Delhi, 14 November 2014: UN-Habitat’s Executive Director, Dr. Joan Clos has said that the agency is committed to help Prime Minister Modi to implement ambitious plans that he has recently announced for the sustainable development of India’s cities.

He made the remarks during a recent official visit to Delhi where he met with relevant government officials and project implementers and welcomed the country’s commitment to addressing the challenges of urbanisation head on while seizing the opportunities it presents.

“India continues to urbanise.  Three of the world’s 21 mega-cities – cities with a population of more than ten million people – are in India, namely, Mumbai, Delhi and Calcutta,” said Dr. Clos.  “This is why UN-Habitat welcomes the plans of the Government of India to create 100 Smart Cities and stands ready to support where requested to do so.”

The Head of the UN agency responsible for urban development highlighted to the authorities the importance of a three-pronged approach to planned urbanisation, including urban design, urban legislation and municipal finance and warned of the risks of neglecting any one of these aspects.

“A smart city combines the most effective aspects of urban planning and design to deliver affordable housing, transport and services to its population as it grows,” he said referring to one of the programmes outlined by the government.  The other programmes are: Urban Renewal in 500 Cities; the Clean India by 2019 Campaign; and Housing for All by 2022.

During the visit, Dr. Clos met with Mr. Venkaiah Naidu, Minister of Urban Development, Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation, Mrs. Anandiben Patel, Chief Minister of Gujarat, Mr. Shankar Aggarwal, Secretary, Ministry of Urban Development and Sujata Mehta, Secretary, Ministry of External Affairs.

Also clear in the political discussions was the need to empower local authorities to carry out their respective responsibilities and meet the needs and expectations of their citizens; an area in which UN-Habitat offered to support in building capacity and sharing expertise. 

Speaking at the Municipilka conference, Dr. Clos addressed key local authorities from across the country and highlighted the importance of the devolution of power to the city level to enable municipalities to deliver on services and urban development.  This is proving to be a challenge in India, as in many countries, where resources and implementation is largely controlled at the national level.

At the summit, held in Gujarat under the theme Building Vibrant Cities, Dr. Clos met with winning students of the Urban Innovation Challenge who presented ideas in two categories: Green Buildings and Habitats on the micro scale; and Sustainable Cities and Townships on the macro level.

The winners included ideas for how to tailor the concept of smart cities to the local level and a concept for urban refuse recycling.

During the visit, Dr. Clos also spoke at the Urban Age conference organised by the London School of Economics where he shared his vision for a new urban agenda with more than 100 global leading minds on urban governance.

Finally, the Executive Director congratulated the Government of India for hosting the next Asia Pacific Ministers Conference on Housing and Urban Development (APMCHUD) in 2016 and for taking on the role of Secretariat.  It is anticipated that this will take place in the run up to Habitat III – the UN Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development – in 2016 and will form an important part of the preparation for that event as we establish a new urban agenda and set the path to achieving the cities we want.