Every purchase of goods and services involves a comprehensive comparison between the available range of products. These comparisons are carried out even while making miniscule decisions of our life like which fruit should we purchase, or which movie should we watch. Even though we make such choices based on locally available knowledge or hearsay, we have a power to change them when deemed. Choosing a geography to live in however attributed to the time we were born and is thus limited in scope. However, 21st century has derailed some rules like choosing to live in a country and even precisely – city. Here is a brief comparison to ease your choice of a city you want to live in 2021.
Debut of Urban Debate
There are 17 goals realized to be met by the end of 2030. While most of these goals are stand alone, some of them fulfills an overarching objective of sustainability. Sustainable Development Goal- 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities is one such goal which seeks dependency on other goals. Recent example of massive economic loss due to lockdown protocols in place and uncovered health hazard were both at peek and as a result of poorly maintained cities. Although there is a misplaced conception that this goal only related to urbanism and regional development but what academic scholars fail to address is that this goal maps transition in a most pervasive manner.
Global Modernization, among other processes has witnessed this shift of population from rural agrarian societies to urban industrialized societies in theory. Unfortunately, prime characteristics of either of them is indifferent. Based on the land coverage, vertical growth in small geographical unit i.e. settlement pattern has exerted pressure on resources and thus fueled the crisis of Anthropocene. Although this change is similar in context in either part of the world, developing countries face disproportionate change in mass and time.
Cities, thus, are a vital part of emerging economies and are inseparable from the context of development. A strong pursuit of vital urbanization is comparable within these geographies as well. At our discretion, we pursue to uncover urban realities in India and the Philippines and draw inferences from their comparison in base year 2021. All evaluations are subjected to direction and limits provided under the framework laid down as international standards identified in annual reports in accordance with SDG-11: Sustainable Cities and Communities.
Urban India: Planning, Development and Governance
Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs is the topmost in the structure of hierarchy. It has executive control over administration of rules and laws related to urban development in India. Under its aegis’s works autonomous organizations dealing with research and advisory work each devoted to a particular issue of urban metropolis like housing, employment, resource supply and transportation etc. This trickles down to urban affairs in each state that has a separate department or ministry dedicated to the cause transcending he boundary of the state.
After 74th amendment, self-governance was emphasized in with municipality became a prime feature. It is this place where planning, implementation and development policy is formulated and strictest control is established. Smallest unit of governance is wards which collate to form Nagar Panchayats (Municipal Boards), Nagar Palikas (Municipal Councils), and Nagar Nigams (Municipal Corporations) based on the population size in any denoted locality. Another prime feature is collection of any such plan at District level in District Planning Committees to strike a balance of resource distribution. It is this feature which India needs to work on the most because of uneven acceptance in structure and cause. Presence of Development Authorities especially in larger metropolis is a striking feature of India’s Urban Development.
Not till long ago, India concentrated only on transportation, poverty alleviation, affordable housing and economic security with respect to urban. It is only in the recent past that sanitation, food safety, ecological balance and other pertinent issues related to urban planning has caught administration’s attention. Declaration of SDGs in 2015 was a big step towards it. Since then a holistic attention towards cities and their well-being have been concentrated through Smart City Mission. Moreover, NITI Aayog- National Think Tank has launched a mission to support sustainable urbanism which clearly is a symbol of advancement and progressive model of development.
Urban Philippines: Planning, Development and Governance
The Department of Human Settlements and Urban Development (DHSUD) is the central government authority responsible for the planning and policy-making, regulation, program coordination, and performance monitoring of all housing, human settlement, and urban development concerns in the Philippines. It primarily focuses on the development and adoption of a national strategy to ensure accessibility to affordable and sustainable housing communities for all Filipinos. The department has sixteen regional offices that are scattered in key cities around the country. Moreover, it has three main bureaus: Environmental, Land Use and Urban Planning and Development; Housing and Real Estate Development Regulation; and Homeowners Association and Community Development.
In a span of ten years, from 2010 to 2020, data reveal a steady increase in the Philippines’ degree of urbanization. Out of the country’s total population of 109,035,343 in 2020, 47.41 percent reside in urban areas. As a result, this has led to more pronounced inequalities fueled by the surge in resource consumption, informal settlements, and economic disparities, to mention a few. While urbanization has the potential to provide opportunities for growth and development, poor urban planning and management hamper such opportunities to be realized.
