Our contributing writer for the column Point of View is Gautam Sen Gupta, Director of Market Vision and Promoter of GRAS Academy, a Vocational Education & Training Institute, focussed on skills development among the Bottom of the Pyramid (BOP) youth population in India. He is of the opinion that the tourism industry can not only help reduce the pressures of urbanization in developing countries like India by developing and offering semi-urban and rural based tourism products to holiday seekers, but it also has the ability to hold back some of the potential migrants to urban cities, by enhancing livelihoods through job creation in the local tourism industry.
With growing urbanisation in India, an estimated 843 million people will live in cities across the country by 2050 according to a 2012 report by industry chamber Confederation of Indian Industries (CII) and realty consultant Jones Lang LaSalle. This is as much as the combined populations of present day USA, Brazil, Russia, Japan and Germany! According to this report, urbanisation in India is growing at the fastest rate among the BRIC nations, putting massive pressure on its cities.
In large part this is led by the belief that opportunities for improved livelihoods lie in the urban centres, leading to ongoing population migration. In turn, this migration is putting massive pressure on the urban centres, needing to expand infrastructure, civic amenities and services. This adds an additional dimension to the critical need in India for overall development of infrastructure across the country, in terms of roads, bridges, airports, railways, power, water etc, in order that it may maintain its economic growth momentum.
This problem is not India’s alone. According to the United Nations report: World Urbanization Prospects (The 2011 Revision), by the middle of the 21st century, the global urban population will almost double, increasing from approximately 3.4 billion in 2009 to 6.4 billion in 2050. Almost all urban population growth in the next 30 years will occur in cities of developing countries. Between 1995 and 2005, the urban population of developing countries grew by an average of 1.2 million people per week, or around 165,000 people every day. By the middle of the 21st century, it is estimated that the urban population of these countries will nearly double, increasing from 2.7 billion in 2011 to almost 5.2 billion in 2050.
Addressing population pressures requires cooperation and strategic decision-making across several levels of government—this is not always quick to emerge. One major factor holding back progress is that managing population pressure is also an environmental issue, in addition to requiring coordinated management of a range of social issues including health, transport, energy and housing infrastructure.