Surging population, changing climate make Indian cities a tough place to live

India is projected to see an explosion in its urban population in coming decades, but its cities already cannot cope, and climate change will make living conditions still harsher. The metropolis of Mumbai, one of India’s biggest, grew by some 80 lakh people in the past 30 years – the rough equivalent of the whole of New York City –to a population of 2 crore and is forecast to add another 70 lakh by 2035. 

Like other Indian megacities, Mumbai’s housing, transport, water and waste management infrastructure have not kept pace, with around 40 per cent of people living in slums. These crowded collections of ramshackle buildings, side by side with some of India’s richest neighbourhoods, often have no regular water, power supply or proper sanitation. 

As the world’s population approaches 800 crore, most of them in the developing world, it is a situation replicated globally. Those living on the outskirts of Mumbai commute for hours to work, with many hanging out of doors on packed trains. Others travel by car or motorbike on clogged, pothole-filled roads that flood during the monsoon. 

The UN projects that India’s population will rise from its current 140 crore to overtake China’s and peak at 170 crore in the 2060s, before dropping back to 150 crore by the start of the next century. 

By 2040, 27 crore more people will live in Indian cities, according to the International Energy Agency, driving carbon emissions higher from power generation and transport and from production of steel and concrete to house them. 

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