Governing Urban Futures

 New Delhi Conference, 14-15 November 2014









This year’s Urban Age conference, Governing Urban Futures, which took place in New Delhi, 14-15 November, followed the recent pattern of being issue-centered, rather than being primarily about a particular city or region.  The topic, as described by Philipp Rode (Executive Director of LSE Cities and the Urban Age) and Priya Shankar (Research Office at the program) in their excellent introductory article, “Governing Cities, Steering Futures,” for the conference Newspaper, was examining

the link between urban governance and our collective capacities to engage with and shape the future development of cities. By investigating the way we govern urban futures, we analyse how the decisions that are made (or not made) today have long-term implications reaching well beyond the boundaries of individual cities – and aim to achieve a better understanding of the underlying conditions and processes that allow for participatory, effective, accountable and future-oriented decision-making in and for cities.

These enquiries take place against a background of some major changes in urban governance, above all, the trend towards ‘urbanising’ government, alongside the re-scaling of planning functions, both part of the considerable decentralization efforts occurring in both developing and developed countries since the 1990s. We also identify a shift towards a broader coalition of private and civil society actors – replacing traditional hierarchical coordination of urban development with more networked forms of governance – while acknowledging the critiques of these shifts and the questions they raise around the processes of decision-making and democratic legitimacy. The last two decades have clearly witnessed an increase in the role of the private sector as a result of economic globalisation, far-reaching privatisation of former state functions, the increasing importance of partnerships between public and private sectors as well as greater levels of private capital flowing into urban development, (due not least to substantial infrastructure funding gaps, recently exacerbated by severe public budget constraints in some regions of the world). We also recognise that, (well before recent trends of ‘networked’ governance emerged), there have always been urban areas and aspects of urban life in several parts of the world that the state has never fully reached or formally governed.

four key trends and themes emerge for what will be critical in shaping our urban futures. [1] Globalisation, particularly economic globalization through the links of trade and the flows of capital and investment, is affecting cities throughout the world.  [2]Technological change, especially the revolution in IT, is changing the nature of all human interactions but also of state-society relations. [3] There is increasing inequality in most cities and increasing informality in many. And [4] all cities are confronting the existential threats presented by climate change. Each of these trends has significant implications for the governance of cities. At the same time, urban governments face fundamental choices about how to respond to these trends, and what is decided now will be critical in steering both urban and global futures.  [numbering and emphases added]

The conference Newspaper is available online, and I recommend it to you most highly.  It is full of extremely informative articles, written mostly by those who presented at the Conference.  (Wherever I quote something without specific attribution, it will be from this publication.)



For those of you who are not familiar with it, the Urban Age is a program housed within the LSE Cities Program; it has mounted a series of world-wide conferences, dedicated to studying the problems and issues facing cities in the 21st century and creating dialogues designed to find solutions. (See the UA’s own very informative website: www.lsecities.net/ua/). 100 years ago, 10% of the world’s population lived in cities, while 90% lived in rural areas. The Urban Age program began at the moment in history when the world crossed the point that more than 50% of its population lived in cities—and the United Nations predicts that by 2050 approximately 75% of the world will live in cities. This fact means that the nature of cities will have an incredibly important impact on the nature of life on this planet. The Urban Age program is centered at the London School of Economics, and funded by the Alfred Herrhausen Society (the international forum of Deutsche Bank). These conferences are designed to form the framework for the development of an ongoing dialogue between government leaders, academic experts, and urban practitioners—it brings together a diverse assortment of architects, city planners, civil engineers, government officials, transportation experts, real estate developers, academics, and various others who study these areas (some as unlikely as a psychoanalyst like me), who importantly talk with each other across disciplines in a way that rarely happens at other times.

At their outset, the Urban Age ran a series of conferences which explored the urban natures and futures of individual cities.  The The Endless City (Phaidon Press, 2008) is a book published by the Urban Age that presents the integration of the findings from this first group of conferences which began in New York (q.v., my write up) in February 2005 and which culminated in Berlin in November 2006 (with Shanghai, London, Johannesburg, and Mexico City in between). It was co-authored by Ricky Burdett (one of the Founders of the Urban Age and Director of the LSE Cities Program) and Deyan Sudjic (member of the Urban Age team and author of The Edifice Complex: How the Rich and Powerful--and Their Architects--Shape the World, and many other books).

After this initial group, there was a second series of conferences focused on the broader regional contexts of that began in November 2007:  the first was in Mumbai (q.v., my write up), followed by São Paulo, and, in 2009, Istanbul (q.v., my write up), which was the final of the three meetings of this second group.  Living in the Endless City, also co-authored by Ricky Burdett and Deyan Sudjic and published by Phaidon Press (2011), presents an in-depth overview of the findings from this series of conferences.

Over the last four years, the Urban Age conferences then focused on key thematic areas of urban change: the global shifts of urban economies (Global Metro Summit in Chicago, 2010, organized by LSE Cities in conjunction with the Brookings Institution Metro Policy Program); health and wellbeing (Cities, Helath, and Wellbeing, Hong Kong in 2011 [q.v., my write up]); environmental sustainability and technology (The Electric City, London in 2011 [q.v., my write up]; the online version is in need of repair, but the text is mostly intact, albeit the illustrations are completely missing]); and the physical transformation of cities (City Transformations, in São Paulo, 2013).




There have been 13 conferences, and I have attended 9 for them—including the first and the last 8. Of those I have attended, there were only three that I did not write up; and in all three cases it was because there were important things that angered me about them that I did not choose to write about…but I am now moved to mention them here.

In Chicago, I was deeply bothered by the line at that time taken by the Brookings Institution people who co-led to conference: they seem subsequently to have changed their tune, but at that point they were focusing exclusively on action on the local level and emphasizing the need for focusing on involving private partners and sources of funding for public programs—which, albeit arguably needed in the face of the diminished availability of public funding in the world, was dangerously ignoring the shortcomings of this approach (viz., the danger of blindly relying that the interests of the public adequately would be represented and protected in the process, and the implicit justification of the abdication of responsibility by government —and particularly at the State and Federal levels—to fund those areas which simply cannot be financed in any way other than by government [e.g., those infrastructure and other long term projects where the ROI (Return On Capital) is not immediately capture-able, or is so long range or small as to not provide adequate incentive for private investment of capital]).  I am a great believer in the importance of action on the local level: in fact, I sometimes am moved to say that the only meaningful action is local; and that if things are not made meaningful on the local, community level, they will not be meaningful at all.  (And, of course, remember that I am a psychoanalyst: I am someone who is profoundly convinced that the very most meaningful changes take place on the personal, individual level!)  Nevertheless, there are ways that too exclusive a focus on the local can be used to distort and hide societal problems, and to avoid more official societal responsibilities.  There are people who rather venally use such an exaggerated emphasis to very selfish and bad ends; and there are others who are just so naively swept up in such approaches that they miss the inherent dangers and shortcomings.  One way or the other, it is a bad mistake.

In the case of São Paulo and Rio, my reluctance to write about the conferences was due to my general discomfort and anger at what dealing with issues in Brazil is like: I have experienced an enormous tendency there to operate in a way that seems completely to believe positions that are desired to be true but simply are blatantly false.  I believe this tendency arises from what I consider to be the underlying falsehood of Brazilian society: “We have a fully racially integrated society in Brazil.  Race is not a problem here.”  This seems firmly believed, and totally false: Brazilians have 47 distinct words to distinguish different levels of darkness of skin color, and, in their society, social economic level correlates completely with level of darkness of skin.  If one is interested, Michael Kimmelman, a wonderful member of the Urban Age International team (and the best writer on architecture the Times has had in decades), did an excellent article  in the New York Times on 25 November 2013 after attending the Rio conference about what Brazil was really up to in how it was dealing with the World Cup and 2016 Olympics: ”A Divided Rio de Janeiro, Overreaching for the World”. He and I spent a great deal of time together on the tour and at the conference in Rio discussing some of this; and while I am more extreme in my feelings about this than he, he obviously shares some of the same perspective. He wrote,

Rio’s mayor, Eduardo Paes, is saying all the right things about combating sprawl, beefing up mass transit, constructing new schools, and pacifying and integrating the favelas, where one in five city residents lives, with the rest of the city.

But as months of street protests illustrate, progressive ideals run up against age-old, intractable problems in this city where class difference and corruption are nearly as immovable as the mountains. This is a city divided on itself.

The article offers an important critique of what Brazil is actually doing in these efforts in contrast to what they claim to be doing, and I highly recommend it to you.



Our tour was led by Jagan Shah (Director, National Institute of Urban Affairs). [The photographs in this section are my own, except for the one below, which is from the Conference, and is by Catarina Heeckt.]


Jagan said it was hard to say how many actually live in Delhi: 13 million, although many say 16 million; but after Partition it was only 2-3 million. Before the 1962 Delhi Master Plan (done with the help of the Ford Foundation), refugees were dealt with only on an ad hoc basis.  Inside the Ring Road, which was one of the first creations of the Master Plan, one still can see the pre-1950s small shops and small plots of land; outside, the development of the 60s and later takes on a very different urban form.  There has been a decision in Delhi to release the FSI (Floor Surface Index, used interchangeably in India with FAR, Floor Area Ratio; essentially the gross floor area of all buildings on a lot divided by the area of the lot itself) almost completely along the transit-oriented corridors of the city—and there are now buildings of 22 stories going up (most of Delhi is 4-5 stories). There is a new Metro line being put in along the Ring Road, and an expansion of the retail area, with permission being granted to convert residential buildings to commercial along the arteries.  We passed the Defense Colony, said to be the most expensive real estate in Delhi.

At the Moolchand Clover Leaf we turned right on the road that has the remains of Delhi’s recent experiment with BRT (Bus Rapid Transit).  This initial phased was planned to begin with a 14 km stretch here; but it was shortened to 5 km.  What’s more, it is one of the worst designed BRT attempts I have ever seen: the “dedicated lanes” and stations are in the middle of a major thoroughfare, and there is no provision for pedestrian access to the stations, which often requires the perilous crossing of three or four lanes of uncontrolled traffic flow to reach them (making the stations all but totally unusable); and, shortly after the system was built, car and truck traffic was granted access to the “dedicated lanes” which were supposed to be exclusively for the BRT vehicles alone (thus rendering the system completely dysfunctional). It was a system that I believe was planned to fail—and fail it did: “people” (and we can only imagine what constituency comprised this group) demanded the system be stopped, and no more of its planned 330 km were ever built.  The area also has its share of single lane flyovers—a piece of road engineering so poorly conceived that I have never seen it anywhere else—which also confound traffic flow on the overcrowded thoroughfare. (There is congestion automatically created entering and exiting these flyovers, so that at the best of times they retard rather than assist traffic flow; and any disabled car on one brings the flow to an immediate and total standstill, as there is no way to get past it—or to get to it with an emergency vehicle.)  Along this route are found some of Delhi’s tony gated communities—and less fancy middle class communities that have erected unofficial gates, aspiring to being a gated community without any official standing to do so.

We got off the bus at Nehru Place, a bustling collection of buildings that functions as a prime commercial space which is the biggest “gray” market for electronic goods (selling and repairing unauthorized copies of electronics equipment and media—of “questionable” legality):


In the early 80s, this government sponsored development was unanimously condemned as being “heartless modernism”; and, indeed, the architecture itself is actually a rather dreadful replica of a 60s housing complex.  Jose Castillo and Richard Sennett and I were discussing what the residential/commercial mix was; and I asked Jagan, who told me that in fact it was built as a 100% commercial complex—that every unit housed some form of commercial enterprise. This surprised all of us, and we continued to feel that area distinctly looked as though there were people living in some of the units.  I asked again, and was told that in fact there were people who lived in the offices, stores, and shops; but that they were not the owners, but rather employees of the owners who were often allowed to live in the commercial space in return for being paid woefully minimal wages (the difficulties of lower income people finding housing being what they are here). This mix actually made sense of the “feel” of the place, which had actually originally led the three of us to assume incorrectly that this was primarily a residential, mixed use place.  But Nehru Place is a locus of enormous life and vitality—social as well as commercial:


In many ways, it felt like a combination of a modern electronics market and a souk—a Middle Eastern bazaar: full of energy and commercial activity, and very much a place of the people. The first two levels had intense lines of open shops of varying types, all bustling with activity,


while the upper stories were given over to individual stores, workshops, and other business establishments.

We then got back on the buses and drove to the “slum” of Gavindpuri we were going to visit. Ahead of us on the road we saw in the distance, through the haze of Delhi’s intensely polluted air, a mountain rising in a far-off area of the city.  Jagan informed us that this was one of the many “mountains” of garbage where the cities piles up it waste. The sheer magnitude of this single pile was frightening. Garbage is an enormous problem in Delhi (as it is all over India). Power companies and the government have acquired parts of the Jahanpanah Forest (the remains of what was a green belt in Delhi), and areas of it have been given over to garbage disposal. Apparently, another problem is that this society which is so traditionally respectful of animal life—and of cows, in particular—actually allows for rather cruel passive treatment of these animals: particularly after cows cease to produce milk, they are often abandoned without care or feeding, and they are actually allowed either to starve or die a painful death from ingesting the plastic that is contained in the garbage they forage in for sustenance. (This was an uncomfortably shocking revelation to many of us.)

We got out of the buses and walked through the streets of Gavindpuri.


This area is a bustling place, full of people, businesses, and dwellings:


It is obviously informally constructed, often of substantial materials—but with some very questionable engineering (one of the issue in Delhi is that it is estimated that over 50% of its built environment could not withstand even a moderate earthquake):


Here a photograph of a women selling produce that I include more for its beautiful resonance of the vibrant colors than for any other reason:


Our destination was the Katha Lab School, a privately funded school for the children of the community that is also a center for community activities (healthcare, Women’s Center, etc.).  The underlying philosophy is to create change through the children—directly via education, but also via family involvement. It is a mixed community (approximately half Muslim and half Hindu), and the school population reflects that mix. Many of the families at the schools are migrants who have come to Delhi largely for the educational opportunities, which are lacking and dysfunctional in rural areas.


The school’s building is a very modern, well-designed structure (note the architecturally interesting and functional ramps on the roof of the complex, using solar energy (note the solar panels on the right):


The school is supported totally by philanthropy: e.g., the modern computer lab was funded by the Prince Charles Foundation. We were told that all philanthropy in India is directed solely at education and religious institutions, and never cultural or scientific ones.

We then divided into groups of 8 people, and parents (all women) of children at the school led the groups on intimate tours of their neighborhoods. We were led through the narrow pathways through the community (below you see Sophie Body-Gendrot n the foreground, and the back of Enrique Peñalosa in the background):


The dwellings house multiple families in each.  The women have a much higher rate of employment than men. The men, when they work, are usually employed in factories or small workshops; but alcoholism and unemployment is rampant.  The women are mostly employed as domestic help (in some of the slightly more affluent apartments adjoining the slum), working 27 days/month, and being paid INR500 for each “task” they perform (i.e., they will typically work for about 4 different families, and get paid that amount by each—thus getting INR2000/month [~$33/month] working full days, all but three days a month).  The gender distinctions in the employment situation reminded me of what I had just learned about life in rural India from a person who runs an outreach political organizing program on the outskirts of Indian cities: according to whom, typically it is the woman who is the one who works in rural India, and the husband often sits around drinking tea (or alcohol, paid for by his wife) all day—and too often beating his wife at the end of the day.  (As an important aside, I came away from my experiences of this visit to India—in Delhi, as well as in Ahmedabad, Udaipur, Ranakpur, and Jodhpur—being convinced that the positive hope for India’s future lies with heavily its women: they are the ones in the poorer communities who seem to have the potential for political organization [and they are successfully being organized and becoming politically important forces in many areas, especially rurally], and they are already a clear force for change in India’s cities.  The women of India are one of the country’s most valuable, exciting resources.)  Below you can see (on this rather wider passageway), the open sewage lines that line many of the streets (much more problematic on the narrower ones):


Some of the passageways are actually given over entirely to other functions:


Our guide told us that these open sewers carried only waste water, although there seemed to be clear elements of fecal waste mixed in. When we pointed this out to her, she said that wasn’t true because none of the dwellings in this slum had toilets—although we actually were able to see evidence of some, including even some PVC drainage pipes on the exteriors of some of the buildings.  Gerry Frug commented that this is one of the problems with the “interview method” of research: you ask a question, you get an answer; but then it is not clear what the answer in fact means. (I added that it also makes one aware that one may, in retrospect, not even understand what one’s question meant.)

We then re-boarded the buses and drove across the Yamuna River (and its beds of water hyacinth) to Noida (the city developed by NOIDA, the New Okhla Industrial Development Authority), actually in the state of Uttar Pradesh, which is a second generation piece of urbanization, all high-rise (there is a planned 60 story tower being built), a community of significant wealth (the highest per capita income of the entire capital region).  It is a center for outsourcing IT, software companies, power utilities, automobile industry, and film and television industry.  There are also extensive shopping malls and arcades in the district. Many of its residences are owned as second or third homes for the wealthy (some simply as investment properties for the rich), and many are sparsely-occupied.

We got off the buses at the NOIDA Metro station, a new, modern structure, amidst the bustle of a small local market:


From here we boarded the Metro. This is a rather impressive transportation system, with high speed, quiet, comfortable cars and efficient, clean stations. The system’s five current lines have 193km of tracks, some elevated, some underground serving 141 stations (38 of which are underground). 

The system was largely financed by Japanese investment—in return for which Japanese companies (largely Mitsubishi) were given the contracts for making the equipment and rolling stock. It is considered to be very successful, with a daily ridership of 2.4 million.  Plans for the expansion of the system are in place, and two new lines and several extensions of existing lines are already under construction. (Below is a photo taken from the Metro of new construction.)


In minutes, we arrived at Connaught Place. Officially named Rajiv Chowk, Connaught Place (or CP, as it is often called) is one of the largest financial, commercial, and business centers in New Delhi. Formerly the headquarters of the British Raj, it was planned and developed by Edwin Lutyens. At the intersection of several important thoroughfares—and with its proliferation of shops, trendy bars and restaurants (the Urban Age welcoming reception was held in the rooftop open area of one such bar/restaurant, immediately following the tour), movie theaters, and its central park area (a gathering place and location for many events) in the middle of its concentric encircling roads—Connaught Place has become one of the hot gathering places for young people in India.



Morning Session

[N.B.: The presentations and panels from the conference are all available for you to watch yourself on the Urban Age YouTube Channel  at  http://delhi2014.lsecities.net/video/; the slides from each presentation that had them are available at the same place.  I shall not specifically remind you that these are available, except in the case of the video that includes our friend Charles Correa, which I suggest you watch to get a sense of the power and elegance of Charles and his thinking. His brief talk begins at minute 31:30 of video of his panel available at: www.youtube.com/watch?v=dloCPkws8i8&t=26m15s.]

{I have set off in these bold curved brackets {} any personal commentary I have inserted about any of these talks during the conference.}

The first day’s opening remarks began with a welcome from Anshu Jain (Co-CEO of Deutsche Bank, pictured below [all conference photographs are by Catarina Heeckt]). 


Anshu Jain spoke about Alfred Herrhausen and the Society founded in honor of his great work. He noted that the Conference was being co-sponsored by the National Institute of Urban Affairs in New Delhi, and thanked its Director, Jagan Shah.  He said that he had been fortunate to live in many great cities, and had found that while each was unique, all great cities had some important things in common: they were “multicultural,  a crossroads of different nationalities, languages, faiths, traditions, and human stories.” People from diverse backgrounds, coming together and creating a collective identity; and he quoted Jane Jacobs, “The metropolis provides what otherwise could be given only by travel.”  He spoke about the fact that urbanization was one of the defining issues of modern life, with 4 billion people—54% of the world’s population—currently living in cities.  In the middle of the last century, 2/3 of the world’s population was rural; by the middle of this century, 2/3 will live in cities—meaning the urban population will be what the entire population of the world is today.  He noted that India alone is predicted to have a rise of 400 million people living in its cities by 2050.  Today cities occupy 2% of the world’s land area, but account for 80% of global wealth.  1/3 of the increase in the world’s economy is predicted to occur in its cities—and that today in China and India, the average income of city dwellers is three times that of its rural people.  He discussed the fact that there were downsides of urbanization: urban concentrations place a stress on water, power, sanitation, and transport—all of which need to be managed. He raised the specter of the effects of outbreaks of infectious diseases in the densely populated cities in the world.  Urbanization has not brought prosperity for all: worldwide, 1 billion people (1/7 of the world population) live in slums, and that number will double by 2030. Urbanization will happen, he said; the question is whether it will be a force for good.  China and the Eurozone will be generating excess savings of ~$3 trillion; these savings will seek solid, predictable investment. Simultaneously, successful urbanization will require huge resources and major long term financial investment—and financial institutions have a crucial role and an enormous responsibility in converting these savings into capital that can be utilized for our cities to develop.  Governing urban futures and the choices we make now are going to influence so many lives in the future; and we at Deutsche Bank and the Alfred Herrhausen Society are delighted to contribute to and to participate in this Urban Age conference, and the bringing together of so many experts to discuss these crucial issues.


Craig Calhoun (President and Director of the London School of Economics, pictured above with Anshu Jain) thanked Anshu Jain and the Herrhausen Society, offered his welcome, and noted the long and important connections between the LSE and India.  Craig noted the 100 Smart Cities Initiative in India that Anshu had mentioned, and its relation to the work done at the Urban Age Electric City conference we had in London two years ago.  Here in Delhi we will discuss key questions of governance: interrelated themes of decentralization, accountability, partnership, land governance, and infrastructure.  There would be many interconnected issues we would be examining: decentralization, land use, governance, and infrastructure among them.  We will try to compare different perspectives on agendas of urban change from the experts we have gathered, not only from India but from over 20 cities on five continents. Craig noted that it had taken London 100 years to grow from 1 to 10 million people, which is 1/10 the rate of growth that is taking place in India.  We very much need to know how cities are parts of larger developing trends; and it is this which will enable us, in the phrase that guides us in this conference, “to govern our urban futures.”

INAUGURAL ADDRESS: Greg Clark (Minister for Universities, Science and Cities for the UK Government) gave the opening keynote address.


