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Diffuse Urbanization And Mega-Urban Regions In India: Between Reluctant And Restrictive Urbanism?

Elfie Swerts, É. Denis, P. Mukhopadhyay
Published 2018 · Geography

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Although India is home to some of the biggest global metropolises, it is still predominantly rural though in the midst of an ongoing urban transition. In this context, the Indian system of cities challenges trends currently associated with an urban transition. The goal of this chapter is to assess how India’s urban transition impacts the demographic and economic evolution of its urban system. Our analysis is based on a diachronic city series that adjusts and harmonizes changes in the definition of urban localities over 50 years. We find that India’s urban growth is evenly distributed among cities, across size and location. One third of the fastest growing cities are small towns, emphasizing that the Indian urbanization goes beyond the million-plus cities. This can be attributed to a slow process of metropolitanization of the economy and the development of specialized clusters, often combining cities of different sizes and villages. The proportion of marginal workers tends to be higher in the small towns and in the cities of the Indo-Gangetic valley, where job intensity is also the lowest, highlighting the challenge of the economic transition from agriculture in terms of employment and the associated role of the smaller towns. Urban growth is mostly due to the natural growth of cities and to a lesser extent to rural-urban migration. Finally, seasonal migration and daily commuting that connect the rural world to the urban system also contribute to urban growth and blur the limits of the urban localities.
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