The Philippines Urbanization Review: Fostering Competitive, Sustainable and Inclusive Cities, a collaborative publication between the World Bank and the Philippine government in 2017, identified three challenges that need to be addressed for the country to benefit from urbanization. First among these challenges is density. The review revealed that Philippine key infrastructure investments do not align with the country’s increasing population, indicating the need for efficient allocation and utilization of national funds for infrastructure projects that are responsive and developmental. The second challenge falls under the category distance, in which transportation cost and labor mobility end up as problems for many Filipinos due to connectivity issues. Lastly, “limited access to basic services and economic opportunities, especially among informal settlers” makes a case for division.
Furthermore, the review outlined key recommendations in four priority areas being city competitiveness, inclusive urbanization, urban governance and institutions, and land administration and management. It may be assumed that the findings of the review guided the Philippine government in taking measures to create kinder cities. But no reports nor standards of measurement can provide us with the degree — quantitatively or qualitatively — to which such recommendations were integrated into plans and policies.
Aerial view of Delhi, Capital City of India
Aerial view of Manila, the Capital City of the Philippines
Urban Upheaval - India vs Philippines
According to the 2021 Safe Cities Index by The Economist Intelligence Unit, Manila is the only Philippine city making it to the ranking. Out of 60 cities included in the list, Manila ranked 51st with an overall score of 52.5 out of 100, a rating below average indicating its lag behind regional neighbors. Not very far are the two Indian cities- positioned as 48th is India’s capital city New Delhi with a composite score of 56.1 and 50th is India’s financial capital Mumbai with a composite score of 54.4. Luckily, they are still in the bracket of Higher Safety in the list but with a very close margin.
When charted against 76 indicators related to different aspects of urban safety in areas of digital security, health security, infrastructure security, personal security, and environmental security, cities of India and Philippines were all ranked below average. Manila was ranked below New Delhi and Mumbai in almost all of the pillars except environmental security. New Delhi fell in High security range in all the pillars and Mumbai ranked below New Delhi in all parameters with an exception to Environmental Security. Perhaps, it is due to surrounding seas and lower mean sea level that these cities have an advantage over New Delhi.
According to the 2021 Sustainable Development Report, major challenges remain in achieving SDG 11 in both India and Philippines. Particularly, measured challenges remain in the proportion of the urban population living in slums as the both country’s SDG achievement is decreasing in this area; major challenges remain in maintaining an annual mean concentration of particulate matter of less than 2.5 microns in diameter despite the country is on track in SDG achievement; major challenges remain amid the country’s decreasing SDG achievement in the area of improved (piped) water source accessibility; and lastly, significant challenges remain in terms of satisfaction with public transport. Although, India is better in three of these parameters yet Philippines takes a leap overall. Despite its size and resources, Philippines excels way better than India in overall SDG ranking. This is also clearly visible in the stride Philippines has over India in SDG-11 evaluation.
In Our Opinion
Although recent evidence are particularly niche in gathering essential information for both India and Philippines yet not all indicators have been put in place. This discrepancy in data is because urban is still not considered different in National and State policies. In wider view, Asia and The Pacific SDG Progress Report 2021 states insufficiency in data to rank countries with respect to SDG-11.
Another major issue is insufficiency in historical evidence of colonization and its impact on urbanization. Urbanization even though precede dates back, only fueled after WW-II in developing countries which coincided with their independence from their colonists. Since, India and Philippines, both won their independence in late 1940s, the timeline of urbanization coincidentally overlaps. However, Spanish Empire’s and British Empire’s shadow still overcasts to where our countries started with. Consequentially, it can be similar as that of Eastern U.S and Mexico or it may be completely different.
Novel themes have not found any mention in such comparisons due to missing data and even missing philosophy like Urban Agriculture, Daily transit of labour, Urban Finance, International partnerships etc., which can open various angles of appreciation or ridicule. This is one of the vital missing links to completely understand what urbanization entails in India and Philippines and thus needs immediate rectification.