He mentioned that the LSE mascot was the beaver—an odd choice, save for the fact that it is an animal known for being an industrious, social creature; and noted that cities bring people together in collaborative ventures of complexity and specialization that are profoundly related to economic growth, even at a time like the present when electronic media actually make it possible for people to live in isolation from others.  There has been a tendency to centralize in the UK, with London having been the main, prospering center of growth; but there is now a move to create other centers of growth—using the two very different cities of Manchester and Liverpool as examples—and the move towards prosperous networks of cities.  Greg said there were important lessons that need to be learned: we must recognize the differences between cities (their specific histories, characters, and feels); we have to respect the past and history, but not be imprisoned by it; boundaries need to be thought about carefully (cities often outstrip their municipal borders, which often reflect neither economic reality nor geography); connectivity and transportation are key issues in successful urbanization; education is of crucial importance in the process.

Ricky Burdett (one of the Founders of the Urban Age and Director of the LSE Cities Program, and the dear friend who originally brought me into the Urban Age program; pictured below)


gave an overview in which he said that we are here to hold up a mirror to what exists—to share perspectives, not to tell people what the solutions are for their cities.  Ricky summarized some of the research the program had been doing on Delhi (actually informed by the work of the past 10 years of the Urban Age program), and as presented in the conference Newspaper: a collection of essays (one group from a global perspective, one about India, and the third from the perspective of other parts of the world) plus a data section.  The speed of urbanization is staggering, but uneven across the world:  NY is growing at 9 people/hour, London at 1/hour; and Lagos is growing at 48 people/hour—and Tokyo, the world’s largest urban population, is predicted to go into a negative growth rate over the course of the next year, along with some Russian and American cities.  These facts are graphically presented on the map below.  [I am using Ricky’s presentation to make you aware just how much wonderful information is available in the slides that accompanied many of the talks.  To make the point, I am showing a large number of his slides, which I shall not do with the other presentations.  But be aware that the slides from other presentations are available online at http://delhi2014.lsecities.net/video/.]

But one thing we know, unless we talk about governance, we haven’t done anything.  How a city is governed—and what the boundaries of that city are—is absolutely fundamental: some areas of city authority (where they say “mayor” has control; indicated in the darker colored sections) are relatively small in comparison their much larger functional regions (e.g., São Paulo and New York below);

while in a city like Istanbul, the mayor has a vast area under his control, virtually 100% of the functional region of Istanbul (q.v., below).


Whereas London was purposely reinvented to have a closer fit between its city authority and its real boundaries, cities vary widely on this: in Delhi, 66% of the population lives within the city’s municipal boundaries, whereas in Paris it is only 18%, and in London and New York fit is about the same at 39%).  The graph below presents some of the data on Delhi compared to other cities. 

Economically, the predicted growth rate  (2012-2030) in GVA (Gross Value Added) in Delhi is 7% (compared with 2.8% in London and 1.1% in Tokyo); the GINI coefficient (a measure of income distribution where the higher number represents greater inequality) is a whopping .60 in Delhi, whereas in Berlin it is only .29.  The rest of the graph (presented below) presents other aspects of comparison:

Delhi’s air pollution is extremely high (289 PM10 levels [pg/m3]), compared to London at 22.  It is also worth noting that while Delhi’s built environment is essentially 4-6 stories high, it is nearly twice as dense as Tokyo.


Ricky pointed out that there are different patterns of built environment (Hong Kong has gone vertical and Mexico City doesn’t end, q.v., below);

different forms of governance (in London there is no state government to contend with—all city and national; in Delhi, it is largely a question of state government); and the patterns have a very significant effect on the environment and on social cohesion.  To use London as an example, below is a representation of the distribution of wealth, showing in dark red are where people are most deprived (lower levels of education, higher unemployment, teenaged pregnancies, etc.) and in green, exactly the opposite (higher education, longer life expectancy lower levels of unemployment, etc.)

Every city will have this map.  This is an unequal distribution; it is about inequality.  And here is Ricky’s “analytic, social scientific analysis of London,” which is actually what London “feels” like:

How do we try to avoid this inequality happening?  Forms of governance and control matter.  Compare what we were able to institute in recent years in London (where there had been almost no local representation) with the situation in Delhi:

What you do not see on the London chart is the orange color between the blue of the central government and the green of the local authorities, which is the state; in Delhi there is a lot of orange, a lot of blue, but not very much green, local control.  What is missing in Delhi is the red of metropolitan governance which was what we were able to create in a major way in London beginning with Ken Livingston.

The two biggest issues that cities face are the environment and social cohesion.  On the graph below, the vertical axis shows the ecological footprint (the further up you go the more energy per person you use), while the horizontal axis shows the UN Human Welfare index (the further to the right, the better educated, longer life expectancy, etc.):

The relationship between human development and ecological footprint has different patterns: The US is extreme in terms of both environmental and consumption patterns—and the Earth is in terrible trouble if everyone tries to emulate this pattern.  If you look at the dotted line, which is 1 Earth’s amount of energy we have, you see that if we all live like Americans, we would need 5 Earths—which simply won’t work!  India is way down at the bottom at the moment—and this is a big transition, a fascinating moment; and the question is which way does it go?; which model do you choose?  And we at the Urban Age and the LSE are asking how does governance actually help us to understand these questions?

Shaping Urban Futures.  (Chair: Ricky Burdett)

Joan Clos (Executive Director, UN Habitat and Under-Secretary General of the UN, and former Mayor of Barcelona, pictured below) gave a presentation entitled, “Towards a Global Agenda for Urban Development,” in which he discussed how urbanization in the world is going. 


In his important article by the same name in the conference Newspaper,  he wrote about the UN’s New Urban Agenda:

The year 2016 – with the celebration of the third United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development (Habitat III) – should represent a turning point in the debate on the future of our cities. Habitat III is a unique opportunity for governments and institutions around the world to engage in a New Urban Agenda that addresses the challenges of rapid urban growth and offers a new model of urbanisation.

In tackling the problem of sustainable urbanisation, a three-pronged approach is needed, covering the areas of urban regulations, urban planning and urban finance. If the world’s cities are to move from an unsustainable to a sustainable urban future, it is essential to identify and to coordinate efficient and implementable measures in each of those three areas.

…Governance is the enabling environment that requires adequate legal frameworks, efficient political, managerial and administrative processes, as well as mechanisms, guidelines and tools to enable the local government to respond to the needs of the citizen. Local governments have the proximity to translate the principles of good urban governance into effectively managing, governing and developing a city, and ensuring equitable access to citizenship…

…Good governance and the rule of law at the national and subnational levels are essential for the achievement of those objectives, in order for us to move to a more sustainable model of urbanisation. If urbanisation is to be truly inclusive and sustainable, participatory mechanisms and integrated human settlement planning and management practices are crucial.

He focused on giving a bit of perspective on where we are and where we are heading, because we need a new paradigm—if we continue to build cities as we are now (remember the last slide of Ricky’s), we’re on the wrong track.  Joan said there have been two real revolutions in organizational paradigm: the first being the 19th century, industrial city, which was transformed by industrialization; because of the inflow of workers (and immigration) cities demolished and broke through their Medieval walls and did a huge expansion (he used two cute examples: Amsterdam in the 1876 and New Amsterdam [Manhattan] in the 1811, which, in the case of the latter, led to the breaking down the walled city [at Wall Street] and three surveyors drew the lines of the larger grid which we walk today in Manhattan);  this revolution in paradigm was driven by the fact that the cities were too crowded: conditions in mid-19th century London were shocking, with poor people so packed together that it was the set up for the cholera epidemic of 1851—and the fear which that engendered led to the walls coming down and the population spreading out.  (But Joan pointed out that what made the change possible was that the rich people had been packed in with the poor people and were also in danger from these conditions; and they had the wherewithal to insist that the city spread out and create room for them to isolate themselves.)  Vienna and Barcelona grew similarly at that time.  In this expansion model there was no zoning, no legal prescription for how to use the land.  The next revolution was 20th century model was the new paradigm developed by Le Corbusier in the 1971: the utopian city of the future for 3 million people.  This model of towers-in-the-park, superblock, with wide streets, and the car was so successful that it has been built all over the world—and it is continuing to be the model for building all over the world, even where it no longer makes sense.  From the socialist perspective, it satisfied the push for every industrial worker to have the same decent apartment, equal for every worker.  And every industrial worker will have a car—the technology of the moment, which would allow freedom of movement.  Joan showed just the towers-in-the-park side of a slide we often show in the Urban Age, and asked whether the audience who do not know it from the Urban Age could identify where the very generic-looking development might be in the world—Asia, America, Africa? Is it possible to differentiate?

It is impossible to tell, because it has been reproduced everywhere.   In case you are not familiar with the whole photograph, it is of Caracas:


It is an ecologically unsustainable model; it consumes a huge amount of energy.

He said what is needed is a change of paradigm, a new, 21st century model.  The old model consumes too much energy and has led to a suburbanization of housing.  We need a model using infrastructure needs as the guide for planning.  The UN is trying to gather people together to work out a new paradigm.

Ricky asked whether Joan thought a change of government structure could help in the creation of this new model. 

Joan: Of course, because every one of these changes of paradigm has come with a change of government.  He noted that the 20th century model had been corrupted by both sides in the Cold War: the Soviet and capitalistic patterns both follow the same model of Le Corbusier.  But we shall have to see what happens with democracy over the coming years.

Richard Sennett (the other co-Founder of the Urban Age, and Professor of Sociology at the LSE and NYU, pictured below)


gave a talk, “Ungovernable Urban Complexity,” in which he raised the question of how urban designers can have things that may be useful in Delhi.  Richard began by quoting Erik Erikson in his biography of Gandhi: “Growth means managing complexity that you don’t simplify.” His premise is that cities generate complexity, and that the increasing speed of change requires new forms of thinking and new forms of management: historically there was a more natural fit between form and function, but that has broken down, and the fit now must be managed.  The speed of growth tends to produce a tendency to produce an artificially tight fit between form and function that causes problems and mis-matches. Technology must be managed and adjusted toward how people actually live; there is a real question how to use technology democratically.  Climate change underscores the need to think about issues in broader and non-linear terms.  As Richard wrote in his article, “Coping with Disorder,”

The perils of climate change cannot be addressed by thinking at the scale of urban self-shaping, as Max Weber wanted; or that of local, inclusive democracy, such as Henri Lefebvre believed in. And climate change has rendered Franz Fanon’s opposition of urban versus rural out of date.

Adapting to climate change…means that coherence of the city’s form will alter, due to forces beyond human control.

“Unpredictable” is the key word – there is certainly a water crisis coming, but we don’t yet know what form it will take. Almost all models of climate change argue for non-linear changes, chance combinations, erratic consequences, all occurring in the coming decades. All this argues that rural and urban must be seen together, as one disturbed ecology. The political problem is how to practice governance under these conditions. In part, the needs of the city have to dictate what happens in the countryside, but the political problem is complex because the natural system is becoming ever more unstable. How do you legislate under these conditions?

To adapt, the city can no longer cohere; we must meet the uncertainty of a physically unsettled world by thinking of the city itself as a more unstable place.

This is the logic of what natural scientists call open systems. These are structures which model chance, or seemingly illogical change, or complex events which de-stabilise an equilibrium condition.

All these phenomena are erratic in the short term, year-on-year, though the long-term effects are certain over the course of decades. We should be thinking about the networks linking big cities in the same way. Specific patterns of migration are as unstable in the immediate term as changes in the natural environment; for example, movement across the Mexican-American border is an erratic, convulsive process year-on-year, though the cumulative effect is clear. So, too, is the economy of networked cities – financial flows are not smooth and linear, nor are investments in real estate or primary industry. Open system analysis thinks about networks as trembling rather than placid connections – because the connections are complex they are peculiarly open to disruption.

We must acknowledge the disorder to come and learn to cope with it: the urban challenge we face now is how to live openly.

Democratic politics have to find a way to manage the radical unfolding of change—and this is a problem of governance.  It is the Eriksonian idea of coping with rather than trying to defeat complexity. Governance is about how to manage conditions—the effects of nature, real world problems.

Joan Clos raised the question of who it is who is going to be providing it? Will it be the highly skilled majority, or the majority with low levels of skill and knowledge?

Richard said that in open systems theory “chaos” does not mean lack of form; it refers rather to the irregularity of events.

Ed Gaeser (Professor of Economics at Harvard University, below) spoke of “City Institutions for an Urban Age.” 


He began by disagreeing with Gandhi’s statement that, “I regard the growth of cities as an evil thing, unfortunate for mankind and the world.”  While they are capable of breeding evil, Glaeser believes that they actually are engines of progress:  in fact, “the pathway out of povery is through urbanization.”  He cited the fact that before 1960, the poor were 0% urbanized; since then there has been a 10% growth of urbanization and a 50% increase in income.  In rich countries there is little difference in reported happiness levels between urban and rural dwellers; in poor countries, rural dwellers are far less happy than their urban counterparts (with the interesting exceptions of Iraq and Bangkok).  People in cities need government, and there is real impact to the decisions made by government:  before the huge expenditures NYC made for public health (mainly to provide clean water), life expectancy used to be 7 years shorter in NYC than in rural areas; after the systems were in place, it was three years longer!  But there also can be very bad, wasteful decisions: the corruption of NY’s Tammany Hall in the 1860s led to huge fraud around water in NY; and Detroit’s ill-conceived monorail system ended up being a complete waste of money, due to the total lack of any prior cost-benefit analysis being done.  Glaeser is an ardent supporter of public private partnerships (PPPs); and he is a firm believer in the power of free markets.  He said, “If you build it, they will drive on it”—suggesting that it is necessary to change people to use the streets differently.  We need to be wary of the monumental level of NIMBY-ism (“Not In My Back Yard”; something to which my city planning friend Alex Garvin usually adds: NOTE [“Not Over There, Either”] and BANANA [“Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anything”]).  As for climate change, he pointed out that cities are not the problem; high density living is a good thing ecologically.

Joan Clos summarized his feelings by saying “I am a politician, not a scientist: I need to do things.”

KEYNOTE: Mohammed-Bagher Ghalibaf (three term Mayor of Teheran, below) gave a keynote entitled, “Governing Teheran.”


He said that in 2005, Teheran suffered from high levels of air pollution, fragmented management style, inadequate infrastructure, and lack of meaningful public participation in government.  What was missing, he said, was a social approach.  Subsequently, they have expanded their subway system from 2 to 7 lines, tripling its capacity; they have introduced a BRT system; they have an integrated, innovative, knowledge-based waste management system; and they have significantly expanded their green space.  Teheran’s remaining challenges are poverty, child labor, panhandling, addiction, slums, excessive immigration, and social injustice. As mayor, he is building a social approach—focusing on decentralization and maximum citizen participation: urban development should be based on public participation, public education, and an awareness of the needs of low income people.  The municipality must transform from service provider to a social institution; a neighborhood management approach must lead to citizen participation; the participation of vulnerable classes needs to be insured in urban development plans; consumption patterns and social behaviors need to be reformed to upgrade lifestyles.  {Gee…it all sounded great…fabulous, even.  Just as one would want it to be; and, if the truth be known, something I think might once have been possible to work toward in that country, which, after all, has always had the largest, best educated middle class in the Islamic world. (I always think about the fact of Iran’s extraordinary current film community and realize the level of sophistication of a major portion of that society, and conclude that it is the country in that region that had by far the best chance of having a western style society and government—democracy, even.) But Teheran, in 2014 Iran...  IDK}

UBANIZING GOVERNMENT: DEVOLVING THE SATE.  (Chair: Jagan Shah [Director, National Institute of Urban Affairs] and Andy Altman [Senior Visiting Fellow, LSE Cities], pictured below)


Jagan Shah began by saying we need to understand urban governance from a historical as well as political perspective.


He said that Richard Sennett talked of a multiplicity of government, and Ed Glaeser had said the cities need government; it is people who are at the core of the metropolitan phenomenon.

KC Sivaramakrishnan (Chair, Centre for Policy Research) spoke on “A Voice for Urban India: Decentralizing Governance.” He began by saying he carries the burden of memories, of


the historical perspective—of politicians not wanting to move forward.  Urban government is thought of as “lesser,” and cities are under-represented in parliament.  India’s 74th Amendment has not helped bring about better representation as it was designed to do; the base has been fragmented.  Mayors in India continue to be ceremonial—and are virtually always “one year wonders”; and moreover they are increasingly not directly elected.  The major loophole in the 74th Amendment is 243Q: state governments are allowed not to set up municipal bodies in industrial townships.  Do we want politically appointed officials to run our cities?  He is suspicious of the 100 Smart Cities initiative, supposedly designed to deliver better services; sees it as actually a way to maximize privatization by creating a way to monetize land—and that is not smart.  There must be political accountability.  There is a problem of fractured thinking: government and governance need to go together. Do we really want democracy—and are we willing to pursue it?  There does not seem to be enough of an outcry on the part of the people—or any real push for control.

Gerry Frug (Professor of Law, Harvard University) spoke on “Deciding Who Decides.”


People think that city governance means government needs to be more responsive to the governed, The organization of city government is always in the hands of central government: in the US and India, it is in the hands of the states; in most of the world, it is in the hands of national government.  It is these central governments that decide matters of revenue and what cities can do.  The result of this central control is the creation of endless bodies—government fragmented along specific functions.  The answer does not lie in local authority; every issue (land use, transportation, housing, the environment, poverty) is a local, state, and national issue.  Also, every city is surrounded by others; cities cannot decide their own futures: incompetence, corruption, etc.  Yet local democracy is vital for human freedom—people need to have control over their own lives; it cannot be handled nationally.  Both arguments are correct, and they conflict with each other; both bottom-up and top-down control are necessary.  The question is how cities can participate in the allocation of power.  Gerry discussed the situation in the US (as he did in detail in his most insightful article by the same name in the conference Newspaper:

People often think of city governance in terms of local democracy: the goal is to make city officials more responsive to the local population. In the United States, this certainly is one of the issues that needs addressing. But it is not the whole story – indeed, it is less than half the story. It fails to mention that the design of city governance is not in the hands of local residents or city officials. It is the product of state law…

This dual focus of the structure of city government – sometimes responsive to local will, sometimes responsive to state policy – is a fundamental ingredient of city governance in the United States. It cannot be overcome – and should not be overcome – by choosing one perspective over the other. Local responsiveness is sometimes undesirable, and so is state policy. Instead, the primary task of city governance reform in the United States is to redesign this dual focus to better align state policy with the exercise of decentralised power.

The city governance problem in the United States is that both positions just outlined – for state power and for local power – are correct. Yet they contradict each other. The governance problem, then, is to figure out how to deal with this contradiction.

…the better approach in the United States would be to shift the power to allocate decision-making authority from the state to a new kind of regional institution.

What this means is that the regional institution should be a forum for collective decision-making by the region’s cities. Every city in the region should be represented (with votes weighted by population), and the decisions they collectively make about the allocation of power should be decisive. One should note that this is not a call for city autonomy. No city, acting alone, will have authority over an issue unless the cities collectively agree that it should. In this way, the regional organisation can help overcome the parochialism that now undermines efforts to decentralize power. Neighbouring cities affected by any decentralised decision would be part of the decision-making process: they can make sure the allocation of power takes their interests into account. The key difference for city power in this proposal lies in the fact that cities – if they work together – will be able to design the decentralized system.

Naturally, this notion of new regional agglomerations of power appeal to Gerry as the answer elsewhere in the world, as well—although he is careful to maintain that he knows this directly only in the US.

Andy asked: so, who decides? We have to decide what we want—but who decides?  KC you were part of crafting of the Amendment, but you said that the attempt to empower city government has failed.  But you also talked about weak demand, a lack of meaningful desire on the part of the citizenry.  So both the legislative attempt from the top and the push from the bottom seem to be ineffective.  Importantly: who is the “we”?

KC said that we have not come to terms with the reality of urbanization: for a long time, we accepted the rural; now we live in cities, with the reality of urbanization and the effects of urbanization—including increased inequality and the feeling of being a part of a meaningless process of urbanization.

Panel Discussion.

Charles Correa (Architect, and my dear friend from early in the Urban Age program) [As I said earlier, I call your attention to the video of our friend Charles Correa, which I suggest you watch to get a sense of the power and elegance of Charles and his thinking. His brief talk begins at minute 31:30 of the panel available at: www.youtube.com/watch?v=dloCPkws8i8&t=26m15s.]


Charles said that we have democracy in our country, but not in our cities.  In a model left over from the way the British governed in colonial times, India’s cities are run by chief ministers and cabinets, not elected by the people whom they are governing.  They make all the crucial decisions.  In his excellent article, “Accountability and Governance,” Charles wrote that

There are two crucial aspects of urban governance that our cities desperately need…: Accountability…and proactive governance.

Around the world, more and more cities are being run by political leaders who are directly elected by the people of that city. So they champion the interests of the citizens - or they will not get re-elected. That is the essential mechanism by which Democracy ensures the accountability of our political leaders. It’s as simple as that.

To install this system of accountability, we need not convert our cities into independent city-states.  …That is what democracy is about: confrontation resolved through a process of negotiation.

This unfortunately is not what happens in our Indian cities. Instead of this system of tough negotiations, with each side trying to protect the interests of their respective electorates, our Indian cities are run by a State Chief Minister who is not elected by the citizens of that city – and who can therefore be completely oblivious to their wishes. …Our Chief Minister has no accountability whatsoever to the citizens of this city because we do not vote for his re-election. In that sense, we have no democracy in our cities! What we have instead is a carry-over from the British Raj, where the Governor of Bombay Presidency had complete power over Bombay – as well as all the other cities along the west coast, right up to Ahmedabad, Karachi and Quetta.

In recent years, Delhi has become the one conspicuous exception. But even this is not exactly true, because the Chief Minister of Delhi does not have jurisdiction over several of the most important civic bodies and government departments which constitute that city.

When Arvind Kejriwal became CM, this conflict came vividly into focus. He stood up for the city government of Delhi, against the larger political context, i.e. the Central Government. There is nothing wrong in doing that. In fact, it is an essential part of his job. And let’s not forget, it was the confrontation between Ken Livingstone and Margaret Thatcher, with their conflicting agendas, that re-energised the city of London.

The other crucial ingredient missing in our cities and towns is pro-active governance. …That sense of urgency is totally missing in our urban governance – although the problems facing Third World cities are among the most fast-changing and lethal we know, and crucial to our very survival.

