the State, between the Western Ghats and the Arabian Sea. More than 60% of the tax revenue of the State comes from Cochin and hence Cochin is rightly called the ‘Commercial Capital of Kerala’5. However, urbanization of Cochin still has a long way to go to cope up with the economic activities which are dependent on infrastructure, such as power, telecom, roads, water supply and mass transportation, coupled with civic infrastructure, such as sanitation and solid waste management. Analysis from the drainage system study reveals that 60% of the Kochi city area lacks proper drainage system. The existing network is inefficient, inadequate and majority of the drains are in filthy conditions. A number of identified areas in the city are frequently flooding during even moderate rains. The drainage systems empty their water and waste loads into water bodies and backwaters through the fairly flat terrain subjected to tidal effects . The traffic demand is also not met by the existing infrastructure. According to the study of Rail India Technical Economic Services (RITES), the congestion problem in Kochi is likely to worsen as the peak hour traffic demand is expected to vary from 15,000 to 19,000 trips on certain sections in 2005 to 20,000 to 43,000 trips in the year 2021 . Water supply sector is also realizing a gap between demand and supply . All these basic public services are expected to be delivered by the government. But how a government at a center (national or state centre) will identify the regional and local issues and address it? Where will be its position in the priority listings in the centre? Decentralization has come to a scene as a solution to these issues.