With growing challenges in urban mobility in Indian cities, the concept of new urbanism and walk-to-work should gain traction in near future in major cities. The concept of new urbanism encourages developments such as housing, workplace and shopping in proximity to each other; walkable blocks and streets and accessible public spaces play an integral part in such developments. As per Colliers Research, about 90 million sq ft of office space under various stage of construction across India which is likely to complete in next three years, IT-ITeS districts of the cities will be the precise zones to promote such walk-to-work concepts in Indian cities. Being a forerunner, residential developers in Bengaluru have already started experimenting with the concept of walk-to-work with projects near Whitefield and Hebbal. Integrated developments with schools, colleges, malls, cinema halls and public spaces within 0.5 – 1 km radius will further complement such walk-to-work developments.

“The average one-way travel time for an office employee in Bangalore is around 45min, which means that an employee spends one & half hours of non-productive time on the road. To address this pain point, Tier 1 developers are focusing on integrated developments. Some of the most successful examples of integrated developments are Prestige Shantinikatan and Brigade Metropolis in White field, World Trade Center in Yeswanthpur and as per Colliers, more developers are aspiring to join the league”, says Goutam Chakraborty, Senior Director, Office Services (Bengaluru), Colliers International India

Magarpatta city in Pune is also one such successful example of a sustainable development model integrated with commercial zone, residential developments, institutions, healthcare facilities and recreational spaces with best in class infrastructure. “With the next generation workforce increasingly exposed to international standards and practices, they value jobs where commuting time is reduced, and better-quality life can be afforded by way of planned real estate development within not just the workplace but also the overall environment including transportation, social & civic amenities”, says Rishav Vij, Director, Office Services (Pune), Colliers International India

In addition to this, Transit Oriented Development (TOD) trends should create a balanced land-use mix with residential developments along the transit corridor that help in achieving controlled developments within the cities. With a focus on creation of high density mixed-use development in the influence zone of transit stations i.e. within the walking distance of (500-800 m), TOD is likely to reduce the average travel time and expenses on transportation. TOD should also include provision for public spaces, organised parking and support pedestrians, bicyclists and non-motorized Transport (NMT) users in cities.

With India witnessing a notable economic growth in recent years, Indian cities are growing at a rate faster than other cities in the world. According to Ministry of Urban Development (MoUD), the urban population in the country, which is nearly 377 million is poised to grow up to 600 million by 2030. This rapid urbanisation coupled with increasing residential and commercial developments has led to various destructive consequences such as road traffic issues, increased pollution, flooding, public safety and accumulated pressure on existing infrastructure. This, in turn, is diluting the habitable quotient in the fast urbanising metro cities. While India’s aggregate annual infrastructure investment amounts to 35% of GDP, the government estimates that it requires USD 1.5 trillion in infrastructure investment over the next decade. Even this huge amount will probably only help bridge the infrastructure deficit rather than create room for future growth.

In particular, it is worth highlighting that workforce in India typically require one to two hours commuting time for office in most large cities. Such long commuting time represents a major loss of productive time for the Indian economy. As per Colliers Research, the aggregate economic loss per annum from hold-ups or accidents at these bottlenecks at INR 312 million. The amount accumulates enough to be significant when combined with such loses on other similar stretches across the country.

Colliers Research study suggests that real estate developers should also focus on mixed-use developments at city peripherals or beyond the city limits to house the overspill population of the urban region to counteract population explosion in major cities. This planning approach will not just reduce the burden of urban infrastructure but also drive affordable housing as it remains as a distant dream owing to the high land cost in over built city areas. Moreover, affordable housing should benefit developers from the recent tax structure and government incentives, while luxury housing may see an increase in construction cost as most of the luxury input materials are in higher tax brackets of 18 and 28%.

Another important problem encountered by Indian cities today is flooding of low-lying areas during monsoons due to shrinking water bodies and green patches. A significant portion of various cities has been submerged in flood waters for the most part of the monsoons in recent years. Especially incessant downpour in Mumbai, Bangalore, Hyderabad and recently Chennai have triggered floods leading to disaster alerts in certain cases. According to Colliers Research, not just the climate change but the land use change has become the major cause for urban flooding. The coverage of road network with storm water drainage, storm water retention by individual plots through proper rain water harvesting and strict restriction of developments over the wetlands should be given more focus for the purpose of flood management.

Although the Indian cities are on the contest of getting smarter with the advent of technology in to various sectors in recent times, in order to overcome the infrastructure challenges and drive the push for habitable future cities, the civic authorities should plan a comprehensive urbanization strategy. This should include enhanced infrastructure, improved water and waste management techniques, planning for future with an overlay of technology, employment creation, and support economic activities to improve quality of life for citizens. Hence, improved urban mobility, urban design, rightful land use management, and access to required financing are the key for efficient, sustainable, and inclusive growth of Indian cities. As a result, this will transform urban life and increase the sustainability of cities across the country.