This is of crucial importance when it comes to the staggering problem that lies at the heart of the crisis that most Third World cities face, viz., the distress migration from villages to towns and cities - with squatters on pavements and other crevices all over the cities. This has invoked two diametrically opposed attitudes. There are those that say: ‘Throw them out!’ and others that say: ‘No, they have the right to stay where they are’. Neither attitude helps. Letting them stay where they are, living in bestial conditions, insults our own human values. Throwing them out misses completely the underlying problem, viz: the dehumanising living conditions and viciously skewed land-holding patterns that prevails in our rural areas.

Europe went through much the same process in the 18th and 19th centuries, when millions of desperate Irish, Italians, Jews, Germans, English, decided to leave – and for much the same reasons. But due to the colonial system operating at that time, they could re-distribute themselves around the globe – an option not open to Indians today. So for the rural migrant, arriving in Kolkata or Pune is a substitute for a visa to Australia. That is the functional role that our cities are playing in the development of our nation. What we have to do is find ways to increase the absorptive capacity of this urban system.

[The] National Commission on Urbanisation’s…Report identified several strategies through which this could be done… For example, in order to alleviate the pressure on our larger cities, the Commission identified 325 small urban settlements that are growing faster than the national average – despite the lack of basic amenities, like sewerage, water supply or transport. Most of these are mundi towns (i.e., market towns) – for instance, Erode in Tamil Nadu, a town of 160,000 with no sewage system, but which has evolved into the most important centre in India for reprocessing textiles. A bustling town, full of maniacal energy, it has buyers from all over the world, stepping over open drains. If the right decisions and investments are made, towns like Erode could form the nucleus of new urban centres that would deflect migration away from our existing cities – completely changing the dimensions of the daunting problems we face. And there are more than 300 other towns like Erode. This is why we need proactive urban governance – instead of the passive attitude which has now become chronic.

We need a confrontation between who runs our Bombay and who runs Maharashtra. That is the strength of other places.

We need to harness the incredible proactive force of India’s cities. Our government is faced with an enormous challenge—we have never seen such a huge change in human history:  the distressed migration, all over the third world including India.  In the past, colonial systems allowed for these people to redistribute themselves around the world; that is not open to us today.   When someone shows up today in Bombay or Kolkata or Pune, it is a substitute for a visa to Australia!  Our responsibility is to increase the absorptive capacity of our system.  That is the real question we should be discussing.

We need to have an overview:  the Indian people have an incredible energy and drive; but we cannot just sit back and wait for squatters to appear.  I have never seen the kind of overview of analysis of India’s cities like what Ricky presented today—which are growing at what speed and why.  We have cities developing where people are stepping over open sewers in their streets; this is not acceptable.  The cities of India are part of our national wealth:  they generate the skills we need to develop as a nation (doctors, lawyers, engineers, managers, nurses—all urban skills); our cities are engines of economic development; and they are places of hope—and, for the millions of wretched have-nots of India, perhaps their only road to a better future.  What we need is proactive government.

In the final analysis, India’s cities will decide the future of the nation.

Hilmar von Lojewski (Councilor for Urban Development, German Association of Cities)


began by saying how wonderful it was to hear Charles, an architect, being so politically interested; he wished architects in Germany—at least some of them—would be so interested.  Self-government is guaranteed by the German Constitution, but there are still three dimensions we need to work actively on—the political, the financial, and the people. Long history (207 years, since the declaration of Riga) of self-governance in German cities; on the other hand, we know how fast decentralization can come (e.g., Indonesia).  He said that the burden of finance follows the burden of tasks to the local level is a principle of great importance.  There is a high interest in local government performing well, but there is not a well-developed interest in participation in local elections.  We need to mobilize people to participate in public life and public discussions.

Andy: so, in India’s cities “the fit is not right “; and Gerry said it was not right in the US, even when there are strong mayors…

Hilmar: ‘Robust concepts’ are needed for urban democracy and resilience.  There is a misfit: finances and power in cities are not aligned.

Gerry: We have to consider who are the stakeholders? They tend to be corporations and powerful groups.  It doesn’t do any good for cities to “be responsive” if they have no power.

Vijai Kapoor (Lieutenant Governor of Delhi, 1990 to 2004)


spoke about the fact that there were two Amendments passed at about the same time:  the 73rd (which primarily dealt with rural areas) and 74th (which dealt with urban): why were the loopholes left in it, and why was such liberal use made of them? Why were powers not transferred from central government to local government?  Delhi, by executive order, was exempted from the Amendment.  The other question is why was the obvious intention of the Amendment to devolve control to local levels not carried through to other laws? The desire to be looked after still overwhelms the other drivers in the process.  In 1957 when Delhi was abolished as a state, there was only the Delhi Development Act and the Delhi Municipal Corporation (no Delhi Assembly), all power stayed vested in the central government; but after Delhi was given a measure of self-governance in the early 90s, why were those powers not transferred from the central government? Local legislators cannot amend a pre-existing parliamentary law without the consent of the central government.  The answer is that these Amendments were merely political posturing: there was no attempt meaningfully to transfer any power.  KC mentioned weak demand on the part of the people.  There is also a weak will on the local level to levy taxes.  Take the issue of the property tax: why is it non-existent to 90% of the urban population? Delhi raises only about 1,000 Crores a year that way.  If it were strengthened as a tax base, that would activate the demand for local devolution of control—strengthen the resource base.  If property tax revenues were transferred to local government, there would be a change; but where will the active demand for local control come from?  Central government will not let go of power unless something is created on the demand side.  How does one create that interest? Delhi is metropolitan area—is it a question of Metropolitan government?  Unless some innovative approaches are created, we are not going to get out of the stranglehold of central authority.

Wolfgang Schmidt (State Secretary, City of Hamburg) said that he was “working in paradise”


Because Hamburg was a City/State.  Perhaps this can serve as a model?  Hamburg is one of 16 federal states (like Berlin); and each state has 3-6 votes in the parliament.  Hamburg, with a population of 1.3 million, has 3 votes (out of the total 69); three of the states have a total of 10 votes out of the 69; and the biggest state, with a population of 8 million, has only 6 votes.

Meenakshi Lekhi (Member of the India Parliament) said that bureaucracy in India was completely unresponsive.  There is a problem with responsibility without authority, and of accountability.


Delhi has three municipal corporations: each is not in position to do what is needed.  There is a big question of who controls the funding.

Gerry: If you organize localities so that the finances are their own, the poor areas without resources will go under; if the control of finances is central, the central government will have all the authority. Neither one is working very well; we have a structural problem about organizing finance, not choosing between the two.

Charles: The whole Chinese miracle was fueled by Hong Kong; Bombay could function the same way, if we managed things correctly.  The mindset of the government has to change; there needs to be a sense of urgency.  India’s situation is far more urgent than more developed places like New York.  It’s not just accountability; it’s urgency. 

KC: There is a crisis of jobs, growing population, migration.  People and institutions have to come together. Is the Amendment a policy or a posture? What good is knowledge if you can’t come together and do something?  All the big issues are multi-governmental.

Wolfgang: Hamburg collects € 30 billion, but only gets to keep € 9 billion. How much can we really control? It’s a crucial problem.

Gerry: Waiting for people to demand a change in the structure cannot happen.

Andy: “Growth is managing complexity that you don’t simplify.”  The speed of urbanization creates an urgency to generate dialogue about proper form and fit.



Afternoon Session

Inclusive Governance: Agency and Disadvantage.  Co-Chairs: Jo Beall, Director, Education and Society, British Council, and Mukulika Banerjee, Associate Professor of Anthropology, LSE.

Abhijit Banerjee (Professor of Economics, MIT) spoke on “Understanding the Choices of the Urban Poor.”


 We have a vibrant democracy in India, why don’t we get better conditions for the poor?  Several answers are given; but I am going to examine the evidence based mostly on surveys done on low income neighborhoods in Delhi that provide answers quite different from the ones commonly proposed. People actually are not moving about quickly: the average length of residency is 17 years.  Complaints about slums: water, sewage, and garbage are the main ones; electricity is not a problem.  Slum dwellers vote at the rate of 86%; they do participate.  Politicians get money to spend on projects; what do they spend it on—roads. Roads are not a concern in slums.  These people attend rallies, they approach public officials—much more than middle class people do.  Political incentive is broken, but not because people don’t care or are in conflict.  People do get faulty information—particularly about the people who represent them.  Politicians are totally unresponsive to the real concerns of people.  The real problem is that politicians assume they will not be re-elected, so they do not care.  The political parties just move them to another area the next time.

Sue Parnell (Professor, African Centre for Cities) spoke on the topic, “Governance Needs Government: The Case of African Cities.” 


Even back in 1941, Nairobi was run for a particular constituency, and its governance regime was basically imported.  70 years later, we still know a great deal about Nairobi’s government: many aspects of the governance arrangements don’t work very well: the revenue streams don’t manage to meet everybody; the legal code is inappropriate both at the top and the bottom; the city is not working; and we wouldn’t choose these particular forms of governance and government going forward. We don’t talk about government, because: 1) neo-liberalism and the reduction of state power relative to corporate and financial forces; 2) poor state performance, governments lack legitimacy, particularly locally; and 3) recent push for participatory inclusion of non-state actors in urban management.  In the context of this moment of city building in the African context, we need to utilize the power of government.  Central governments have been essentially anti-urban, or just haven’t known what to do about the problems of cities.  Local governments are weak and lack jurisdiction over the majority of their population; and they have to compete with powerful institutions like banks, gangs, or central governments; and municipalities lack revenues.  The question of the state is back on the political agenda, so it makes this an important moment. There are some things only the state can do.  Reinstating the state in the process puts the focus on the democratic process at the city scale.  What are we to do about the things that are hard to control: traditional power (power of the chiefs); informality (what essentially lies outside the state.  Have to go back to basics—about how we design, manage, and implement the enforcement of regulatory regime (building code, tax code, etc.).  Compare to her city, Cape Town. Whether it is the politics of control, or the politics of ineptitude, designing the governance system is what is crucial for Africa’s urban future.

Austin Zeiderman (Assistant Professor of Urban Geography, LSE) gave a talk on “Governing Urban Unceretainty.”


Austin described the Urban Uncertainty Project at the LSE: how do uncertainties about the future shape the urban present, and what does it mean for urban governance.  Responding to different forms of uncertainty (climate change, disasters, disease, financial crises, etc.) has become a prime government imperative.  We study how this imperative shapes urban cities and contemporary life in six cities (across Asia, Africa, and Latin America) in each city we studied a different form of uncertainty (discussed three examples:

In Accra, Ghana, crises in energy network that supplies the city—causes of uncertainty were multiple, as were the attempts to deal with them.  Residents reshaped the electrical delivery system and the uncertainty of daily life across the grid; but reacts to crises followed lines of class, power, and access: in areas of middleclass development, there was reliance on private power generation, provided by real estate developers (capitalized on the power uncertainties).

In Karachi there is a securitized housing complex run by the military; people drawn there to reduce the uncertainties of everyday life in a conflict-ridden city.  But, rather than trust the government to provide security, many citizens developed their own approaches—from resident associations to armed gangs and militias—and produced new alliances between formal and informal governance institutions to manage crisis.  But new uncertainties were also generated by this process.  Social media became a major modality of identifying what was dangerous.

In Buenaventura, Colombia, vast amounts of private capital from around the world are being funneled in infrastructure projects to entice commerce passing through the bay—to become a world class port city, aimed at China; but situation in China adds uncertainty, and climate change poses a huge threat to the port development.  But the city has also been ravaged by paramilitary groups fighting over waterfront territory; much of the city is still controlled by these violent groups.

The six cities reveal differences, but also parallels: uncertainly not an evenly-distributed condition; but uncertainty crossed some social divides, uniting actors around common problems—possible source of political collaboration; crosses different levels and scales—plans for governing uncertainty often decrease some forms of it while increasing others.  Rarely is there a final resolution: usually uncertainty is just managed, not ended—which leads to the notion of governing through uncertainty.  And government cannot abdicate its responsibility for managing uncertainty or simply leave it to individual players.  As Austin concluded in his piece, “Colombia: Fluid Futures,” in the conference Newspaper: “Urbanists need to look beyond packaged success stories from metropolitan centres. Creative responses to the world’s urban challenges may be found in unexpected places – if only one dares to look.”

Panel Discussion.

Dunnu Roy (Director, Hazards Centre) asked of the speakers, who had spoken about what the city should be, whether it was possible to change the definition of the city itself. 


The city is a “center of growth,” but center of growth of what? It is essentially a center of expression.  If, as Susan says, that the city is linked up with corporate powers and developers, are we not looking at the city as extractive?  It is a certainty that these cities are going to extract and exploit.

Adam Greenfield (Senior Urban Fellow, LSE Cities) Another elephant in the room: question of technology; hasn’t been mentioned except in relation to “smart cities,’ which I am against. 


The point of big data is precisely to manage urban uncertainty—to predict and prevent events that might be untoward from the perspective of urban administrators.  Big data allows authorities to break out individuals from the general statistical picture of populations; and this must be noted in any discussion of the concept of the smart city.  We have to stop inflicting technologies on the poor and instead leverage those technologies they already have a grasp of—mobile phones, and, increasingly, the smart phone—to allow them to institute networks of self-care, and also underwrite demands on the state.  There is a highbred state, responsible to its citizens via linkages and couplings or horizontal and distributive technology which produces security on the level of the people themselves.  In his article, “Connected Cities,” in the conference Newspaper, Adam wrote, “I remain convinced that ordinary city-dwellers can use networked informatics beneficially, to support them in their aims of group coordination, collective decision making and deliberative self-determination.”  He used two examples:

Occupy Sandy [which] emerged in response to the unprecedented damage done to New York City by Superstorm Sandy in October 2012.  … this group of amateurs – unequipped with budgetary resources or any significant prior experience of logistics management, and assembled at a few hours’ notice – is universally acknowledged as having outstripped traditional, hierarchical and abundantly-resourced groups like the US Federal Emergency Management Agency and the American Red Cross in delivering relief to the hardest-hit communities.

[and] The La Latina neighbourhood of Madrid…once home to a thriving market hall… this site, el Campo de Cabada, increasingly began to attract graffiti, illegal dumping and still less salutary behavior.  a group of community activists…cut through the fence and immediately began recuperating the site for citizen use. Following a cleanup, the activists used salvaged material to build benches, mobile sunshades and other elements of an ingenious, rapidly reconfigurable parliament – and the first question they put before this parliament was how to manage the site itself.

In both these cases, ordinary people used technologies of connection to help them steer their own affairs, not merely managing complex domains to a minimal threshold of competence, but outperforming the official bodies formally entrusted with their stewardship. This presents us with the intriguing prospect that more of the circumstances of everyday urban life might be managed this way, on a participatory basis, by autonomous neighbourhood groups networked with one another in something amounting to a citywide federation.

Tikender Singh Pandwar (Deputy Mayor of Shimla) said he tried to explain what his job was to his child, and decided to say he was “the first garbage man of the city,” because handling garbage is one of the fundamental roles and problems for government in India.  The question is who runs the city? Who runs the government? I as mayor am the first person who is contacted; once told by someone complaining about restoration of electrical services [after he had explained electricity was not a municipal function],”I did not vote for the electrical department, I voted for you.” People give their mandate during an election.


We have a central government that says, “you will get matching grants,” which means people have to contribute. There are user charges on toilets, user charges on water. I am buying water at INR 60 per kL and distributing at INR 8 per kL; it’s a mismatch.  Currently there is a concept of neo-Liberalism that you have to get expenses back from the people; inclusive growth simply is not possible with this paradigm.

Jo Beall: I’m not hearing anything very optimistic about the agency of the urban poor.

Austin:  Inclusive growth as a kind of political imperative hovers over this conversation.  Inclusion can be thought of in a political sense, and it also can be thought of in an economic sense; question is in what sense and on what terms we are talking about inclusion—especially given that where many of us work, jobs in the formal sector are hard to imagine for a vast number of the urban population.  Hard to imagine inclusion under these conditons.  Then the issue shifts to the right to have a role in the production of the urban, and perhaps government becomes involved in the distribution of what people need to live a decent urban life.

Mukulika Banerjee: I wonder whether part of the problem of the 74th Amendment may be that there is a lack of information on the part of elected officials themselves?

Tikender: Even though mine is the oldest municipality in the Indian system, we are still in an evolutionary phase.  We have an association of mayors, and we are making demands for the resources and powers we need; but come what may, people realize they have an elected councilor. People are demanding; how do we meet the demands?  Experimenting at the ward level with giving 10% of the moneys collected in the form of taxes in the ward would go back to the ward committee, and that committee will decide how it is to be spent.

Jo: asks Abhijit, how does it compare with your findings?

Abhijit:  We tried delivering specific information; people didn’t want it.  Since no politician delivers, there is no specific sense of responsibility in the system.

Tikender:  That’s what we need: empower the local government.  Let’s do what the 74th Amendment says.

Jo: You talked about the “tyranny of government”…

Sue:  Matters whether we’re talking about governance or government: what is at the normative base of governance, what is this thing actually trying to achieve—is it inclusivity? Redistribution? Something other than a growth agenda? We have to resolve that, and that becomes the expectation of government.  Then a whole set of intermediate issues, and that’s where technology comes in—what we use to manage different systems.  Not just the interaction between councilors and citizens.

Dunu: Why don’t politicians want to fix slums?  It has been suggested it’s because politicians want to line their own pockets; but only part of it.  If people got what they’re asking for—very specific: water, sanitation, garbage—they will also be given entitlement to land; and that is what the system doesn’t want to do.  They want to take it over from the poor and sell it to real estate developers.  Providing these things legitimizes tenure; the informal system is actually is more extractive.

Tikender:  I agree.  Slum dwellers are first in line to pay the taxes we levy, because it legitimizes them.

Abhijit:  Sewage and garbage are the only rights people have that are recognized (by supreme court decision); water is not (there is some indirect right to water, but it is via tankers, not direct water flow).  What is being said is particularly true with regard to water—garbage and sanitation less so.

Dunu: The reason water is different is because sewage and garbage do not only affect the slums: the middle class people living around them are frightened that the hygiene issues will affect them.

Enrique Peñalosa: it was said that the average length of residency in slums was 17 years; that would mean that the new growth in slums has almost stopped.  Given the enormous growth rate in India, one would expect there to be an enormous influx from rural areas and a tremendous growth in slums.  Is it that the government has some fantastic housing program that is taking care of this? Or is it that there is a police control—a way to control land and to keep squatters from taking over land that is more effective and limiting the growth of these slums.  That means the problem may be even worse…

Question: does the panel agree that making inclusion / just government issue is too narrow: that the problem is systemic and requires a systemic answer?

Anna Herrhausen: question to the panel: heard a lot about government, governance, levels of government; leaving structure aside, what is the experience as to outcomes for the people who actually are being governed; on whichever level it may be, what is the experience as it perhaps relates to the number of functioning toilets, or other indicators at that granular level?

Mukulika: Three areas—homelessness, migration; governance and inclusion; accountability and performance of governments, and how they are assessed.

Austin: Last question goes to an important analytic and political point: using Sue’s metaphor of that middle level of governing and state practice, where whatever is happening on the top or the bottom levels, what one sees on the ground (housing, environmental policy, transportation plan) is lots of people doing the work, going from house to house, doing the work—actually producing the infrastructure on which the city is based; a great deal of political work being done there, regardless of how you think about government and its structures and institutions, and who decides—even when there are different forms of decision making, one sees very different kinds of outcomes because there is a whole set of people doing this work, and we’ve heard very little about these people who actually produce the urban.

Sue:  You will not get inclusive cities until you have a capable state that can deliver results to all of its citizenry.  But there is a bigger question of how we would measure the success of inclusive governance in terms to the sustainable goals and targets being set at the moment; how does our global system insure that the kind of cities we have are inclusive.

Abhijit: Every councilor in Delhi is responsible to 40,000 citizens; we need far smaller units.

Jagan Shah: (to Sue) Is there still scope for us to recover the area of individual’s rights and liberties? So much is being rooted in communities, that we are in danger of losing one of the key products of democracy, which is the individual.  We are trying to create a new generation of leaders, and leaders are individuals.  Is there scope for that?

Question: Why is it that cities are not making streets with footpaths, and why do we not charge for parking?

Adam: A little wary of the language of inclusion; smacks of our own benevolence in inviting the poor to table.  I believe in direct action; people taking matters into their own hands.  We have examples of people using available technology to take matters into their own hands and doing things.

KEYNOTE: Neil Brenner (Professor of Urban Theory, Harvard University) gave a talk entitled “Urban Governance—But at What Scale?

