Growing ‘Smart’? Urbanization Processes in the Pune Urban Agglomeration

The Indian city of Pune witnessed rapid growth and deep transformation processes in the last three decades. This paper assesses past developments and recent structures and processes against the concept of urban sustainability. Following an overview of the historical development, the dimensions of sustainability are discussed separately, based on empirical findings. Urban growth puts enormous pressure on Pune’s land and water resources, changing the ecology of the area. The increasing water demand of Pune’s growing population competes with growing energy and water demands. An assessment of future climate change impacts indicates that the storage capacity of the reservoirs is more frequently not met during the rainy season. In addition, extreme dry years can aggravate the effects of land use change on water resources in the future. The city’s growth and especially the large in-migration has also changed Pune’s social fabric significantly. Wealth is distributed unevenly in the city and social disparities can be observed along two fault lines, namely along classes and caste groups. The population development and the increasing socioeconomic polarization are linked to the economic development of the city. Pune’s formal economy has a robust base. However, as in many cities of the Global South, the informal economy is the most relevant source of income for large parts of the population. Pune’s development is challenged by informality, poor infrastructure and inadequate planning and governance. Recently new approaches towards urban renewal and smart city development were launched. These new approaches aim at overcoming blockades in the traditional planning. A special challenge for urban planning is the transformation of urban fringe areas of the city, as this process is currently taking place in an unsustainable manner. The paper concludes that urban development has to become holistic, integrative and participative and should abandon the stereotype vision of the world class city in favor of a sustainable, locally adjusted pathway of development.


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