Change is the only constant in life. In developing nations such as India, that change often comes in the form of urbanization. The move from rural areas to the cities – the issue of palayan (migration) – has increasingly been garnering attention in Uttarakhand. However, whether the cities and towns in our state are prepared for this monumental transition is another question that requires as much attention as the reality of migration.

Urbanization in Uttarakhand

There is a new narrative unfolding quietly yet rapidly in Himalayan Uttarakhand which is centered around urbanization. The data and trends that are available deserve to be noticed carefully. The total population in Uttarakhand increased by 20% during the 2001-2011 period while the urban population went up by 40%. During this period, the share of urban population in the total population went up from 25.67% to 30.23%. The number of census towns increased from 12 to 41 during the same period in Uttarakhand which with 241% increase is much higher than the corresponding, national average of 185%. The urban population is increasing not only in the state’s cities but in Uttarakhand’s towns as well.

Though largely seen as a Himalayan state – and by that extension as a mountain state – comparisons with other states also make for interesting observations. As per Census 2011, the share of urban population in the total state population is almost 40% higher in Uttarakhand compared to Uttar Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand. Data comparison with Himachal Pradesh also present startling comparisons. Such data and conclusions clearly illustrate the fast-changing and swiftly emerging urban contours in the hilly, Himalayan state of Uttarakhand.

What Next?

It is primarily against the background of migration that the narrative of increasing urbanization needs to be scripted. The time is ripe for a new and sustainable model of urban governance to be launched, one that is integrative, inclusive and imaginative. For long the image of Uttarakhand has been that of the hills and it is time for a subtle shift. We need to start thinking and planning about our villages and our cities alike. The needs of urbanized Uttarakhand require just as much attention as the villages which dot our largely mountain state.

Every city and town must offer its residents basic civic and urban facilities and these include – at a bare minimum – regular supply of clean water, sanitation, well-maintained streets and public spaces, power and communication. When a city grows in leaps and bounds without planning and vision, chaos is inevitable. Urbanization needs to be deliberate and well planned, and not merely the result of migration trends and a city or town’s efforts to deal with them.

(Author is the Founder Chairperson of SDC Foundation. He tweets at Anoopnautiyal1