My photo, from the Urban Age tour

He said the issue is at what scale we think about the issue of urban governance.  Generally defined at the level of the city; if you reframe the issue as the governance of urbanization, this changes this scale to national, international, and planetary.  Perhaps our concern with urban government is a weakness, avoiding the bigger systemic issues:  global economic crisis, national state restructuring in the face of austerity toward market-oriented governance, and explosive worldwide urbanization and environmental related crisis—since 70s, a proliferation of local experiments to position in the global issues without national or regional participation.  Cities are trying to develop new networks (e.g., C40 initiative on the environment) to deal with issues—particularly climate change.  One of major forms of political strategy could be called global urbanism, an attempt for cities to position themselves within global flows of capital with some kind of narrative to deal with these problems: entrepreneurial cities, global cities, smart cities, sustainable cities.  We have to ask to what degree locally scaled approaches can offer an adequate response for confronting the great problems of 21st century global capitalism.  Local strategies aspire to do just this, and we tend to be celebratory about them; but what if this is just a symptom of our weakness to deal with the big issues. We do need urban governance, but there are serious operational limits to this: 1) regulatory capacity of cities is circumscribed by national systems (which may actually empower suburbs or rural areas and other tiers of government instead), and devolving/decentralizing may create constraints, as well (particularly in an age of austerity); 2) even though urbanization involves the growth of cities, it also involves a variety of transformations of landscape and environment that occur elsewhere to support those cities (food, water, energy, materials, labor, waste), so need a concept of “extended urbanization” (broader forms of analysis on a planetary level) that takes into account the geo-economic, geo-political issues on the largest scale. Infrastructures that support urbanization, but which go far beyond cities: crop lands—can’t have big cities without places that supply them with food; infrastructures of transportation…need to think of the urban and the rural as dialectically interconnected—“extended urbanization.”  We in the Urban Theory Lab have been studying hydroelectric infrastructure developments in the Himalayas designed to support South Asia’s need for power and water,

in areas which, even though they lack the density of urban centers, become part of the broader urban fabric.  Point is to open up a discussion: local strategies for the regulation of the early 21st century are emerging, and they are very important; but their conditions of possibility, parameters of actualization, and impacts are not simply local, but rather national, continental, and planetary; and if we fetishize the local, we fetishize a scale that weakens us, rather than enables us. We should think of these localisms as a tactical maneuver, under conditions of volatility and possible retreat; we need to use the local, but use it to open up discussion of the core issue of governance—not just of cities or of concentrated urbanization, but of the relationship between concentrated and extended urbanization. There are governance problems in the way the entire world is being transformed in order to supply the big cities with their most basic metabolic functions, and that broader scale needs to be part of our conversation, along with the local, regional, and metropolitan scales.  {I strongly agree with Neil on this, although I am a major advocate for studying and working on these problems on the local level.  Focusing too exclusively on the local—particularly when motivated by the paucity of available resources on the state and national levels—is precisely what I was railing at in our Urban Age 2010 Global Metro Summit conference in Chicago (q.v., supra, “A BRIEF COMMENT ON WHAT I OMITTED PREVIOUSLY: THE UA CONFERENCES IN CHICAGO, SÃO PAULO, AND RIO”; it is also the pernicious fallacy in the currently very popular book by Benjamin Barber, If Mayors Ruled the World—a book that both Neil and I share a dislike of, due to its dangerous naïveté.  Also, the need to see urbanization in its interactive relationship with the rural and the world at large has been a major theme in the excellent work of Urban Age regular (and friend of mine from its beginnings) Dieter Läpple, who unfortunately was not present at this conference.}

Ricky: An incredibly powerful argument: let’s not just focus on urban governance, but let’s focus on the governing of urbanization—need to be cautious about new movements to focus on the local level.  Does that mean that the multi-national organizations that exist—the U.N., for example—are OK? Can we rely on them to deal with these transnational issues? Or do we need an even more radical, more complex level of system?

Neil: I don’t have that answer to that, but I welcome the exploration of it: what would be the appropriate institutional framework to confront these challenges.  Part of the problem is that the predominant way the issues are currently being framed actually constrains our ability to think about these questions: if we think about the problem just in terms of the more than 50% of the world that lives in cities and exclude consideration of the rural, we can’t even pose these questions.  The advantage of the concept of extended urbanization is that it allows such an exploration

Ricky: A look at some of the maps in the conference Newspaper quickly demonstrates how very seriously we at the Urban Age take this extended view of the problems.

Governing Through Partnerships (Co-Chairs: Andy Altman and Partha Mukhopadhay, Senior research Fellow, Centre for Policy Research, photograph, below)


Andy:  What is the role of the private sector in all this?  What should be the balance of the privatization of gain and the public assumption of risk?

Arun Nanda (Chairman, Mahindra Lifespace Developers, Ltd.) “Investment and Infrastructure in Urban India


I am not a professor; I am a practitioner.  Public Private Partnerships (PPPs) are not new in India: go back to 1875 with the development of the railways. India needs to spend $1 trillion on infrastructure in the next 5 years; we all know what the deficit situation is—it cannot be done without PPPs.  But it needs to be a “PPPC,” the “c” being community; need the involvement of the community. The previous plan had 1/3 of the funding from PPPs; the next has 50%, $500billion from PPPs.  Land acquisition is a very big issue in this country; and if land acquisition risk is not shared, it will not happen.  Has to involve community: the community will not bring the money, but unless you have the community buying into the mutual trust, it won’t work.  Of course, it must be financially viable, or it will not work for the private sector.  The government role is to bring a sharp focus on what they are looking for.  Private sector brings sensible commitments: has to bring “patient capital,” as projects don’t move quickly as they do in the private world; also need to “under promise and over deliver,” rather than the opposite.  First project he did was a water project.  Politically too sensitive a topic; hugely subsidized by the government.  It took 7 years to get a financial close. Government gave the concession to bring water to an industrial town, Tiruppur.  What made it succeed, we brought Tiruppur Exporters Association as a partner, gave them 5% of the equity, put them on the board of the company; secondly, we could cross-subsidized the municipal and industrial components (we could charge INR 40/kL to the industrial components, and we supplied water to the municipality at INR 5/kL), and we were able to break even; the third thing involved the problem of the private pumping ground water, which had been degrading the quality of the ground water supply, and from private tanker deliverers—and these things could not have been dealt with without the support of the government.  Project could not have happened publicly, because they needed $200 million, and they did not have the resources; but we could not have done it without the government, because we needed their support in dealing with the problems I’ve mentioned.  Very proud that our leakage rate is only 5%, whereas the world average leakage rate is 12%.

Michael Berkowitz (Managing Director, 100 Resilient Cities, Rockefeller Foundation), spoke on “Governing Resilience Through Partnerships: 100 Resilient Cities Program.”


He said that his program, to use Neil’s phrase, involves local experiments in urbanization in 100 cities across 6 continents.  It is the Rockefeller Foundation’s $100 million commitment to fund urban resilience, which we define very broadly as the capacity of individuals, communities, institutions, businesses, and systems within cities to survive, adapt, and grow no matter what kinds of chronic stresses (shortages of water or food, macroeconomic shifts, levels of crime) and acute shocks (earthquakes, floods, terrorist attacks) they experience.  We define city not just as municipality, but the larger ecosystem.  What makes for resilience is very specific: the number of toilets; equitable distribution of resources, infrastructure (both the built and natural environment—Bangalore used to have 1,000 lakes, now it has 400, so it floods when it rains and has droughts when it doesn’t).  We view there to be two main issues: cities are complex and insufficiently organized; and cities miss or inadequately leverage market solutions.  Our plan: 1) the hiring of a Chief resiliency Officer (to work across sectors and silos on a resilience agenda); 2) the development of a resilience strategy (taking 6-9 months to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses and the priorities); 3) assembling a platform of services to support and implement the strategy; and 4) membership in the peer-to-peer network where cities can share their successes and failures.  In 2013, we selected 32 cities to participate, and we are about to announce the next 33 in December; big and small, lots of variation, but also many similarities in what we’ve observed: 1) around infrastructure, cities need $57 trillion of infrastructure development through 2030, once in a lifetime opportunity to incorporate resilient design into cities; 2) Equality and social cohesion will define resilience agenda going forward—difference between cities that can handle a shock and those that can’t is whether they have cohesive communities (neighbors check on neighbors, mutual trust); 3) resilience challenges transcend borders and jurisdictions—we need to make municipalities stronger, but still have to work within coalitions and informal power. Surat example, in Gujarat: had plague in 1994, overhauled the public health system, did lots of community education; then in 2006, they had a massive flood—but they kept moving, kept growing, and kept learning from it.

Jim Anderson (Director, Government Innovation Programs, Bloomberg Philanthropies) spoke on “Delivering Innovation in Urban Governance: The mayors Challenge.”


Cities have to get better at innovating—policy, governance, and nuts-and-bolts operational things.  Cities struggle to scope out what they’re trying to accomplish; have a hard time thinking about problem-solving in new ways; and have difficult time taking risks.  Bloomberg Philanthropies is setting out to boost the capacity of local governments to innovate, focused on a couple of key ways.  First, continuous innovation: the relentless pursuit of better solutions for citizens (crafting a culture for generating new solutions; proactive government and city halls);  commitment of leaders (bring an urgency to things); critical importance of data (diagnosis, measuring success, communicating to public); flat beats vertical (too often organization is in silos, and funding supports the silos); curiosity v. creativity (need to be aware of what is already working elsewhere, don’t reinvent the wheel); plan to act (but don’t plan forever); long distance sprinting (keeping momentum by planning for quick wins within the long-haul struggle); don’t go it alone (find effective partners).  Some cities doing this extremely well: e.g., Michael Nutter in Philadelphia.  Most governments are just at the starting point: don’t think about innovation as a process that they can start and develop.  The Mayors Challenge, an innovation competition for cities that encourages mayors to develop bold new ideas to improve city life.  We have done it twice.  Broadly, encourages hundreds of cities to think more radically about new approaches and engage in a different set of conversations, take risks they otherwise would not tale.  Going deeply, we invest in the teams we select from the competition, engaging them in a very deep process over a period of many months—goal is not only to help with the projects that were submitted, but also to develop the tools to deal with these sorts of innovative projects.  Grand prize winner, Barcelona, used a human-centered design process, used lean principles for implementation, utilized a complicated but sophisticated partnership with academics, civil institutions, and citizens.  The second key factor we call the innovation delivery approach: small teams located within city hall, reporting directly to the mayor as an in-house innovation consultancy.  Memphis, Mayor Wharton {AC Wharton, by whom I have been deeply impressed, has also been a member of our friend Dan Rose’s somewhat similar Rose Center for Public Leadership } has used these procedures to reduce commercial vacancy rates in some very distressed areas by 30% and generated hundreds of small  business starts.  In New Orleans, Mayor Landrieu has used our approach to generate a citywide campaign against murder, resulting in a nearly 20% reduction in murder, 2012 to 2013. We’ll be scaling this up to another 20 citie over the coming 2 years.


Narinder Nayar (Chairman, Bombay First)


I want to share the example of Bombay, where we have developed a very effective PPP between the state government and the private sector.  At one time, Bombay had been a primary port city; the PPP, following a McKinsey study which analyzed what the city was lacking and what it needed, set up a structure of dealing with the problem of lack of implementation—a problem of inadequate governance: there were 17 agencies responsible for building in the city (some responsible to the state, some responsible to the municipal corporation—with a total lack of coordination); also the planning process was totally inadequate.  There are 9 municipal corporations in the metropolitan region, and no single person responsible for that area.  What we need is a proper mayor.  We need to involve the politicians in the PPP model. I don’t see the politicians who are critically important in the process here today—they need to be.

Andy: You talked about the idea of a “PPPC:; who is the “C”?  If government isn’t an elected government, how do we define who the private sector is going to deal with?  How did you do that—how do you bring the C in, and how are they included?

Arun:  We talk about stakeholders—used to mean employees, now the community at large.  In any PPP, the community had three interests: they are primarily the users (whether it is electricity, water, roads); there may be resources that are controlled by the community; and ultimately the community pays for it, in one form or another. You need to bring the community in right from the outset. In the most painful example of land acquisition, you can do forcible acquisition by the government, or you can go to the community and work out what works for both of you.

Narinder:  We could bring in the corporate sector, but we needed assurances that the government would be there and tell us what they wanted; wanted to work with the government.  The government has by and large been very responsive; but the system doesn’t work, won’t move.

Partha: We don’t really have an urban government in Bombay.

Ashwin Mahesh (Co-Founder, Mapunity)  I used to be a climate scientist; climate models did not used to include the Arctic or Antarctic in their models—would make predictions about what was going to happen to the whole world, and they were leaving out about 35-40º of latitude—and the most important ones.


These kinds of discussions remind me of that: we talk about state government and city government, and we don’t talk about citizens.  We need to remember that government is the creation of citizens, and not  the other way around; we tend to talk as if government got created in 1774 or 1947, and it is not really true.  Citizens have the continuous right to rethink government and reset the basis in which government is done.  We know, “Of the people, for the people, and by the people,” but we treat it as if all three mean the same thing, and they don’t; “by the people,” in my reading, this means that there are certain things we expect governments to do that, in fact, citizens themselves ought to be able and empowered to do themselves.  The solution to the challenges facing cities is increasing the number of problem-solving people; and the largest pool of such people is the citizenry. We keep mentioning Bangalore; it has 1,000 people a day coming into it—and the reason is that the people there have much more traction in the shaping of conditions on the ground than in most parts of the country. People worry that if we were to trust people to organize the solutions, it would end up being for the rich and middle classes, and leave out the poor; but the rich and the middle class do care about the poor: the public school system was not set up by the poor, the public health system was not set up by the poor.  We have not even begun to talk about what citizens are capable to do.

Sanjay Sridhar (Regional Director for South and West Asia, C40)


There are cities where the mayor changes every six months—where the only position with any longevity is the junior assistant engineer; a terrible problem of continuity.  Civil society can actually function as the knowledge partner for the government—as a major part of the problem-solving.  I’m from Bangalore, and in Bangalore there is a program known as B-CLIP (Bangalore City Incubation Program) in which civil society is actually training people elected across the many wards of the city in budget management, in participatory, integrative planning; never been done before; but also training people aspiring to being councilors—the next generation, who will stand for municipal office in the future.  B-CLIP invests in the city by investing in its future.  Another example is the neighborhood improvement district—taking an entire city ward and figuring out what needs to be done to bring in infrastructure, water, solid waste management, land use change, etc., smallest scale planning on the smallest scale of government. Cities are now taking the lead, because problem-solving actually takes place on that level, where outcomes can be related to election cycles.  Cities in India are complex, but they are informally organized. Government needs to re-envision the role that it plays, from being a service provider to being an enabler of services.

Sanjeev Sanval (Global Strategist, Deutsche Bank, and old Urban Age friend)


said that while cities are complex adaptive systems, governing them does not have to be an organic process, expecting vision to emerge from the people upward. My view is that ultimately it comes down to leadership and vision; and in a democracy, people vote to choose between visions and different leaders, they don’t formulate those visions—at best, they choose between visions.  Prime Minister Modi, on the national level, has come up with the vision of 100 Smart Cities; one can like it or not like it, but we have a PM who says that is what we are going to build.  What we need to debate is what that is, but not debate where the vision will come from.  It is not going to happen in a vacuum: most of these Smart Cities will be built as extensions of existing cities.  How do we create the actual partnerships? We need to design what actually works in the historical and social context of the place itself.  Partnerships have to exist in the actual context.  60 years ago, we actually tried to build some new cities; and when those cities were built—by a chap named Le Corbusier—we made a real disaster of it: many of India’s cities today are dysfunctional as a direct result of his influence.  All the functional cities in India today were built before we became independent; since then India has not been able to create a single, good, functional city, because of the Le Corbusier influence, outside of India’s historical and social context.  But this cannot be about communities to come up with some wonderful vison; vision is a top-down phenomenon—we choose our leader to lead.  Sanjeev also had much to say about slums and the role the 100 Smart Cities plan would play in the movement of people within the country in his pithy essay in the conference Newspaper,

One of the major mental shifts of recent years, especially among policy-makers, has been the recognition that urbanisation is an intrinsic part of economic development. Rather than being seen as a problem to be denounced and somehow delayed, it is now accepted that urbanisation, in its various forms, needs to be accommodated.

The implication of this shift is that 300-350 million additional people have to be accommodated in urban centres within a generation, even though Indian cities are already struggling to provide for the existing population. The Prime Minister clearly appreciates the issue and his plan to create 100 smart cities should be seen as an attempt to create urban infrastructure in anticipation of the deluge.

…In particular, we need to think about how hundreds of millions of people will be matched to jobs, homes and amenities according to their needs and abilities.

Once one looks past the squalor, slums are ecosystems buzzing with activity – shops, mini-factories, people moving in, people moving out. This is where migrants will first find shelter, get their first job, become connected with social networks and receive information about opportunities in the wider city. In other words, slums play a critical role as routers in the migration process.

To conclude, slums have always played an important role in the urbanization process. This is where new migrants are absorbed and naturalised into the urban system. Indian policy-makers need to design for urban spaces that will play the same role. By anticipating this need, one hopes that the absorption process can be made more efficient and the worst of the squalor can be avoided.

Partha: I am reminded of a story about Le Corbusier returning to Quartier Modernes Fruges, a housing project at Pessac he had done many years earlier, and the person showing him around said, “Look what the people have done to it!” Le Corbusier replied, “You know, it is always life that is right and the architect who is wrong.”  Sanjeev says that this community stuff really doesn’t work; you don’t know whom to engage with; you can’t find your leadership; how the hell is this going to work?

Ashwin:  This is a complex problem: it’s like education: there’s a popular saying, “If you think getting an education is hard, try going through life without it.”  Putting cities together in a way that leverages what people actually want is difficult; but doing it any other way is even more difficult, and less likely to get to a good outcome.  It is possible to build coalitions of people who get together and push for good outcomes, and in the process build political and social capital and things needed to make the city make certain types of choices.

Sanjay: For far too long, we’ve avoided working with elected officials, because of the skepticism in the community that you can’t trust them.  The planning process in Kolkata only requires there be at least one public consultation before the plan is ratified; so what the agency does is that after the plan is drafted, it’s put out for public comment, and then they say we met the legal requirement of putting it up.  Communities have to be involved at all levels of the process—at the input, at the throughput, and at the output—because that is the fundamental process of “by the people” that the government has to satisfy.

Partha: We need to get people back into the city, and we need to get politics back into the city.  Is governing a city too complex to be left to the people?  What do people think?  Let’s get the room into this…

Henk Ovink: Working in the Northeastern region after Hurricane Sandy, it was about the inclusive leadership of government to let go, not to say this is the vision we have; but also not to step out of the way of the people, of the NGOs, the market, businesses, science; it was exactly creating together with all those partners a collaboration—leadership on all sides, not only government, but citizens—having this inclusive approach, by setting a stage where you all step in—not only putting in your dollars, but your time, your data, your design and thinking—and be able not to reach for a middle, but rather to reach for the top.  I think what all of you are saying is that if you give in a little to what your neighbor is trying to enable, you actually get to a better functioning city.  If you point to the government, or the citizens, or any one group to play the part by itself, you will fail. So, inclusive leadership is letting go.

Andy:  There is this whole question of institutional change and flexibility: how do you really build in the sense that there is a possibility to effect long term change that will go beyond the immediate term of whoever is instituting it—issues of institutional change and time.

Partha: Part of the issue is about building trust—and trust doesn’t come easy, especially in environments where people have not always been given what they’ve been promised.  How do you build that into your time frame?  Especially in India, as we move into new forms of government, people wonder, is this form of governance a search for a better future, and a better future for whom—and am I going to be part of that ride?

Michael: I do believe that it is a real tension for everyone involved, whatever you are going for takes real time. Projects like righting wrongs, restoring the wetlands, etc., are generations-long projects, and that’s what real change is about.  How do you combine long range planning with some sustaining short-term wins?

Ashwin: Who is the person you can think of who is likely to be in the same position over a long period of time—that’s the citizen.  Who is the person who experiences the integrated output of all the different departments rather than just one, again, the citizen. On the question of trust: if you build a system that assumes that people cannot be trusted to do what is good for each other by mutual cooperation, you will actually end up with the problem you are talking about.

Michael:  But it’s also the citizens who are throwing out the leaders who do not show some quick wins year in year and year out.  It was the citizens who threw out the BRT project before it got a chance to function properly.

Andy: We were talking in the first session about decentralization, and that on the one hand citizens were indifferent, that there wasn’t really a demand from communities to change governance—but there’s an urgency, urbanization is happening.  How do you get the urgency in people? How do you get them to demand the kind of change in urban governance that you envision? What will motivate them?

Anshwin: They actually are quite motivated. We got the 74th Amendment wrong, too: we should have put financial devolution at the very end of that pipeline, should have moved the money down the system first, and all the other things would have happened subsequently if we had done that first.  Telling people that they have a voice, they have a right, but they don’t get to make any budgetary decisions about how money should be used; have to bring money to the choices people make around that money, and then the rest will follow.


Deutsche Bank Urban Age Award Ceremony

The Deutsche Bank Urban Age Award is a travelling prize presented to initiatives within a specific city that utilize partnerships to improve the quality of life and the quality of the urban environment. The award celebrates the Urban Age mission that connects quality of life to the quality of the urban environment, and it is given to projects that improve the urban conditions of their communities and the lives of their residents. The winners are selected by an independent jury following an open call for applications. Since 2007, the award, worth USD 100,000, has been presented to initiatives based in Mumbai, São Paulo, Istanbul, Mexico City, Cape Town and Rio de Janeiro.

The evening of 14 November Friday, the seventh Deutsche Bank Urban Age Award was presented at the residency of Germany’s Ambassador to India, Michael Steiner.



Here Ambassador Steiner and his wife Eliese welcome Craig Calhoun.



Anshu Jain (Co-CEO of Deutsche Bank) presided over the ceremony:


There were two projects sharing this year’s award: Chintan, Material recovery Facility (MRF), New Delhi Railway Station, and GOONJ. The first, Chintan, is described thusly on the Award’s website:

The MRF project at the New Delhi Railway station manages tons of unsorted garbage from the numerous trains that arrive at the railway station everyday. The garbage which would otherwise end up in landfill dumps outside the city is sorted into organic and non-organic waste by trained workers at the center. The organic waste is then composted into manure through micro- composting and the non-organic waste is systematically sorted into various recyclable components of which only 20% ends up in landfills. Proper management and systematization of the process leads to more dignified livelihoods for the otherwise marginalized rag-picking community. The sorted waste is passed on to various corporate producers, such as TetraPack, for recycling. The project emerged from a partnership between Chintan, Safai Sena (an association of waste-pickers) and the New Delhi railway station. The profits generated through the project are utilized to improve social awareness among the rag-picking community and to create educational facilities for children of the waste-pickers. The facility stands on a former garbage dump, which has been transformed into a dignified and clean working space where the trained rag-pickers come and carry out their livelihoods. The facility is a part of six MRF facilities that the organization operates around the city, which collectively divert about 21 tons of waste from 3 landfills in the city. The project demonstrates that with process innovation and courageous partnership-building with corporates, residents and institutions, a just, ecological and inclusive approach to urban waste management in a mega-city like Delhi is both possible and urgent.

 Here Anshu Jain presents the award to the leaders of Chintan:


The second winner, GOONJ, is described thusly on the Award’s website:

GOONJ is an NGO formed in the year 1999 working on issues of urban waste and social distribution. It believes in utilizing vast quantities of untapped old and waste material in middle class households and re-using material to create second-hand products. The material left at GOONJ drop- in centers is sorted at a facility run by the group at Madanpur- Khadarpur village in Delhi's south-east, a conservative- marginalized neighborhood, that has seen positive changes in attitude after the facility was set up there. The nesting of the facility inside the community ensures local employment opportunities for women in the area. The sorted material is then utilized as a parallel currency for development programs in rural areas like ‘Cloth for work’, whereby hundreds of grassroots programs, such as digging wells, sanitation drives and making bamboo bridges are undertaken through partnerships with local NGO’s. GOONJ deals with about 1000 tons of solid waste annually, allowing nothing to end up in landfills, the otherwise unusable materials like torn clothes, used books and notebooks etc. are transformed into various usable products through the imagination of their workers. Some products are also sold through various channels to generate funds that help sustain the organization. The last bits of otherwise torn and unusable cloth material are also transformed into sanitary pads produced for rural women under the ‘My Pad’ program. The project forms a creative and locally embedded workplace in Delhi and demonstrates the importance of more sustainable forms of production and consumption.

