India has adopted the Sustainable Development Goals framework and aligned its development policies and missions with the global goals. The country has made significant progress on the SDG targets driven by the principles of inclusive growth and sustainability. However, the process of implementing strategies at the city level for achieving global/national sustainability goals—localisation of SDGs—is an arduous task. While the urban local bodies are still struggling with low technical and managerial capacities, the COVID-19 pandemic has thrown up a series of socio-economic challenges making the situation even more challenging. This has not only slowed the momentum towards implementing SDGs but also has brought the focus on urban local bodies’ functions which now need to be strengthened to build a resilient urban society.
In response to the pandemic and economic slowdown, the call for making an Atmanirbhar India— supported by the five pillars economy, infrastructure, system, demography, and demand—will only be realised if our cities are sustainable and productive. There is no doubt that a self-reliant India will emerge from self-reliant cities. This endeavour will require a strong synchronisation between the national planning policies and the global frameworks. It is crucial that both are implemented locally. One of the most important implementation steps is to strengthen local economic development, i.e. building up economic capacity by delivering on the basic socio-economic needs. We must also shift from regulatory-based planning to strategic planning. Such planning will allow for stronger regional networks that enhance investments and develop spatial strategies that incentivise growth, and design enabling policies for people, production, and productivity.
Also Read: Indian Cities and SDG 11.2
This is the decade of action for SDGs and it is imperative to adopt an action-oriented approach to meet the goals of economic self-reliance, inclusivity, and sustainability. We must strengthen the institutional capacities, promote innovative financing mechanisms and harmonise the policy environment for action at the local level.
NIUA is committed to helping Indian cities perform better. To achieve this objective, along with our own resources, we partner with media, industry, academia, and other government and non-government organisations for effective research, capacity-building, and advocacy outcomes. The collaboration of the National Institute of Urban Affairs and eGov magazine is a demonstration of the same. Teams at NIUA and eGov magazine have enthusiastically worked to collate a diverse range of knowledge-base on the cross-cutting issues on sustainable urban development in India for this special issue. My sincere thanks to all the authors who have contributed to this special issue and shared their knowledge to make this issue possible.