Here Anshu Jain presents the award to the leader of GOONJ, Anshu Gupta:




Morning Session

Introduction: From Governance to Planning

Philipp Rode (Executive Director of the Urban Age and LSE Cities) gave a wonderfully informative talk on “Shaping Urban Futures: The Divergent Roles of Urban Governments.”


Philipp began by reviewing some of the key themes from the day before:  they were dominated by the key relationship between government and governance, with the provocative perspective of Sue Parnell on “the tyranny of governance, “which we need to overcome; also the pairing of people and mayors, and the tension between direct and representative democracy, about which Sanjeev and Ashwin had a bit of a go at each other in that regard.   He presented some of the research he and his team has been doing (all of which you should look at online in the conference Newspaper), especially the survey of city government that is part of the larger work they are doing at LSE Cities in collaboration with the Herrhausen Foundation, UN Habitat, the McArthur Foundation and others—the goal of which is to unpack the formalized institutionalized aspect of urban governance across the world.  He presented their data on 50 cities across the globe, across different wealth levels—an interesting snapshot that will be of help to our discussions, in that it helps us know what is going on on the ground in these diverse contexts. Two extreme examples: Andosol 3 (one of the world’s largest solar thermal power plants in Southern Spain producing renewable electricity for ~100,000 people), which is an urban project, a project by a city government—the city of Munich, located more than 1,700 kilometers away—but, due to its public ownership of its local utility company, it is a major player in the international renewable energy market; another scalar surprise of urban government relates to a bike path in Santiago, the capital of Chile, where quite a lot of the cycling program and infrastructure is managed by Chile’s national government.   The question of autonomy of cities came up strongly yesterday; and one of the issues is the extent to which city governments rely on transfers of funds from national governments.  Here are two extremes: in La Paz, 85% of the city’s annual budget comes from Bolivia’s national government; by contrast, Stockholm only relies 5% on national funding.  But there are many things cities share:  first, in what capacities can citizens actually influence local policies (out of 50)—for the most part, still most by voting in elections (44), public hearings and consultations (42), petitions and complaint forms (32 each in online and old style), but interestingly, 18 through participatory budgeting (and this is increasing as a modality; what are the major governance disruptions (out of 45)—not surprisingly, given recent events, economic recession was #1 (23), followed by changes in national policies (21), but with natural disasters a distant last (2); what are the major governance constraints (out of 47)—#1 was the predictability of resources (it is not the absolute lack of funding, but rather the unpredictability of funding that presents the greatest difficulties), and they are least constrained by lack of public and private sector support (which were at the bottom). Next, who is leading what is being done in urban policy sectors (the things city governments actually do): spatial planning, culture, utilities and urban transport, and housing are primarily led on the metropolitan level, city level, or below; in contrast, health education, and economic development are highly centralized and led on the state or national levels or higher.  Ovet the period 2000-2030, it is predicted that urban land will increase threefold; managing or limiting that increase will inevitably involve urban governance.  Urban transport, a sector viewed as overwhelmingly urban, looks different if you examine closely enough: actually the more strategic and capital intensive the sub-sections of this area (the infrastructure and operations of highway, suburban rail, and metro underground v. walking, local streets, cycling, taxis and buses operations), the more the national or state level is involved as opposed to city and metropolitan.  It is impossible to overestimate the strategic importance of spatial planning and urban infrastructure, and the interrelationship between them—among the few areas where we can proactively design futures.  In Atlanta and Berlin, cities with relatively similar wealth levels, similar population size, and probably similar levels of life style, the former does only 8% of its commuting by public transportation, cycling or walking, whereas Berlin the number is 68%; once you’re locked into this, you are not easily going to get away from it.  LSE Cities worked with the UN’s Commission on the Economy and Climate Change to produce the Better Growth/Better Climate report; and it was the material about cities that resonated the most with national leaders, who felt this was something they needed and wanted to know more about.  Found that the external cost of sprawl in the US was more than $400 billion/year; and then the good news related to the massive opportunity for reducing urban infrastructure capital requirements --$300 trillion over 50 years.  Our engagement at this conference with the relationship of institutions and governance—the how of the city—on the one hand, and on the other the spatial configurations, the planning—the what—is not an abstract conversation; it is a very real engagement with the concrete world and understanding how we are building what we are seeing out there.

Governing Land: Managing Urban Expansion (Co-Chairs: Reuben Abraham, Chief Executive Officer and Senior Fellow, IDFC Institute, and Michael Cohen, Professor of International Affairs, The New School)


Michael Cohen began by raising the question of what are the criteria for evaluating good performance; those of us who started working on the city level have come to realize that the criteria we use have become global—a question of global survival.  How we think about land involves recognizing that urban form is a public good, with important implications for equity; how these forms contribute to urban value.  We are talking about something very serious, on various levels from the global to the local.

Karen C. Seto (Professor of Geography and Urbanization, Yale University) spoke on “The Exponential Growth in Urban Land.”


Global land use in the context of the global climate discussion has left out the role of human settlements and spatial planning.  The current IPCC report includes a chapter on this for the first time this year; ten key messages:

1)    Urban land use is expanding much faster than urban population on every continent: we know the demographic statistics, but didn’t know about the land statistics; population densities are declining, urban sprawl is occurring on all economic levels; more granularly, African cities are building primarily out, India similarly; Chinese cities are growing both up and out

2)    There is a window of opportunity over the next 15 or 20 years to shape the built environment

3)     What drives urban expansion is different in different parts of the world: in India, primarily driven by migration and population growth, whereas in N. America, Europe, and increasingly China, driven by economic activity

4)    Urban areas are a focal point for energy use and emissions, but offer opportunities to shape mitigation strategies; in Annex I countries (principally N. America and Europe), urban per capita energy use is lower than national averages, but in Non-Annex I, developing countries, energy use is higher than national averages (because a lot of manufacturing is occurring in these areas)

5)    Accessibility rather than density is the key factor for lowering emissions and making for more livability

6)    Density is a necessary but not sufficient condition for lowering urban emissions (have to look at configuration of density)

7)    Governance paradox: greatest opportunities for GHG improvements may be in places where institutional and governance capacities are the weakest—need to think about multi-level governance for this

8)    Different spatial planning tools (at different spatial scales) have different ability to raise revenue or require expenditure; different cities have to figure out what is most appropriate to their context

9)    Our forecasts only show this very narrow window going out 20 years forward; in places like India, the urban population is only expected to exceed the rural population sometime in the middle of the 21st century, which is a different time frame of ramp-up

10)  What cities are actually doing: many have climate change mitigation strategies, but very few focus on urban land use—which is the low-hanging fruit, or the gorilla in the room

The cities that are low carbon, also tend to be the most livable.  Spatial issues also have a great impact on resilience.

Arvind Panagarivya (Professor of Economics, Columbia University) spoke on “Land Markets in India.”


Urbanization is all about land, and we need to think about efficient use of existing land—more space for the existing population, businesses, and to accommodate migration.  India has an ambitious plan, Delhi Mumbai Industrial Corridor (DMIC), to link Delhi and Bombay, which involves acquiring a great deal of land. PM Modi plans to build dozens of new cities.  In the past, government would simply grab the land, which was cheap; but, under the very complicated Land Acquisition Act (2013), things are going to the other extreme: there has to be a minimum of 5 years from start to finish (even without bureaucratic delays); the cost of land in India is higher than anywhere in the world; and in the first 11 months of its existence, there has been no new land acquisition at all. As for existing land and cities under the Land Ceiling Act of 1976—it imposes a ceiling on empty horizontal spaces (can’t hold onto any empty land, government gets to buy it for a song); if you try to sell it, government can exercise the same option); there is the vertical problem of low FSI, built up spaces are restricted and taken up by Rent Control laws.  People hang on to old buildings (renters won’t leave; owners won’t tear down and rebuild for fear of lowered FSI). We need to change acquisition rules back so they are more balanced so it is more balanced. Reforms are necessary at the city level, but most of the power resides elsewhere.  Delhi is a little better, because it is a city and a state.

Ananya Roy (Professor of City and Regional Planning, University of California, Berkeley) spoke on “The Land Question.”


I have three themes and three propositions. Theme One: Chief Minister of Singapore declared, “Land is not a problem,” saying large parcels of undisputed land were available. Theme two, at the suburban edges of Chicago, amidst foreclosed homes in impoverished neighborhoods, the Chicago Anti-Eviction Campaign undertakes occupation group foreclosed homes, with the simple motto: “Homeless people mean people need homes.” Theme Three:  Small town in Tunisia, a young street vendor harassed by the police for selling without a license, sets himself on fire, and his self-immolation catalyzes the street protests that have come to be called the Arab Spring. Proposition one: the urban question is increasingly the land question; state intervention in the ownership, use, and redistribution of land are key; one form is the land grab, which has been common in India, but another is how the state undertakes the settlement of land, by which is meant how land is transformed into private property (The Rajiv Awas Yojana program—the “slum-free cities policy—that was launched in India a few years ago to grant legal title to slum dwellers—in doing so it transforms the complex multiple regimes of ownership and residence called “slums” into the neat little parcels of transactional property, and more ambitiously into assets with global legibility—“the poor man will have his value represented on paper”—but really a way to monetize the property of the poor.  Proposition two: The land question is precisely the problem of land—land cannot so easily be transferred (e.g., from an executive in one country to one in another)—and uninhabited, undisputed land is a fantasy; in what capacity does the state have the right and capacity to assemble, acquire, and manage land?  We have to pay close attention to the peripheries of metropolitan regions, where urban and rural systems collide, and where informality makes possible the territorial accessibility by the state (Urban informality in China is manifested in “urban villages,” is created by the disjunction of the urban and rural land management systems—rural land is collectively owned, while urban land is state owned; rapid land development in China at the rural-urban interface has been actively pursued by local governments capitalizing on the land use rights acquired from rural collectives and conveyed at high fees to urban investors—not only “speculative urbanism,” but also “speculative governance”.) This is what Neil Brenner has described as the global condition of urban transformation. And these landscapes are highly uneven—and things take place within the informalized production of space; distinction of “elite informality (which is supported by the state) and “subaltern informality” (which is marginalized and criminalized by the state).  Third proposition is that we must be sensitive to the movements that are coalescing around the struggles over land. Poor people’s movements in the global south are becoming models for movements in the global north: the Chicago Anti-Eviction Campaign was modeled on the Western Cape Anti-Eviction Campaign in South Africa, but whereas the motto there was, “No house, No land, No vote,” in Chicago they used an obscure aspect of a law to occupy properties by homesteading—but is this a movement toward “the right not to be excluded”?  The self-immolation of that street vendor in Tunisia I mentioned—and indeed the Arab Spring—must be understood as a cry for property rights.  What if the cry on the world’s streets is for more than the right to buy and sell? What if it is the refusal of the extraordinary inequality of land ownership, state power, and social surplus?

Solomon Benjamin (Associate Professor, IIT, Madras) spoke on “Governing Urban Expansion in India and China.”


The question is who uses land and for what: the materializing of tenure—legitimizing  the spaces that make up bulk of the city, but also the politics of land grab and gain (or tenure grab and gain) as occupancy urbanism. Globally connected (e.g., India and China: interconnected small sub-areas like urban India’s “China Bazaars” [and Delhi’s “Urban Villages”] and Hua Qiang Bei Road, Guangzhou)—often in the form of repair or duplication without respect to copyright or patent (“brand opacity,” in which it’s impossible to know who and where something is made—co-production across national borders, sometimes illegal or “porously legality” in a way not permitted nationally, but works locally).  These small businesses sit on land legally, but this situation gives tenure in places that would have been attractive to global capital.  Land ownership in complex legal form in high density urban areas make for a situation of enormous political intensity.  Two forms of development and tenure: single land use, large scale ownership where real estate surpluses are consolidated and go into corporate, often global hands; and mixed land use, multiple tenure, more fluid forms of ownership, where surpluses are widely distributed in primarily local ways.  India and China have complex ways of dealing with land, but we can talk about how in complex local bureaucratic ways these issues effect things—and these bureaucracies transcend the democratic/non-democratic differences of the two countries.

Reuben Abraham asked the speakers what they thought was feasible to do in the context of the political economy, on the FSI issue , how do you break the nexus of the developers and the politicians (particularly since the scarcity benefits the politicians)?


Arvind:  As for the land acquisition, I’d work on it on the national level, and if that didn’t work on the state level—both, actually.

Reuben: Are you suggesting it’s a rule of law issue, or are you suggesting that the entire social contract needs re-evaluating?

Ananya: The idea that the slum is an illegal space that needs to be demolished, while the areas on the edge of Delhi or in the new towns are not is deeply problematic: whether there needs to be a whole changing of the social contract or not, there needs at least to be a recognition that the various kinds of elite informality (which produce urban and suburban sprawl) are affecting things, and need to shift away from the emphasis on the illegality of the land held by the urban poor—and think more about their role in the urban economy.

Michael Cohen: There are things in the ICCP report on the impact of future city building on emissions; can Karen share what she’s heard about that.

Karen: The report concluded that the issue of the energy required to construct the built environment was actually half that of what it takes to operate buildings—and that it is forecast to exceed that amount. What are the alternative scenarios of urban development that take this into account.

Michael: Which is to say that when we talk about the 100 new cities in India, merely the energy for construction of 100 new cities would contribute significantly to emissions and climate change.  We have to think inside out: what is the impact of the city on the global, if we are to think about cities in the future.

Karen: Have to think about the role of adaptation and mitigation—the development of urban form will have serious impact in adaptability of these places—and the effects of climate change.

Solomon: We already have in India 4-5 story, high-density, mixed land use; but we have urban development that uses FAR to demolish those and build up new towers, which consume open space and use the energy embedded in the costs Karen is describing.  Issues of FAR have to be considered in the context of their impact on inequality and urban form.  In situ redevelopment has come to mean something very different from what it had meant: now means you displace people on the assumption you’re going to have this 14,15, 16 floor high block which gets one into the problem—dangerous direction to completely rework without understanding what you already have.

Arvind: Has been built and rebuilt seven times.  Maybe something that Indians don’t like…

Karen: Cities are constantly undergoing change, but we can’t focus only on density; IN THE Chinese context what they’re focused on—cities are incredibly dense, but little co-location of employment and housing, resulting in very low accessibility, which is key: how does one access the services one needs to get to.

Ananya: Do we think about land as a concrete entity on a map, or as a series of social relationships?  Examples of Manhattan and Singapore are interesting, but in India we are looking at cities that are largely made up of the urban poor, with informal claims to the city—but are they the key constituency? In Singapore, the pain is shifted to a large foreign work force that can be quarantined on the edge of the city. Have to think how not just to shift the pain onto the urban poor.

Reuben: Is that a rule of law question? Manhattan also started with a majority of urban poor.

Ananya: It’s a power question.

Reuben: But isn’t it a power question because the rule of law isn’t holding for everyone equally?

Ananya: Who has the power to exercise the law in order to dispossess? It is the rule of law in Singapore that keeps foreign workers consigned to the outskirts of the city and deprived of the benefits of the city.  In India we have a new regime in place; and the new emphasis on intensive urban planning and programs to legalize rights to title—and this would be a challenge to the status quo (which will not be instituted under this new regime); but has come about from various movements which have challenged land rights and the way land rights have come about.

Solomon: This status quo issue is a red herring: in Delhi you had farm land which grew up over time to be Asia’s biggest center for making cables and conductors, through a process of land development where complex tenure forms allowed those industries to put resources into manufacturing—none of that was status quo.  Creates a kind of dynamism; but not recognized, because it’s located within the category of the illegal, non-conforming.  Question is who makes the law.

Arvind: I understand that change is always happening; what I see as happening is that Singapore transforms itself from something to something.  Transformation is far, far slower in most places in India

KEYNOTE: Saskia Sassen (Professor of Sociology, Columbia University), “Who Owns the City


New research she’s doing on the growing number of cities that are increasingly the destination of huge amounts of real estate investment: question is at what point the buying of buildings is actually the buying of urban land.  Much of the investment produces mega-buildings; when mega-projects, there is a privatizing of a bit of the city—and a de-urbanizing of a bit of that city.  NY, London, of course have long histories of being destinations for investment; but all kinds of other cities.

Displacement of people.  Land grabs: since 2006, over 200 million hectares have been acquired by foreign investors in a variety of countries: a little in Europe; but vast amounts in Africa, by contrast.  Foreclosures: 13 million households (30 million individuals) in the US since ’03; in Europe, high foreclosure rates in Germany, Spain, UK, Hungary; low in Netherlands, Denmark, Finland) —how can things not be connected with the buying of land by others? Destinations for major investors—a whole array of patterns, led by NY ($55 billion in one year!) and London:

If just looking at foreign, cross-border investors, London leads, followed by Paris, and then NY.  What does this massive de-urbanizing of urban space mean for governance?

City is not just a matter of density: and office park is dense, but not a city.  A city is a complex but incomplete system—and in that mix lies the capacity for cities continually to reinvent themselves across time. Also, city is a place where those without power get to make history, economy (think of immigrant communities), and culture.  The mega-projects developers are introducing into cities produce density, but they also de-urbanize.  One of the biggest companies in China just bought the vast swath of partly industrial land in NY known as Atlantic Yards. They are going to build 14 mega-apartment buildings: it will bring density, but not a city—endless rows of housing, that is not urban.

Usually urban land is purchased by buying buildings; at this mega-scale, one is directly buying urban land.  When you add to that the foreclosures, what are we seeing?  Why the interest? Same with rural and, BTW: the biggest buyers of rural land in 2006 when the economic crisis was brewing were hedge funds.  We are really dealing with the fact of the shrinking supply of land and of water (“dead land/dead water”), and the scarcity of good investments—which means this process will only grow.  What does it mean to develop urban governance mechanism to deal with the large scale purchasing of urban land? What does that do to cities?

As Saskia pointed out in her article, “Who Owns the City,” in the conference Newspaper:

…at the current scale of acquisitions, we are actually seeing a systematic transformation in the pattern of land ownership in cities which has deep and significant implications for equity, democracy and rights. This is particularly so because what was small and/or public is becoming large and private, though often with local government support. Some of the most noxious developments of “site assembly” happen when one or two city blocks are bought by one owner, whether local or foreign, and the city authorities cave in to their requirements for street closures, and more, often in the name of enhanced security.

The overall effect has been a reduction in public buildings and an escalation in the amount of private ownership. This brings with it a reduction in the texture and scale of spaces previously accessible to the public – a space that was more than just public buildings.  Where before there was a government office building handling the regulations and oversight of this or that public economic sector, now there might be a corporate headquarters, a luxury apartment building, or a mall.

…The key issue is not the fact of foreign ownership, but the shifts in ownership mode – from modest or small to large and expensive, and from modest public properties to expensive private ones. Examples of scale-ups in private ownership are Gurgaon in Delhi, Santa Fe in Mexico City or Sandton in Johannesburg.

Gerald Frug’s argument in A Rule of Law for Cities comes to mind, that “...we need to open up the contestability of economic development policy...to a democratically organised institution [which] should represent people city-wide. The participants should be empowered to establish the city’s strategy for economic growth, with the experts advising the decision-makers rather than being the decision- makers. The goal is to include the very people left out in the reigning economic development strategy.”

Having a robust urban public space is critical at a time when national political space is increasingly dominated by powerful actors, both private and public, only minimally accountable to a city’s people. There is a kind of “public-making” work that can happen in urban space, and that helps us see the local and the silenced. Our (still) large complex global cities are one key space for this making: they are today a strategic frontier zone for those who lack power, those who are disadvantaged, outsiders, minorities who are discriminated against. The disadvantaged and excluded can gain presence in such cities, presence vis-à-vis power and presence vis-à-vis each other. This signals the possibility of a new type of politics, centred on new types of political actors. It is not simply a matter of having or not having power. These are new hybrid bases from which to act, spaces where the powerless can make history even when they are not empowered.

Strategic Infrastructure: Futures by Design.  (Co-Chairs: Philipp Rode, Executive Director of LSE Cities and the Urban Age, and Jose Castillo, Principal, Arquitectura 911 sc, Mexico City, and old Urban Age friend)


Jose introduced the session by noting that Peter Hall (who recently passed away) wrote, in his book, Great Planning Disasters, that it was in the infrastructure that we fail the most—used examples of failed infrastructures that were planning disasters. What is strategic about “strategic infrastructure”? Are we using it for economic development (the kind of “build it and they will come” that Ed Glaeser alluded to yesterday)? Strategic because it produces social equity or sustainability? Or as a symbolic tool? Second question has to do with governance—who decides about infrastructure: what are the roles for politicians, bureaucrats, activists, experts, or citizens in deciding about those things? Third is about allocation of resources—what is the strategic understanding of resources: is it a “schizophrenic” model (cities all over developing bike-share programs at the same time as elevated highways); is it a question of large v. small; or hard v. soft (smart or dumb cities)—invest in the hard infrastructure of the 19th century re-envisioned for the 21st, or should we be thinking about data and other technological approaches revamping out approach to thinking about infrastructure?

Philipp announced that this section would begin with three sets of pairs of short presentations, getting to discussion after each pair.  The first pair will be about larger scale issues.  Second will be about how collective decision-making can be used in various types of urban infrastructures.  The final part will discuss the volume, size and purpose of road infrastructure in cities.

Thomas K. Wright (Executive Director, Regional Plan Association, NY) spoke on “New York’s Regional Rail: Overcoming the Metropolitan Dilemma?


Case study of NY metropolitan mass transit infrastructure system, making larger points based on this one example. Trends changing dramatically in last 10-15 years, improving dramatically: gains in population (up 2.3 million residents) and employment, but opportunities limited for far too many people (only ¼ of the population has seen a rise in income, ¾ have seen a decline in real wages; costs have risen; industries where employment is growing tend to pay less, and those that pay more are losing jobs); geographically, the suburbanization trend has reversed (NYC has rebounded quickly from the recession of 2008-9, recovering all of the lost jobs within two years, whereas Northern New Jersey and Long Island are still trying to recover to where they were 9 years ago.  People are happier and more optimistic than they were 10 years ago; at the same time, institutions are failing people.  MTA and Port Authority are the two quasi-private entities that do the long-term planning; the institutions that are supposed to be thinking long-term, increasingly have CEOs whose experience and tenure are short-term (in place for an average of only two years), at the same time as projects are taking longer and longer, and costing more.  Transit has been growing due to investments in the 70s and 80s in the transit system; Penn Station sees about twice the daily ridership coming into it as it did in the 1970s—almost all that growth coming from west of the Hudson River, on the NJ Transit side; and subways carrying more people than at any time since WWII.  Commuter rail is what extends NYC to the region around it—~½ million crossing the Hudson River most via mass transit; the following image is scary to me:

It is the fragmented ownership of these systems: Metro-North and the Long Island Rail Road are both subsidiaries of the same agency (the MTA, created 45 years ago), supposedly working together (both respond to the same boss),].  Yet these two agencies are so unable to collaborate that the LIRR, which has been trying for 30 years to create a connection to Grand Central Terminal, was not able to get Metro-North (who owns the terminal) to give any track space, and instead the LIRR is being forced to build an enormous sub-basement to the tune of $12 billion underneath Grand Central, just because of the institutional failure of the two agencies to work together.  Amtrak, which runs the Northeast corridor, is bankrupt—mostly because congress makes it subsidize ridership around the rest of the country; and it owns the tunnel under the Hudson River, which is the life-blood for NJ Transit—90% of new commuters into the City are coming under the Hudson River from NJ, but there is no capacity other than that tunnel…and what we have learned is that due to damage from Hurricane Sandy, this tunnel will have to be shut down for over a year for repairs.  If we don’t get a new tunnel under that river, it will destroy the economy on NJ; and none of these things are being fixed right now.

Philipp: one question—what makes you more optimistic about how you can sort out that situation?

Tom:  I didn’t mean to end on that note. In the NY region, the planning is essentially not done by the city, it is not done by the state or the public authorities; actually my own organization, the RPA, has been a civic group that has done the planning for these entities—and puts it on the table for the public and the politicians to discuss.  This governance structure is a cause for optimism. 

Amitabh Kant (Secretary for Industrial Policy, India, and Chairman, Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor Development Corporation) spoke on “The Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor: Creating Location.”


The dedicated freight corridor which by 2018 will link up Delhi and ports on the western coast of India will only carry containers; at the moment it takes 14 days for things to be transported on this route (80% by truck via roads, and therefore highly polluting); when the train link is complete, goods will make the journey in 14 hours.  This connectivity provides India with the opportunity to create new urbanization. Originally an industrial project to drive India’s manufacturing, along the way we realized we do urbanization not for manufacturing, but for the people in that area.  New urbanization requires an economic driver; but manufacturing leads to young workers, their wives and children, coming into new cities—so when you plan for the urbanization, you plan for the people who are going to live in that area.  We realized that in the US, cities were planned when land was cheaply available; but in India, where land is scarce, you can’t have cities the way the Americans did (where you live in NJ and travel to NY, guzzling gas; you can’t create cities like Atlanta, where 85% drive to work in cars); you need to create cities embedded with public transportation systems—cities with good infrastructure up front.  Created another set of challenges: in Delhi you have cities like Gurgaon (where urbanization had been done by the private sector, and even four years later you don’t have a sewage system), on one side of it and Noida (where the quality of the infrastructure has been poor) on the other; whereas urbanization has already occurred in other parts of the world, in India it has only begun, so it’s important we figure out how to do sustainable urbanization—and the key thing is how do we do monetization of land values back into the cities again.  Given that you’re working in a federal structure, how do you work with the states to create a model where the states turn the moneys back into the special purpose vehicle that is building the new cities.  Seven cities we’re linking; broken them down into smaller cities; and in the cities, we have broken them down into smaller phases; treating the Smart Cities infrastructure just like any other layer.  Example of Dholera: laying down the trunk infrastructure, which will enable us to monetize the land values later; need to create affordable housing; but need to create the mechanism for capturing value as the prices rise and put it back into the city.

Philipp: one doesn’t have to know India to know this is a project that could not have been bigger—a quintessential, top-down, big-vision program—almost designing futures; requires a great level of confidence that the planning will be resilient enough to adjust to all kinds of shocks.

Amitabh: You weren’t involved in it—there were over 900 town meetings in the Dholera project. The people’s participation was a major part of it.

Ricky: That may be the case, but from the few images you show—of the plans of those cities—I cannot recognize them as being an Indian city: they look to me photo-copied, cookie-cutter copies of architecture from everywhere, what Richard Sennett was talking about yesterday. While the infrastructure planning that has gone into this is admirable, the same thing has not gone into the design: it is what Joan Clos was so critical of yesterday as a model.

Amitabh: This is only the master plan, which is about transportation, nothing else.  I showed one visual; you people have a biased mindset. You people have not even gone into the details at all and you are making very subjective comments.

Philipp tries valiantly to take control of the discussion; Amitabh talks over him: You come one day in a conference and you start making comments without even studying the master plan.

Philipp [talking over him]: I’d like to take three questions from the audience—and I’d like to hear Indian voices:

Dunu Roy from the Hazards Centre: power point presentations often remind me of ads for male underwear: they reveal everything but disclose nothing.  My question is if there had been 900 meetings to propose this corridor, why is it that in Dholera there is a people’s movement that is opposing the whole project?

[someone] from Transportation Research: I’d like you to comment on monetization of land to develop cities v. affordability of housing in the cities being developed.

[someone]: I’m curious about the integrated water management policies.  Could you elucidate how you have gone about thinking about it—how the water is going to be procured and distributed in these places?

Amitabh: I hadn’t wanted to make a presentation; I had said a discussion would be better; but you wanted a presentation, so I ran through some slides in one minute.  There is a train which runs through the corridors; the train runs through 6 states of India; each city does local planning—requires local interaction with the community living in that area. In the case of Dholera, detailed interaction has been done; after that interaction, the plan was approved by the state and land was taken in phases; the first phase of that has been taken, and the work is in execution, and, to my mind, in Dholera there has not been any objection by anyone—this is the first time I’m hearing from someone taking a mike in a conference and saying there’s objection from the people of Dholera.  I have not come across it.  I have been to 100-odd meetings there, and it’s the first time I’m hearing from someone who has not even been in Dholera that people are rising in revolt: absolutely absurd from people in this conference,  I request you kindly go to Dholera, and if people say something, please get back to me, I’ll try to solve that problem. I’m against large projects, but if 700 million in India are going to get into urbanization, without large-scale projects, every single city in India will be a slum; if you go from here to Rajasthan, you will see slums being created all along the way—and none of you people will say that this is good planning for urbanization…and what India needs is good, planned urbanization on the back of good transportation. [Philipp tries to stop him; but he continues] And then we welcome your input. We need to…

[Philipp finally manages to stop him] Can we take one more round of people in the audience:

[question] There is already a lot of mistrust between people and government in India on all levels; but I’d like to suggest it’s not just master plans; but it’s also about networks, and you have to show in these visuals how these cities are connected to the ground—you see no networks, no context, where it’s connected. I know these plans very well, because one of the companies involved is from Holland where I studied, and I wish those of you at the top of this planning would realize the importance of these visualizations.

[question] You’ve presented a macro plan, and you’ve said that the micro plan will be done locally. What planning and designing capacity are you installing in these cities to do the planning as it should be—so it doesn’t destroy the environment?

[question] throughout the DMIC we’re seeing people in jail and not given bail because giving them bail will discourage private investors in this area. Do a search and you’ll see what the resistance to these projects actually is.

[question] Two points from cases studies I actually worked on: one is a water management project where the data that was provided by you to the state was inadequate and outdated; and the other, I saw oil spills in a port…

Amitabh: this is totally irrelevant!

Philipp: Let’s stop there, and, Amitabh, pick the ones you’d like to respond to. I think we should keep in mind we’re going to keep talking about these issues in different contexts. So, Amitabh, if you can respond briefly…

Amitabh: I am suggesting that all the master plans that have been prepared be opened out for you—you can organize a conference of two days—you can study them, give me your input, and I’ll absorb it in the master plan.  India needs planned, new urbanizing; it doesn’t need to follow the American and European model. India needs to create its own sustainable cities, and we don’t need American and European experts to come and lecture us on this.

Philipp [struggling to stop him]: on this last point everyone in the room agrees; but it is time to move on.

Amitabh: No. One more point: it’s about public transportation, it’s about drainage, sewage, solid waste, and about involving the community—ALL THAT we are doing in this project.

Philipp: Clearly time to move on, and I’ll pass over to Jose.

Jose: Amitabh, I have to tell you: I always do what Philipp tells me to, as well. But it’s been a great discussion: the idea that infrastructure should come before development.  But we haven’t talked yet about the idea of retrofitting, and in what roles redevelopment makes a dent. So I’ll turn to Henk Ovink:

Henk Ovink [Senior Advisor, Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force, and another Urban Age friend) spoke on ”Post-Sandy Rebuilding: Connecting Infrastructures and Re-Design.”


Sandy created $65 billion in damage when it hit the Northeast of the US, damaging 650,000 homes; but it was not the worst storm ever—yet it created a focus on climate change because it hit NY, and NY is the “city of the world.”  World Economic Forum Global Risk Report shows the impact of future risks (water problems, environmental catastrophes) is increasing—both frequency and magnitude; but the good side is there are interactions on the regional and urban scale—which creates a mess, but the opportunity to interact and adapt.  Sandy showed that across the region: 75% of the power supply in the flood zone was affected, and it demonstrated the connection between physical and social vulnerability in the region.  Raised questions of resilience on all scales.  The response by the federal government was to create the Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force, chaired by Shaun Donovan, and of which I was a part; and Congress appropriated $60 billion to help in this region.  But, as Tom has shown, this is a totally fragmentedly run region, with a dysfunctional transportation structure of the MTA and the Port Authority—and a real local, cultural need that is not addressed by this balkanized governance structure.  We created a process that was aimed at getting a better understanding of the region’s vulnerabilities and interdependencies and opportunities.  Started by getting the best talent—250 professionals from more than 20 countries—who worked together with talent from the region—designers, mayors, but also people who lost their homes—to develop a cultural understanding of the needs of the people on the ground, and to an understanding on the level of the scale of the region.  It worked because the process was adaptable and flexible and changed over time.  We had behind us $1 billion in federal funding, $500 million private funding from the Rockefeller Foundation to guide the process; ten teams to jury local projects. The project was created right on the edge of government, science, civil society, design, corporations, investors—and it stayed there: owned by nobody, but, at the same time, owned by everybody.  Hundreds of organizations, thousands of people.  One group was tasked to safeguard lower Manhattan: the marriage we’ve talked about between Robert Moses and Jane Jacobs—their love child, one could say: it’s screaming for attention, we’re trying to feed it with $350 million—creating in the low-income community of the Lower East Side a berm that becomes a park, that becomes access to the river, and also the opportunity to cover the FDR Drive in the long term. It is a sandwich vision of the scale of Manhattan and very local design solutions developed with the community.  This is not about presenting a design and getting approval; the community was at the table before the designs were made—informing the design process, and even the research process, by a community collaboration. This should also result in government reform as well as changing the culture of the region.

Jose: You talk about planning and communication—how you design a process rather than a project. I’m curious whether in 20 years we will perhaps be talking about this as a great planning disaster, good intentions gone awry, or a success?

Henk: A success! This is very delicate: success is not because we delivered these designs in a collaborative, open process. Success is because we never let go, and at the same time we totally let go; and we have to continue that. The tension now in the region is how do you continue this open process and at the same time know you want to create this fact on the ground to show you can do things differently. The community is calling to continue this collaborative process; NY State is holding meetings with the community.  There’s no guarantee, but I hope we can prove that in this balkanized region you can do things collectively.

Jose: This is a project that has been going on for two years, but now we’ll hear from Ricky about one that has been ongoing for 30 years.

Ricky Burdett spoke on “London’s Strategic Infrastructure: What’s Best for London?Starts with 30 years of hell in London—a terrible planning system.  We don’t come with a solution: we come to share how we tried to get over some problems. We had a total absence of municipal voice.  I showed yesterday a map of deprivation in London; and you can see there’s a lot of deprivation concentrated on the east side of the city and on the west side. (Every city will have its map like this, and each will be different.) There is a social issue which lies behind the investment of infrastructure.  There is also the issue of deprivation of transport—on the map below, the bluer the color, the less public transportation (obviously bluer at the periphery)”

In the red and purple, you can get anywhere in London in under 45 minutes; note that its not only at the center, but some bits at the top and the bottom, but notice particularly the parts of the right.  As of 1 January 2000, the power of all the decision making about public transport was given to the mayor of London.  London is going to grow by a 1-1.5 million, and that growth is going to be to the east—this is where the billions of dollars at the top of Saskia’s charts are being invested, probably not very well. What is involved is The London Plan: in 1943, the Green Belt was created to contain development in the city (and it’s still there); two mayors (Livingstone and Johnson) said, 1) keep the boundary despite growth (went against many people’s interests), and 2) where there’s spare land, allow development, but require that it increase the density, increase the mix of uses (don’t zone them), and privilege those areas which are deprived and have good public transport. What happened is a series of “opportunity areas” (where Saskia’s investments have come in)—some right in the middle of the city; the biggest investments have been made to solve the social question and the lack of public transport possibilities on the east side with a number of centrally funded schemes: first, a few years back, connecting the poorer east to the center; the second, a circular system (backed by the great planner Peter Hall) which connects a lot of other communities; the third, Cross-Rail, under construction now, is cutting across the whole of London (this will make Tom jealous—but, you know, we pay 40% taxes, and maybe this is what we get). If we did not have a directly elected mayor, there’s no way we would have been able to get £ 23 billion from central government to be able to do this. Canary Wharf was not a very good example of planning (zoned, only offices, worst thing you could do—and had planning permission to do only more offices), but with the arrival of Cross-Rail the plan was changed in a way that the new development was going to be 80% housing (and 40% affordable housing), so a mixed community.  This development which has been owned by the Chinese, this week has been trying to be bought by the Qataris—so who knows which international investor will own it. Another big debate is where we go with our airports: whether just to add a new airport (as would be done in China or India)—but we don’t have the guts to just do that, so we said no to “Boris Island.” So it’s not necessary to make the mayor happy all the time.

Jose: Baron Rothschild used to say that making wine is easy, it’s just the first two hundred years that are difficult.  Maybe infrastructure is like that.  The day that it was announced that Norman Foster was building the Mexico City airport, it was announced that he was losing the London airport.

Adam Greenfield: Henk, Occupy Sandy was an informal agency that actually outperformed the government and the Red Cross in the immediate efforts in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. My question, having been involved with the distribution hubs that were set up by the untrained volunteers, how were they able effectively to bring relief directly out to the Rockaways and other areas—and yet, when the official recovery networks were set up, very few of those people were contacted; Occupy Sandy as an institution wasn’t integrated into this plan.  Why was this existing, effective, bottom-up organization, available as a resource, not incorporated into the plan in a more direct way?

[question for Henk]: Imagine a disaster scenario in which a transit corridor between two major cities is disrupted by a disaster; and imagine that along that corridor a series of big cities would be planned, heavy-handed scenario, mono-functional grid; how would your approach be effective in such a scenario?

[question] My question involves the capitalization of land areas for funding infrastructure.  What is the downside of these investments in London?

Henk: Occupy Sandy was a partner of Rebuild by Design, we worked closely with them—why? Because they were already on the ground, close to hundreds of organizations that were locally driven by needs before the federal government stepped up.  That is why I said Rebuild by Design was an Initiative by the Hurricane Sandy Task Force, but not owned by it, but owned by all, which made it very easy to work with groups like Occupy Sandy. Another group we worked with was the Harbor School (a school now located on Governor’s Island) that teaches kids how to work with water and the culture of water, and these kids went to schools all over the region—often accompanied by people from Occupy Sandy—to get the message across to do things differently.  We were actually very close, but we also had disagreements.  As for the disaster scenario: I will not answer your question, because I do not know—I don’t know the situation. This is exactly what I was opposed to when Secretary Donovan asked me to join the Task Force: he said do a competition—which is say, here’s the problem, throw it at society.  But it’s a failing strategy: you first have to invest in a process of engagement to really understand what’s going on.  Ours is a very abstract question; I’d have to bring in a lot of talent and engage with a lot of talent in the region to find out what the real issues are before I would come up with any process.  There’s no blueprint in Rebuild by Design, except, “think first, act later”; but also shorten the implementation process by connecting evaluation dollars with implementation dollars.

Ricky: On the question of capturing value around the buildings, there have been two different models in London: most of the major investments that were made on the over ground, on the high speed rail, for example, are all effectively centrally funded (even though the mayor is responsible for transport, it is really a lobbying operation to the central government); the new experiment is the Cross-Rail line—you saw the figure that comes from central government, a small percentage (~£2 billion, or ~10%) has been raised from the private sector, by allowing greater volume of development in certain of the stations.  How do you avoid that new development giving extra volume in a way that kills that piece of city? That’s where the plan—the vision—that comes from the City Plan is so important: remember, it required mixed development (even where there is a deployment of private capital), insuring that one of the London-wide requirements (and it is not a new one) insuring the upwards of 30% up to 40% of all new housing have to be affordable. Where you have a high value situation as you have in London today, any developer, any investor, is happy to do that, because the return they’re going to get on any investment is enormous.

Jose: seem to be two paradigms: one in which the legitimacy of the process produces the positive effect; the other is the idea of strong leadership.  Ricky, before 2000 and the centralization of this would it have been possible?

Ricky: No.

Henk: The leadership issue was also the case in the NY situation: the leadership of Secretary Donovan was apparent: he made federal government let go and invest in a process without knowing the outcome.  I remember my first conversation with the White house: So, you want a billion dollars to work on projects, you don’t know what they are, you don’t know who in the region, you have blue eyes, and you promise it won’t fail in the end? It was only Secretary Donovan’s ability to push the White House that made it possible.

[question] How did you determine who would be in the process? And how did you insure that those who have difficulty speaking participated.  Also, usually when there is crisis, communities come together; how do we insure that it continues after the crisis.

[question] This session, with a lot of planners, has had a lot of conflict; the ones primarily with academics seemed to have a lot less. The best cities grow organically; to the extent we can reduce planning to a residue function, bare minimum function, just perhaps protecting property rights. But what I hear is a lot of faith in planning to solve the future, although the only thing we know is that planning has failed.

[question] The generation of something specific seems to require something from designers more active and trial-and-error than you talked about.  How do you suppose this can be accommodated by governments?

[question] Simple question: lot of investment, lot of infrastructure in London, and need a lot in NY; we did a study and found that in Delhi the cost of living is at least three times that of a small town.  So, with all this infrastructure, we are building in a higher cost of living, conspicuous consumption, and less sustainability.

Henk: We didn’t start with a design process; started with a collaborative research effort.  That built an understanding on both sides of the table—which became one side.  When we got to the solution phase, we still didn’t start with design.  We expanded the teams: included some experts, but included as many as 70 people from businesses and communities and then started the design process.  Because the community was part of the coalition, it was never a top-down process. In Hunts Point, a lower income community, we began by building a coalition with the businesses and the community groups, and together in the end presenting the design; in the end we had the jury meetings, where the teams brought all their coalition partners and—perhaps to the surprise of the jury, which had not been part of the whole process—these community groups or individuals who had lost a house, started to answer the questions of the jury; they made clear they knew what the design was about. Sometimes frustrating to jury members: one said “I want to hear from the designer”; and one of the businessmen from Hunts Point stepped up and said, “No. I know why we are doing this.”

Ricky: Political and planning point: in a lot of the analysis we have been trying to do at the LSE on what works and what doesn’t, the cities that show greater resilience are the ones that are able to grow through accretion as opposed to rupture—and that’s not just a spatial thing, it is also a political thing, it’s inclusive as opposed to top-down.  The bigger point is whether one can plan new cities in such a way that they themselves over the next 100 years can deal with their own form of growth—not through what Richard refers to as brittle systems, but through a much more fragile system that accepts change and growth through accretion.

Philipp: For the last 30 minutes we shall return to where the energy is, to India.  We have been talking about strategic infrastructure, and I think we can all agree that it is difficult to conceive of infrastructure that occurs organically—have you ever seen an organically grown rail station, sewage system, or airport? We can’t get by this question of decision-making by going back to the neighborhood scale: there needs to be something governed, but perhaps in a more inclusive way.  We’re going to turn to the issue of road building.  I stress that while we’re using India as an example, it is a universal thing we’re discussing.  I assume there will be a great consensus on what we’re getting wrong; but why is that? Is there a will to get it wrong, or is it that institutional arrangements are not capable of what we need in order to build better cities; or is it both, the coming together of an agenda and how it informs institutions.

Madhav Pai (Director, EMBARQ India) spoke on “Mumbai’s Flyovers, Sealinks and Freeways: Mobility or Mayhem?


Urban roads in Mumbai: State Road Development Corporation has made ~55 flyovers in the last 15 years; built Sealink; built a lot of freeways; spent $3.5 billion—has it created more mobility? What was the demand in the first place? This investment in the climate of what people want doesn’t make sense.  More roads create more demand (e.g., I-405 in LA: $1 billion spent over 5 years to widen it, but now traffic is slower than before); but still need to build roads.  Here’s the Urban Roads Agenda: complete our networks—a lot of missing links; multiply its capacity (like BRT); design for universal access (30:30 principal: urban roads should be less than 30 km/hr and less than 30 m wide)—if you build 100m wide roads in India, it won’t be for the people and won’t be safe. Have to urbanize governance in India; 74th Amendment did not make sense when India was only 30% urban—does now and will more in the future, and needs to be accelerated.  New paradigm: on regional scale, national government should seek a vision+plan and monitor; on city scale, municipal government should execute mass transit, housing, water (with national capital investment); on community scale, people’s participation with local politicians and private sector should deliver sustainable services (water tankers and purifiers, diesel generators, motorcycles)

Geetam Tiwari (Professor of Transport Planning, IIT, Delhi) spoke on “The Delhi BRT Experience: 1994-2014.”


In 1995, the idea of what we call “high capacity bus systems” was introduced; 2001 there was an international workshop (which included Enrique Peñalosa) which encouraged Delhi to move forward with this concept; construction of the project began in 2006: original plan was for 19 km, but only 5.8 was built. In media 2002-2006, repeated calls for the project and questions why it wasn’t being implemented; something happens in 2007-2008 and there’s a shift in media to fears about the loss of car lanes to buses and bicycles, and says BRT=“Big Road Trauma”—claim was that it was copied from Bogotá, we are Indians so won’t work here (not true, only central lane concept copied, and NOT from Bogotá, rather from Curitiba; but at the same time accused of not making use of foreign models enough.  System actually worked (this newspaper photo shows three times the number of people [those in the buses] are moving efficiently) although pitched as a disruption for people [viz., the ~100 in the cars]:

Surveys showed the drivers and riders were very pleased.  But issue is what benefits whom—it was working for those for whom it was designed, but not for the car drivers. In 2011, High Court task force recommended 659 km of BRT for Delhi, and in Court case in 2012 came out in favor of BRT and; but corridor has not been extended. She doesn’t know what the lessons are; we followed all the right principles, had all the right results, but she doesn’t whether it’s poor governance, IDK. But it is an example of democracy on the roads.

{As I mention in my write-up of the Urban Age Tour of Delhi, I believe the problem here runs much deeper: I believe this BRT system was designed to fail.  I am not impugning the motives of Geetam, whom I know (as a long-term participant in the Urban Age program) and who is a completely well-meaning professional; but in addition to the change in the “public” attitudes toward the project she described, there was also the issue that the section that was built has some extremely bad, deleterious design flaws which actually do make it undesirable.  The worst example is that the “dedicated lanes” and stations are built in the middle of a major thoroughfare—which, while understandable, means there are anywhere from 2-4 lanes of heavy, uncontrolled vehicular traffic that was must cross to get to and from the buses—and there is no provision for safe pedestrian access to the stations, which would have required the installation of pedestrian overpasses (or at least traffic light controls on the general vehicular lanes at those points).  This means that accessing the BRT system requires the perilous crossing of uncontrolled traffic flow to reach them—rendering the process so undesirable as to be all but totally unusable.  The BRT in Delhi is actually the worst-designed version I or the others touring it had ever seen; and it was impossible not to speculate that this, in fact, was some kind of setup, which eventually made it easier to organize public opinion against the whole idea of BRT. The discussions never got to this issue, but it is one that requires deep consideration: in the hostile atmosphere against the democratic allocation of road space in cites (of the sort Enrique Peñalosa so eloquently describes, below and elsewhere), it seems quite possible that the forces that push against directions that impinge on road space for private cars (as BRT clearly does, of course; one of the reasons it has so many staunch advocates is that it directly competes with private cars for space, and there is a widespread conviction that cities depending on private cars for transportations are an environmentally unsustainable nightmare for the world) are quite capable of nefariously contriving to make good design impossible—or insisting on restrictions that would result in bad design. I wish the question had been raised to Geetam about how the particular design problem I have just focused on came to be; it might have been very enlightening about the deep aspects of this political process.}

[question] you said you were part of the process for 20 years, and still don’t know what lessons to draw.  About the same time, the Metro project happened, and it is very successful for the people who use it. If the Metro succeeded, why did the BRT not.

[question] can you comment on the issue of how long people stay in a certain position?

Ed Glaeser: for Madhav: what’s stopping people from raising tolls on the new roads in a way that both funds them and keeps traffic down and uses the money for buses?

Madhav: Urban roads need to be for everyone; if you have big toll roads, no one is going to be able to cross.  The Sealink has tolls, and there is not much objection to raising tolls; but should you be placing those kinds of roads in a city, where 40% of the people are walking and another 45% are taking public transport—or why would you build elevated roads, cutting the urban fabric? Do you want this kind of thing in your cities?

Geetam: I think the Metro is fascinating: today, after 200km of Metro in the city, 2% of trips are carried by Metro, and we still want to extend it—even though studies show even 400km will not carry more than 10% of the trips in the city.  The system which is actually carrying the majority of trips in the city will continue to do so; but space for buses actually conflicts with space for car users, while elevated or underground Metro has no impact on them. We have done a “successful” BRT project in Ahmedabad; but the message is to do it where it is not needed, where there is ample room for traffic movement—not where it’s really necessary to take people out of congestion.

[question] she says she doesn’t know what went wrong with BRT corridor.  I live there: the concept is good; the problem was nothing was done to encourage car users to use buses; and given the short length, the car user probably still needs a car at the end of the run—doesn’t work.

 [question] why the Metro looks more successful is that a lot of people could move from the car to the Metro, which was not true with the bus. Of course strategic infrastructure, where there’s a big divide in socioeconomic stratas, it’s not just economic benefits one needs to look at, but there’s the social aspect, where there’s a wider group that get benefitted—how can architects and planners live up to that social responsibility?

Geetam: people are saying that what is wrong is that it’s inconveniencing car drivers. Delhi has the highest percentage of car users in the country, but still the great majority use public transportation.  But BRT becomes a failed corridor because it inconvenienced the cars; design is wrong because it’s wrong for cars.

Jose: we have to stop here; but it’s a crucial question because infrastructure is never neutral: it poses winners and losers, and these are real questions.  Good discussions, good polemics, good antagonisms. I want to lay out two questions: 1) best practice v. exceptionality—are we to create a possible grammar of success, of good strategic infrastructures, or are we trying to imagine how we resolve problems ourselves?; 2) should we get beyond engineering and economics, and assume that infrastructure is actually a political act? And finally the question of infrastructure beyond infrastructure—should we assume we don’t equate talking about infrastructure with talking about road building, and get to the level where infrastructure can leverage social, educational, and other environmental access?



Afternoon Session

Urban Leaders Round Table. (Co-Chairs: Ricky Burdett and Sue Parnell)

Ricky: Two African leaders, plus the former Chief Minister of Delhi, and the former mayor of Bogotá.

Sue: Excitement in the room, because the people we have here are the people who actually make a difference at the point where things really happen.  Prefers the term “translational research” to coproduction or impact that many academics look for; idea of translational research is moving from looking at what problems are to what the implementation is, working out new knowledge together at every step of the way—seamless interaction in the process of defining the problem, getting the evidence, and starting to implement—requiring a two-way dialogue. Interconnectedness of our relative urbanization—not just what happens in each individual city, but implications for all of us.  Not all those here are at the city level, but that is appropriate, because what happens in cities is not just controlled by city hall—a lot of other dimensions to it.

Ricky: Represented at this table are people in charge of 85 million people. Based on the work we’ve done, two or three statistics to set the stage: we talked about how much of a metropolitan area people are in control of, and we worked out that for Sheila it was 66%, Bogotá 82%, but Babatunde wins with 100%, a big area and the whole population within it; Lagos and Delhi, roughly the same growth in the next 10-15 years in GVA, 6.6/6.4; GINI index (inequality worse the higher the number), Delhi has become more unequal as it grows (typical phenomenon, of course, in rapidly growing cities), Lagos comes out at 0.64, Delhi slightly below that, Bogotá has had a very bad period, but is flattening out; another specific social measure is the murder rate, in Bogotá it has come down (we know Latin American cities have had their difficulties), but still high at 16/100,000, but in Lagos it’s tiny at 1.3/100,000, Delhi 2.7. Just to give a sense of what we’re dealing with.

Babaunde Fashola (Governor of Lagos)


How do we get human beings to actualize their need for shelter, sustenance, movement, protection, and prosperity.  He has been governor for almost 8 years, and term ends next year.  Difficult time to be a leader: world more complex; used to be able to hide, now more reachable (gets 6-700 texts a day; Nigeria insists that officials publish their telephone numbers and email addresses). Came into government when people were losing faith in the ability of governments to do things.  Lagos is a city and a state; I am the mayor and the governor.  It used to be the capital of Nigeria, but no longer; but still commercial capital; small land area (0.1% of the country), but 22 million people live there. Realized we must re-plan and reorganize; the urban planner and the economic planner are crucial. We have moved toward decentralization and devolution:  down the chain of command, it is possible to hold people responsible, and people can identify who does what and who provides what.  We had lost control because of political instability: national government in flux, military interventions, population growing, but not the infrastructure.  But today, by providing services that were long in demand, people happy and willing to pay taxes (out 10.2 million people in the tax base, in 2007 420,000 were paying taxes; currently, over 4 million are paying taxes). The economy has grown, and Lagos contribute ~5% of country’s GDP; but also seeing challenges of poverty and inequality. Government has defined four key area to focus on expansion of opportunities for economic growth in a way that includes people: power, agriculture, transportation, and housing (PATH). Much of the food that Lagos consumes comes from other parts of the country. We acquired land in other states, and used our transport ability to move needed food.  Citizens who pay taxes continuously for 5 years participate in an open draw and win housing units that the government has created for them (they get a minimum of a 10 year mortgage). Haven’t solved the problems, but there is a lot of hope and belief that things are possible and progress is being made: they see a metro coming in, ferry services expanding.  Hope has been the primary parameter.

Pravin Gordham (Minister of Cooperative Governance, South Africa)


20 years after democracy has to some extent overcome the legacy of racial capitalism and political repression, it’s time to rebuild a nation that was founded on the basis of race and tribalism. We have to recreate a democratic state at all levels of governance and insure that we deal with the legacies of colonialism and Apartheid.  The miracle was that we avoided the ultimate disaster and live in a relatively peaceful country.  Under the old regime, homelands were created under the 1913 Native Land Act: 87% of the land was appropriated for the White population (which is 20% of the population) and that 80% of the population will have the remaining 13% of the land.  This is part of the fragmentation we had to deal with post 1994.  A map of Cape Town (below) shows this legacy (the pink is White owned, the orange Colored, the blue Black African):

And this is the same all over South Africa. Our agenda is captured by Nelson Mandel’s statement, “Freedom…must be understood as the transformation of the lives ordinary people in the hostels and the ghettos; in the squatter camps; on the farms and in the mine compounds.” Even today, 20 years later, we still have the migrant labor system that has served South Africa’s mining industry for 120-130 years; came to the fore recently in the mining towns. Our Constitution (adopted in 1996) provided for three spheres (as opposed to levels; say “distinctive” [not “autonomous”]), and interrelated : national, provincial, and local—probably the first to have a section on local government, but it allows for intervention in the local if things go wrong. 1998 white paper serves as the basis for democratic institution of local government; but the existence of democratic local government only in place since 2000. Have a fiscal commission—like India; municipalities receive only 8% (but it is with the understanding that they have access to property tax revenues, too), and there are also specific conditional economic grants that are made to municipalities.  Over a 15 year period, GDP has grown; unemployment has been stubborn at 25%; electricity, water, sanitation have seen growth.  Have to improve the quality of what we provide, and the participation of citizens. We are still dealing with the legacy of Apartheid; thought when we took over in 1994 things would be radically different, but patterns of spatial distribution remain very similar. The way housing has developed has also replicated the Apartheid pattern, because of land availability and the cost of land:

Going forward we need to limit sprawl, capture greater density, keep people closer to services, while instituting political changes; 90% of the economy is still in the hands of a small part of the White population; poverty and inequality are still huge challenges.  We have a National Development Plan: we will have “wall-to-wall municipalities, all to have locally elected governments; but we have the challenges of weak governance, corruption, lack of spatial integration, lack of responsiveness, poor financial management, institutional weaknesses. We need to build just cities. Problems going forward: inclusive growth and social justice; balancing the needs of the middle class and the urban poor; need to deal with the issue of bureaucrats—we need a democratic bureaucracy; short-termism of markets and political offices; collaborative planning. End with a Mandela 2005 quote:

Overcoming poverty is not a gesture of charity. It is an act of justice. It is the protection of a fundamental human right, the right to dignity and a decent life. While poverty persists, there is no true freedom.

After all the technical stuff and research talked about, have to remember that everything we do is about people, and giving them life experience and life prospects.

Enrique Peñalosa (Mayor of Bogotá, 1998-2001, and long an Urban Age regular and friend;  pictured below with Babatunde)


Bogotá is a city and a state, and many decisions that governments have to make are unpopular: no one will ask you for them, and no one will thank you for them. A Bogotá mayor has almost complete power, and nearly complete freedom from national government (but not national laws or regulations). To be democratic and inclusive, we have to confront many interest groups—particularly, powerful, upper income citizens.  The poor are too absorbed in daily concerns and don’t supply much support for difficult to understand projects like BRT or privately-managed schools; but officials need to make decisions on their behalf of their interests, even if they are not aware of it.  Constitution in Colombia allows for referenda, and we asked people two questions: whether they wanted two car-free hours in the morning and afternoon; and whether they wanted a totally car-free day once a year.  We narrowly lost the first one, but won the second; so at least one day a week, everyone is reliant on public transportation.  85% of people in Delhi would be better off if cars were completely banned during peak hours every day; but our societies are so dominate by higher income groups that we never even raise these kinds of possibilities. We did some quality, luxury schools in poorest neighborhoods; had huge conflicts with unions, but success is amazing. Imagine that Central Park was a private golf course (which can only be used by ~120 people/day); that’s what we had in Bogotá, a golf course accessible to only the wealthiest individuals:

We tried to make it a park using eminent domain; failed, but were able to take 10% out (the polo fields) which is now a public park. When we were doing it, no one was supporting us—not even the neighbors; but now tens of thousands of people use the park. One of the most important political and ideological issues of our time is how do we distribute road space: not a transportation engineering problem, it is a political decision.  There are no sidewalks in developing countries: the most important transport infrastructure that makes a difference between advanced and backward cities is quality footpaths—not highways or subways.  Upper income people want all roads made for them; have to remind them that parking is not a constitutional right. We can get rid of cars parked on streets and make bigger sidewalks; my hair used to be black before these fights, but I was able to get cars off the sidewalks.  If I’d been an appointed mayor, I would have been dismissed—all the powerful people in the city had cars and were against me; as an elected mayor who did not need money from the national government, I was able to do it—100s of km of sidewalks. Buses represent another battle for road space; easy to build subways—everybody wants them, including the rich (who don’t use them)—but while it means that poor people will have less money for schools and other service due to the enormous capital requirements of building subways (10-20 times more cost/km than BRT), they do not realize this. Sometimes flagrant inequality and injustice are right before our noses and we don’t see them: in England and the US, not so long ago women did not have the right to vote; I’d say today a bus with 100 people in traffic is as undemocratic as women not voting—if all people are equal, basic democracy says that a bus with 100 passengers has the right to 100 times more road space than a car with one.  It does not take an IIT PhD: a committee of 12 year-old children would conclude that the most efficient way to use scarce road space is an exclusive bus lane.  BRT is the only possibility if we want to move people all over our cities.  The Delhi BRT had design and political problems.  We were told that after it was built, cars were allowed into the bus lanes due to “public opinion”—what does that mean? “Public opinion” means the 15% richest part of the population. The owners of the newspapers and TV stations.  Delhi has better science and technology than Colombia; it is a political problem, not a technical one. Bogotá’s TransMilenio moves 47,000 people/hour daily—more than most of the world’s subways, and twice as much as Delhi’s Metro (which move the same number of people over twice the distance: 12,500 people/km v. 20,700 in Bogotá). Buses zooming by expensive cars stuck in traffic is almost a symbol of democracy. Half of Bogotá has grown illegally; all over the world slums grow up in the wrong places; we bought land (forcefully, when necessary) in the right places, and built communities using high quality urban design.  Biggest issue for government in India: for it to truly control the use of land in and around its cities; and one of the tools that is needed is eminent domain.

Sheila Dikshit (Chief Minister of Delhi, 1998-2013)


Most of you know Delhi; it is a unique city—it is a heritage city, and it is also a modern city, and, it is the capital of this very large country called India. There was too much migration, so the national capital region was created so as to absorb those who come to Delhi’s limited area; good step, but hasn’t met the needs of this growing capital.  Central government sits here; it has local government; and it has its municipalities.  Central government naturally has a stake in the governing of its capital; but local government therefore has very little power—it has no hold over power, land, or police.  Because it doesn’t have control of land, it has to apply for land, and that is why it hasn’t grown as fast as it should have.  People keep on migrating here, because of the economic boom, health, transport, etc.; but since it can’t keep up with that, we have slums—which is not acceptable for a city like Delhi.  We should allow slums to turn into reasonable housing, and we should allow all unauthorized communities to have all the legal rights that authorized colonies have—including the right and duty to pay a tax. But doesn’t happen.  Some success: 10-12 years ago, the Metro started; and now there are 270km of service that carries 27 lakhs of people (2.7 million) every day.  Several years ago Enrique came to Delhi, and gave us the idea of BRT; we took what was given to us; but the people of Delhi just did not accept it.  At rush hours, there are 26 different kinds of vehicles that traverse that route; a more difficult situation to solve than you think.  People not only migrate here, they come as much as 100km away to work here each day; also people from all over the country come because of the best health facilities, schools, and colleges here.  Ever city needs a different kind of treatment.  We started a participatory movement, inviting different local organizations; but we have a very dynamic democracy, and the locally elected MOAs and MPs are not willing to share their power over what they consider their domains; but over a long period of time, we have succeeded in getting more local control of projects. Delhi was not a green city (15 years ago green cover was ~3-4%); today green cover is 24%. We are also at the effect of other places: if it’s cold in the Himalayas, it is cold here; it is rains somewhere, we get water.

Sue:  I have a series of questions (or prompts): all spoke about tension of addressing the legacy of the past, fixing what was broken, and thinking about new challenges. Your thoughts on which is the more important?

Babatunde: It is a question of momentum: if something is already flawed, it affects the psyche of people; and whether they want to go forward depends on whether they believe the future is achievable. It is the Catch-22 of change: even as broken as the structures are, there’s a vested interest in them: when you try to clean out slums—even with dreadful conditions—I didn’t understand why people insisted that you should leave them there.  I couldn’t take them on forcibly; we ended up going to places where they themselves had abandoned, and started to build from there. And in the end there was trust.  There is a danger in assuming we know what’s good for them; so we have to stay in close contact with what people want and are thinking.

Sue: You make the point that you can use the past, to acknowledge the past and build trust going forward—fantastic. Very different from the Bogotá experience: we’ve got to push forward, we have to modernize; same sense coming from Delhi, we have to take people with us Am I misreading this tension?

Sheila: I don’t think people live in the past.  Our city has a lot of heritage past; but people don’t want to live in the past—they want to be well-educated, they want to grow, become modern. City of Gurgaon, next to Delhi, is an IT-oriented city; a lot of our youngsters go there.  Same is true on the other side of the city in NOIDA.  It is now a vibrant city; wasn’t 30 years ago—people would come, but found Kolkata or Chennai much more exciting, with many more opportunities than in Delhi; but today this is different.

Enrique: I think you have to resolve the problems that exist, such as slums; that’s why we legalized more than 400 slums, brought water, schools, parks. Different in different places, but always the question is toward what future?  Government has to have the power to decide where the city grows and how. Citiesd need to use eminent domain, along with other means.

Ricky explains: “eminent domain” means compulsory purchase.

Sue: And what we have is the tension of whether you want a top-down or a bottom-up, more inclusive process.  Pravin, what is more important for you as a leader: to address the inequities of the past or deal with this rapidly changing urban context and deal with the aspirations of the future?

Pravin: In our case, the past has given us this spatial dispersion, and the future needs to be seen in a different kind of relation: stop the sprawl, make sure you don’t have developer-led development taking place; and, at the same time, take care of the aspirations of the poor and lower-middle class people. We have the good fortune of dealing with legacies and still doing new things—to create the “next normal,” and keep our vision clear—a window of opportunity that urbanization provides.

Sue: You spoke about the development of the middle classes—sometimes as a problem that blocks progress, their cars are literally in the way; and yet the way you have to get them on board as a constituency. How do you handle the unruly middle classes? (most of whom are in the room, so be careful)

Babatunde: We all understand that, as similar as they look, cities all are extremely diverse cultural and lifestyle centers.  The Western center is clearly different from the Asian or the African. In Africa, even if a city invests in all the technology and planning of a European city, it will always remain an African city, where people don't live in immediate nuclear families, but also with relatives—which is very different moving forward in managing the clusters in developing affordable housing.  From country to country, the capacity to control law enforcement is as important for achieving, planning, all of that.  Slums arise simply because people take over planning by themselves—and perhaps because government is not doing what they need to plan ahead. It’s an unending battle.  We have our own BRT experience, and we’re doing more.  If you don’t have your own police, it’s difficult: I have had to arrest people—soldiers, motorists—to make it work; public persuasion is not enough, you sometimes need coercion.

Ricky: do you control the police?

Babatunde: I don’t: the national government controls the police.

Pravin: We need to get the right balance between control and freedom: you don’t want not to control sprawl.  We have 4 or 5 major cities that have BRT working or about to work—and quite successfully. On the middle classes, we as leaders need to understand their aspirations and their needs better; but perhaps we also need from the middle classes a greater social consciousness: they are not the only ones in town—there are other stakeholders in the city whom they need to respect. But it’s an issue that requires political agility.

Sue: All of you mentioned opposition groups—in the middle classes that’s what we would expect—but you also mentioned having to fight with labor; is that a common experience? Who is more difficult, unions or business?

Enrique: Democracy is trying to get public good to prevail, the good of the majority.  How do we define middle class? If we define as those who have cars and upward, that has implications… We have to fight against cars parking on sidewalks; we have to fight against vandals in some areas; we have to fight against teachers unions who don’t want any change; have to fight against country club members who don’t want to give up their polo fields. Can go through being in government avoiding all fights…but then what?

Sheila: We were not able to convert BRT into something the people of Delhi accepted.  Perhaps we should have had more than one BRT; that might have made a difference, since that one experiment  became an eyesore.

Ricky: Going back to a bigger point Babatunde made: the importance of linking urban planning to economic planning; we should reflect on this, because it’s not a given—in the previous discussion we had, some of the most advanced cities in the world, Tom Wright said the two are not connected and they should be; in many ways London is trying to grapple with that. If Joan Clos were here, he might observe from the UN Habitat angle, the greatest amount of urbanization is happening in cities or countries with low income; and a lot of the growth in sub-Saharan Africa is happening in scenarios effectively without industrialization.  That poses enormous problems of trying to link economic planning and urban planning together.  How do you deal with that in Lagos?

Babatunde: Speaking from the Lagos/Nigerian experience, as highly populated as we seem to be, a lot of the land mass is still largely unused.  In Lagos, which is the most densely populated, people are huddled around infrastructure; so there’s still scope for new towns, new settlements, re-planning the imminent expansion in a way that is more sustainable than what has happened in the past.  There is some struggle between good governance and democracy: good governance does not come just because there’s democracy—democracy just says the one with the most votes wins; doesn’t say it’s the best one, or most attuned to issues of the day. In democracy you need people on your side to stay in office, but there are also times you have to take a stand.  One of my colleagues lost his seat because he asked teachers to submit themselves to a competency test. This was a governor to whom there had been complaints that students had not been doing well; so the governor goes in, fixes the schools, provides learning tools, and still the students were not doing well; the last thing he tried was to ask the teachers how good are you, and he was told, no, you can’t ask that.

Sheila: Just want to make one point: more people from villages are shifting to urban areas, because there is very little opportunity of any kind in the villages.  Future is not only to have the 20 big cities we already have, but increasingly we need a series of smaller cities.

Pravin: Where you have organization, you have the potential for conflict and confrontation; but all of us have to learn how to negotiate, how to maintain a progressive vision, how to maintain a socially just basis.  There is something about teachers unions that all of us are saying the same thing about. Ricky, you’ll have to have your colleagues at the LSE look into this question. As for urban and economic planning: there are times when economic issues and developments lead to urbanization and planning—you have a new huge coal mine operating, thousands of people move there for work opportunity, you plan it quickly or else you have chaos there; and then you have the reverse (coming from our situation, which we’re not handling well at the moment), how do cities plan not just for big businesses and industry, but for micro-businesses, informal businesses, and small businesses. And what kind of infrastructure enables people to feel included and get opportunities and the kind of facilitation that are required in their own localities; and that’s something where social justice requires a kind of rebalancing, since the inclination is to satisfy the big guys and get donations when the next election comes up—and in that sense democracy has a certain weakness. I don’t think there’s going to be one paradigm that satisfies all situations, but there may be a continuum of paradigms of values and visons and best practices.

Ricky: Unfortunately we need to wrap up; but I thought I’d be very unfair and ask each of you what’s the one thing you would change in terms of your ability to govern better. Sheila, what would you change?

Sheila: People in Delhi tend to be inward looking, what is right for me; it doesn’t matter whether others are suffering. We need to build that kind of a culture where people do care about one anothe, which is difficult because you have to stand for re-election; but we need that.

Enrique: The most brilliant thing ever to happen in Bogota was that 7 municipalities were fused in 1954, which allowed stronger institutions, and more effective planning, and the ability to collect taxes in the richer areas and invest in the poorer areas.  What we needed to have is some kind of regional government that would be broader.

Babatunde: This is all about people, and therefore what I would have learned better is how to communicate with them.

Madhav: It’s about complexity: we have to learn to get the balance right between planning and acting and learning.

Ricky: I think we’ve been exposed to four very serious and productive perspectives on governing urban futures, reflecting on real experiences.

Governing India’s Future: Are Cities Getting Smarter? (Co-Chairs: Darryl D’Monte, Journalist, and Ananya Roy)

Ananya: We want to consider how governing India’s future ties up with the idea of urban future, and we want to think not only about cities getting smarter, but also about whether cities are getting more just.

Isher Ahluwalia (Chair, Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations) spoke on “Better Growth, Better Climate, Better Cities.”


We need better cities—cleaner, smarter, greener, more inclusive, just cities—because 2/3 of our GDP comes from urban areas.  Are our cities acting as centers of growth? Are they the kinds of places investor and innovators would want to come to create wealth? We have a very long way to go; and if we don’t get better cities (with better air, better water, better connectivity) we won’t get any growth. Urbanization is necessary for sustainable economic growth.  States are the principal actors in development today; but they are not ready to decentralize and devolve funds and functions so that municipal governments will be able to deliver the services for which the Constitution has made them accountable.  More funds need to be made available to city government. Most important challenge today is governance and capacity to plan. We must engage society and engage the people to demand good governance.  If a city wants to do a drinking water project, they need the approval of the state before they can do it: 50% of the revenue of city government comes from state and national transfers. If, come election time, a state decides to give exemption from paying property taxes to below 10 lakhs, a city simply loses half of its revenue. City is responsible for drinking water, sewage, and solid waste management; but the finances come through the setting up of a state finance commission which tells the state how to disburse funds—and those commissions are not devolving funds, so cities have no resources.  We need smart, clean cities, but we have cities in India in which on average only 30% of the sewage is treated.  We need scientific, effective processing of garbage and sewage so that we don’t end up poisoning our air and our drinking water. What we need in health is clean cities and villages with clean drinking water.  If we don’t treat waste water, we are polluting ground water and river water.  But we must start with working on clean water and air.

Harsh Mander (Director, Centre for Equity Studies) spoke on “Addressing the Many Exclusions of the Urban Poor.”


A drunk driver in Delhi ran over eleven homeless people, yards from where we run a homeless shelter.  They were working men who came into the city for a few days at a time for employment. People sleep close to highways because of the mosquitos: the automobile fumes drive away the mosquitos, and if they sleep even a little farther away from the highways, the mosquitos make it impossible to sleep.  So we are living in a city in which in order to have a few hours of sleep, you risk the health of your lungs, and you risk your neck every night. Noam Chomsky came to Delhi recently, and he said he’d never seen a place where poverty was so dramatically manifest on the streets. He also had never seen a people who had an absence of outrage in the face of such poverty.  For me, a smart city is not one that hides its poor; it’s one that includes its most disadvantaged citizens.  In Delhi, 40-50% live in slum, many unauthorized.  This 50% of the population occupies 3% of the land.  There is a bemoaning the fact that so many migrants come to the city; but we must recognize that our entire financial model is driving people away from the countryside into the cities. Agriculture still employs 60% of the population, but only produces 15% of the GDP, and receives 5% of public investment. There is an implied hierarchy of citizenship in cities: the poorer you are, the less legitimate a citizen you are. The poor have rights, and we have a responsibility towards them. Most urban policy toward the poor is about block, demolish, restrict.  The city is not planned or designed to include the poor as an equal, which puts me at war with the state.  We could have a more inclusive city:  we could do things to help street kids in open schools and hostels (would need 500 in Delhi)—is that an investment we’re willing to make? Could we open our day schools at night for homeless children? The Urban Health Commission is doing almost nothing for the urban poor; about the only one the poor consult about medical issues is the boy at the pharmacy; there are virtually no public hospitals or free clinics.  This city belongs to you, it belongs to me; but it also belongs to millions of people who have come into the city to earn a living, to keep their families alive, to have an better future—and a smart city is one that cares.

Ireena Vital (Strategic Consultant, Delhi) spoke on “A Five-Step Plan for Improving Urban Governance in India.”


India is a reluctant urbanizer; but people don’t know this, so they continue to come. 70% of new jobs will be created in cities—a lot in services; and, like every country in the world, Indian cities will be the important engines of growth.  Good that we’re talking about 100 Smart Cities; but the real issue will be the rejuvenation of the other 7,000 existing cities in India. 5 states will have their population more than 50% urban, and India will have 68 cities of more than 1 million in population, compared to Europe with only 35.  When you look at Kolkata, or Delhi, or Bombay, by 2030 the GDP of these cities are going to be the size of Malaysia—these are more countries-in-the-making than cities. But cities are usually run by someone who will only be there for two years, doesn’t understand the running of a city, and has only 2 or 3 permanent staff members to work with him (If you look at Bangalore, with roughly the same population as NY, it has 20,000 people working for the city, while NY has 200,000; and 18,000 of the 22,000 are sweepers).  Are cities are huge, and they have complex problems: only 30% of sewage is treated, 24% live in slums, and things will get worse, because services are going to require a 4-7x increase, just to keep pace—in affordable housing, we need 44 million units. We really need rental stock, and we don’t have it.  We need a new operating model, and it is about funding: we need $1 trillion for capital expenditures, another trillion for operating expenses.  It all could be funded: cities could monetize their valuable land, they could raise taxes, and, what’s more, they don’t have a balance sheet—they carry no debt; we just haven’t done it.  Without governance, this won’t happen  My definition of smart (and I’m trying to be cute here), and it’s about governance: we need Structure (to define what is the job for cities); we need Mayors (one day elected, but at least empowered); Accountability (idea of accounting standards is a new idea; balance sheets are not published; all pricing becomes political); Reliable Agencies (service delivery systems that work); Talent (to build complex systems; roaming pool of experts, outsourcing of some functions).  Urban votes are now material.  What is stopping things is the lack of political will, not technological solutions.

Shankar Aggarwal (Secretary for Urban Development, India) spoke on “Policies for India’s Urban Future: The 100 Smart Cities Program.”


For 65 years, India has been focused on its rural areas, and for good reason: they were extremely poor, and it was a question of survival. Aslo, in 1947, we were importing a large portion of our food, so we paid a lot of attention to developing agriculture; we are now a food exporter. For years the country grew at 3%; then it started rising to 5%, 6%, to 9%, or even 10%. Growth won’t be sustainable, however, without dealing with the disadvantaged—almost 400 million below the poverty line.  One plan is to keep the country clean. One plan is to look at cities and fill in the gaps in urban infrastructure. But a very important new plan is the development of 100 Smart Cities, because it is only technology that can bring in the big change. All over the world, India is a world leader in IT, creating wealth for everyone; but we have not been able to take advantage of that for the common man within this country. Idea is use what is available in the country to make our cities smarter, but also to take care of the urban infrastructure as well.  Four points, the first governance: 1) all information should be delivered in an electronic mode (no one should have to go to a public office to get or give information); 2) all information has to be in the public domain (resources of a public body, accounting system—all available publically); 3) engagement (citizens have to be participating in the governing process). The second is a robust cyber-connectivity (not yet reliably available even in the biggest cities; can be easily achieved, and that by the private sector). Next, hyper-mobility (can we cut down the unacceptably long time it takes to get from point A to point B in our cities—that is achievable, have to cooperate with everyone, including the public and private  and communal sectors.

Darryl D’Amante: We now have almost an hour to have a panel discussion.


My first question is to Mr. Aggarwal: Although we have been talking about informing citizens about projects, we heard this morning about the DMIC, and I don’t think most citizens are aware how much land and in which states land is going to be earmarked for this project, and it’s of some concern how the land will be acquired. And is it of concern that we are going to have a major industrial corridor cutting from north to west, and this seems to ignore the east of India.

Shankar: I cannot comment on the Industrial Corridor, because that is not a subject of my ministry.  My agency is charged to develop 100 Smart Cities, and we are talking about existing cities, so it is a brownfield development, and not a greenfield development; and in all cities you can always find some land at the periphery, or you can go into the redevelopment.

Ananya: Using the issues raised by our speakers, I am going to place a series of questions to all of the panelist on the table, so if you don’t like the question I am posing to you, you can pick someone else’s. Jagan Shah: Isher Ahluwalia said that we must demand and create better cities; who is the “we” who will articulate and implement this vision of better cities? For Richard Sennett: Harsh Mander started with a very pointed image of the homeless bodies seeking sleep; in what way can we imagine urban futures in that context of stark inequality? Gerald Frug: hearing a lot today about smart cities as well as Ireena Vittal’s concept of re-inscribing of the idea of what a smart city might look like; so what are smart cities? And, finally, for Anumita Roychowdhury: again going back to Harsh’s presentation, he provoked us to think about the way there’s an absence of outrage, despite the terrible inequalities and bodies on our streets; how do we imagine and enact social change if there’s an absence of outrage? I’ll go in the order I posed the questions, but you don’t have to answer the question I posed to you.

Jagan: I think I’ll link the who is the “we,” with the question of smart cities, because the process of making smart cities might be how we come to grips with the question of who the we is. In a city like Delhi, this we is made up of a very diverse set of interests.  There is a large segment of youths (because Delhi is an educational hub for the region) who actually don’t have much of a voice, and don’t participate much except in student politics; another huge block we label and homogenize as the urban poor—very problematic label; if we say “disadvantaged,” as we sometimes do, it includes lower middleclass working people as well (not really poor, but deprived in many ways [long commutes for them and their children, lack of schools or the inability to get their kids into a school, etc.]—millions who are deprived of basic infrastructure or goods); and then there is a very large elite, powerful and strong, with a lot of capital at their disposal, and they influence a lot of decisions.  Just taking these three, the smart city, using big data and evidence that can be laid on the table, we’ll be able to set up more informed debates and dialogues between these multiple constituencies that make up this very fractured city.  That is the hope this new technology offers us: we’ll be able to harness the information about processes of government, processes of city operations which then can be shared.  We’re looking at some data about the Rajiv Awas program, and the questionnaire used to examine the targeting of this scheme had some 200 questions—and a lot of those questions are very problematic, and the answers to those questions are evasive; now if we use that sort of information to set up a scheme like that, let alone the land tenure that was mentioned earlier, you’re bound to get it wrong. Mistakes are becoming more expensive, if not disastrous.  Justice is in the interface between the stuff we can build and the goods we can deliver to these citizens.

Richard talked about the “thrilling experience” of seeing Nehru Plaza (on the Urban Age tour): in this huge illegal—and even legal—electronic commodities market— it embodies everything that an urbanist might desire density, a mix of poor and less-poor people, living, productive environment; what it isn’t is an equal environment. Our discussions of inequality are predicated on a false assumption, in that we assume inequality is by definition bad; society has lived with inequality since the beginnings—it is the conditions under which people live in inequality that really matter.  In a place like Nerhu Place, people don’t live in a condition of despair; they are not oppressed by the inequality.  One of the main tasks of urban planning is to create that kind of open, porous space in which unequal people can interact positively.  Neo-Liberal capitalism makes inequality a source of raw suffering by isolating very poor people, creating monochrome places like shopping centers which ghettoize the poor.  Challenge of governance is to prevent that “simplification” that makes inequality stand out as a humiliation—that makes people feel that their inequality is disabling.  Same thing in creating public housing that only houses the poor.  We can govern these things through urban design and public policy.  We need more complex, informalized places; all can be destroyed by unregulated, uncontrolled development which leads to brutal, stark environments.  Smart City technology needs to be democratized; and we have to avoid the over complicating of technology which leads to levels of expenditures that are highly profitable corporately, but bad for the people it’s supposed to serve.  The technology we need is much more simple.

Gerry: Problem of cities is first and foremost a problem of central government. States in India and the US have the power to create cities that have the power to deal with inequality and the problems of governance; so the first thing we need for Smart Cities are smart states.  States need to give cities a “brain”: the ability to think about what the problems are and deal with them, and to allow for citizens to participate in the process.  There’s a lot of fake participation and fake popular consent; to be smart requires an enormous amount of intelligence that the states need to enable cities to do.  Far worse in creating a new city: need to consult with people when the people are not there yet; the only people there will probably be displaced when the new city comes. The new city will have people who don’t know they are even going to be there yet. How do you organize a city to be responsive to that? Cities will make many mistakes; you have to create the ability going forward to adjust, to listen to their citizens and change. Smart is not a technology; it is the ability to think and to do.

Anumita: The question is outrage by whom.  There is outrage in the people who are affected by this; but there is no political expression of the outrage strong enough to make equality.  It is because of exclusion policies—not only in economic areas, but also in how we are organizing the urban space.  We are moving away from the design solution we had found earlier; we have mixed income living in the older parts of our cities, but the new development is moving away from that—losing that legacy. Need to understand the little bit of positive change that is happening: we have to include self-construction and how the poor use microfinance and self-direction along with professional advice. Today we are trying to create a platform of public participation; but that process does not actually represent the people who are actually most affected. How to build discourse and discussion into our future development.  Need to understand that public transport for the poor—the informal systems that have developed, small, medium level public transport—is different from and in competition with public transport for the rich.  The temptation is to get rid of the transport for the poor—the auto rickshaw, etc.—because it’s taking away from the public transport used by the rich—the Metro and the buses.

Isher: We do have to integrate the solutions of the poor in planning cities.  We should not have two ministries, one for housing and poverty and one for urban development, because you can’t plan for the poor without integrating these; and it was good that the new administration merged the two. Whenever governance is used intelligently (actually having backend integration of different departments; e.g., in Hyderabad, Bangalore), it has generated a response I wouldn’t have thought possible: governance significantly improved, and not only for the rich; that part of smartness leads to inclusion.  But in Hyderabad, they hired people to take real-time pictures of garbage collection using cellphones; worker absenteeism went down, cleanliness increased; but the program was actually later withdrawn under pressure from the unions—had to give back “the right to lie.”  I believe in the power of technology; but we still need the political will and leadership.

Harsh: Inequality is a problem; especially inequality with illegitimacy (urban poor that come into cities not legitimate citizens; we all are migrants—who has grandparents are from Delhi?), with a sense of illegality (where you live, defecate, earn your livelihood is illegal. How can you express outrage when you are considered illegal? You need to get away from notice by authorities; you can’t protest.), and the third is inequality with indifference (biggest problem: we don’t care how desperate the lives of these people are; subhuman living where people die, no real medical care, and especially aftercare without a home). 

Richard: that is moving; but you are talking about degradation, and we cannot conflate that with inequality.  Degradation is problem in itself.  How do we find a basic minimum for human existence; and this has to be separate from class structure.

Harsh: The problem is not just the ones who lead the most degraded lives (although they are the ones who need my services the most), but the view that there is a significant segment of people who don’t deserve legitimacy: we look at slums simply as places we’d like to clean up. It is a much larger sector of the population that is affected by being viewed as not being legitimate members of society.

Jagan: A lot of us do little acts of kindness that serve some needs; but not sure we can transform that into a governance structure without “the compassionate princes.”  We face a huge backlog of what hasn’t been done in dealing with our cities; there is the possibility with technology to speed up that process—the digitalization of land records can be a complete game-changer in the question of access to land, which is now mired in an opacity and lack of information.  There is also the problem that speaking of community participation may overlook the participation of individuals: the issue of “who speaks”—community can help represent interests, but doesn’t mean that this is adequate to the expression of individual aspirations and needs.

Ireena: I look at it from the perspective of a citizen and a business person for 25 years.  What we’re fighting for is the soul of Indian cities. We had an identity after Independence, and then that identity got depleted. At the end of the day, we’re going to have inequality of various kinds; but we also have opportunities of various kinds.  How are we going to make a space for all the different elements (the different religious, ethnic, cultural diversity of the country; the rich and the poor), all these different facets of India, without judging them as good/bad, rich/poor.  The consultation process may give you a yes or a no; but the choices are really made by enlightened leaders and bureaucrats.  We need to define an Indian city that creates spaces for this richness and letting it evolve.

Ananya: Using moderator privilege, I’m going to invite Joan Clos to reflect on a paradox which runs through all this: we are placing a lot of faith in better planning, at a time when many of the problems have been produced by planning.  You started the conference by asking us to think about a new paradigm of how we plan; do we also need a new paradigm of who plans?

Joan: Very much to the point: I talk about new paradigms in plural, because society requires a diversity of solutions. In India you are in the growing world, going to produce new cities—in the West we don’t do that. It is up to you, now; it’s your turn to produce the new paradigm of urbanization. We are going to look at what you do; we know how our cities were built—it was a time that the relationship between capital and urbanization was established by the dialogue between capital and unions—and unions were asking, and fighting, and dying for good, decent housing; and capital produced decent housing, not because the ones controlling the captial thought it was intelligent, nice…, but because it was a fight and they were forced to.  The debate here, though, raises the question of who is talking in the name of whom—who is now representing the rights of the poor in the dialogue between the elite and the majority. Who has the power to fight for the rights of the majority? I hope the new urban model will come out of this fight. What is going to provide the livelihoods of the majority? It won’t be manufacturing.  How are they going to win these rights? The rights won’t be given out of generosity. The new model of urbanization—which I hope will replace the modernist one we are suffering from around the world, and which I hope you can avoid—will have to come from you.  But who will represent the majority; if they do not organize themselves, they will not obtain what they are dreaming of. The government will try to do what it can; but where is the fight for the good city going to come from? And this is the lesson I take out of this fabulous Urban Age Conference in Delhi.

Ananya: My closing thought is that we need to think about how the world’s great democracies reproduce spatialized inequality.  How to move from thinking about the deprived to how we tackle wealth, power, and privilege—and how urban planning has repeatedly reproduced those forms of wealth, power, and privilege. Thinking about social change may require that we step outside the safe boundaries of both government and governance.

Darryl: I’m a journalist, so I raise questions; and I’m bothered by constant emphasis on infrastructure, Smart Cities, corridors, highways. This emphasis in the absence of who it’s going to benefit; Smart Cities looked at in the context of our country, where 1 in 4 people don’t even have electricity—not to mention the lack of drinking water, sanitation—creates a danger of building-led development, and the resultant exclusion of vast masses of India. India will have one of the biggest transformations the world has ever seen; and what that transformation will be is something we all need to join in the debate about—such as the Urban Age is providing.

Thomas Matussek (Managing Director, Alfred Herrhausen Society) gave the Closing Remarks.


This brings us to the end of two days full of thought provoking, passionate debate—so full of good ideas.  This has been the most interesting and challenging Urban Age debate we’ve had over recent years.  Here it all boils down to governance—governance, leadership, trust are exactly at the heart of the matter. Deciding who decides; managing chaos. Land is the problem that really gets the sparks flying here. Devolution and decentralization: in a time when megacities are taking over in a globalized world, without globalized institutional frameworks, we need multi-level governance. The Urban Age family has been deepened and been enlarged—for instance, Teheran, Lagos—and that is very important to us in deciding where we go in the future.  Thanks to Jagan Shah, and the National Institute of Urban Affairs who co-organized the conference: we always knew you were a class act, but now we know you’re a world-class act. And two wonderful young ladies, Priya Shankar and Puja Tewary, who for months worked to make this a success; and Linda Radau, to whom we owe tremendous gratitude. And from the LSE team, Madeleine Lee, Alexandra Gomes, and Savvis Verdis, who behind the scenes made sure everything worked. Thank you all, very much. I don’, “goodbye,” but I say, “Auf Wiedersehen”—“next year in…” that will be a surprise!

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