What is the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor all about? Part I

Quick note: This post is the first of a two-part series on the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor.

“Initially, it used to happen once or twice a month, later it decreased to 2-3 times a year, and now we can just drive by without worrying about it at all”, claimed Shiva, a taxi driver who frequently drives between Udaipur, Rajasthan and Palanpur, Gujarat, a route that forms a significant area of influence under the upcoming Delhi Mumbai Industrial Corridor (DMIC). What Shiva was referring to is the number of panthers killed by speeding vehicles while crossing the highway from a lake to the forest.

The DMIC is an urban expansion project that aims to span the entire western sector of India. It is envisaged to include a high-speed road and rail corridor, with dedicated freight lines, as well as the construction of ‘smart cities’, new industrial regions and green field airports.[1] Along the entire corridor, it seeks to give impetus to industrial growth and create an industrial belt to achieve sustained economic growth for India. The plan has an influence area from Delhi to Mumbai covering over 400,000 square kms.[2] It is going to pass through the states of Uttar Pradesh, where it will begin in Dadri, Haryana, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Maharashtra, where it will end at the Jawaharlal Nehru Port, which is a distance of almost 1500 kms.[3]

The project is not a novel idea in terms of its substance. In fact, developing urban areas with large-scale infrastructure and investment in capital goods has for long been considered as a spur for urban and consequent economic growth. To provide some context for urban development, a couple of centuries ago the total urban population of the world was not more than 250 million, which was less than a fifth of the then existing population.[4] Today, India, at 34% of urban population, has more than double the people in urban areas alone than this entire figure.[5] For the first time in the history of the world, in this century, more people (4.1 billion, or 55% of the world’s population) are living in urban areas than in rural locations.[6] Given the push for urban development as a way to increase household incomes and wealth[7], this growth is seen most visibly in developing nations, with the largest urban agglomerate areas such as Mumbai, Mexico City, Sao Paulo, and Beijing, in developing countries.

By their very nature, large-scale projects, especially those in developing countries, are dependent on angel funding (either by States or private players) for their development. The sheer scale of some of these projects makes it crucial to discuss their potential implications on a variety of aspects – socio-economic, environmental, and financial.

The plan for the DMIC is in line with this strategy of building larger and new cities. It has been touted as a game changer for addressing India’s existing problems in messy urbanization. It is going to be a huge investment over a number of years, with the estimated project cost alone estimated at Rs. 6, 30, 000 crore or Rs. 6.3 trillion (USD 90 billion).[8]

It relies on policy measures that various urban growth models have experimented with, such as engaging the private sector for essential infrastructure development, building green field parallel to existing urban centers, and relying on different forms of international aid, soft loans, or State support for funding models. This can create a multitude of obligations in terms of monetizing land, sourcing requirements, conditional use of funds, and even bilateral relations (in cases of international funding).

The next question then is, given these financial risks, if such projects are at least meant to benefit the entire population. The answer, unsurprisingly, is no. Building MRTS systems or airports systematically excludes those who cannot pay for the high cost of such services. Further, these projects necessarily require continuous funding for the maintenance of the infrastructure. As a result, such attempts at growth often serve to increase the wedge of inequality in society by depriving locals of their land, privatizing profits from the area and creating livelihood insecurity for those living in the region.

In the next post, I will discuss some specific environmental implications of the DMIC.

[1]About DMICDC – An Overview, DELHI MUMBAI INDUSTRIAL CORRIDOR DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION (DMICDC), available at: http://www.dmicdc.com/about-DMICDC.

[2]Shantanu Guha Ray, A New Grand Trunk Road – For Industry, TEHELKA, February 16, 2008, available at: http://archive.tehelka.com/story_main37.asp?filename=Bu090208Grand_Trunk.asp.

[3]About DMICDC – An Overview, DELHI MUMBAI INDUSTRIAL CORRIDOR DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION (DMICDC), available at: http://www.dmicdc.com/about-DMICDC.

[4]Rakesh Mohan and Shubhagato Dasgupta, Urban Development in India in the 21stCentury: Policies for Accelerating Urban Growth, Working Paper no. 231, STANFORD CENTRE FOR INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT, STANFORD UNIVERSITY, October 2004, p. 1, available at: https://globalpoverty.stanford.edu/sites/default/files/publications/231wp.pdf.

[5]Urban Population (in %), THE WORLD BANK, available at: http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SP.URB.TOTL.IN.ZS(last accessed on August 29, 2018).

[6]Urban Population Growth, WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION, available at: http://www.who.int/gho/urban_health/situation_trends/urban_population_growth_text/en/. (last accessed on August 29, 2018); Urban Population, THE WORLD BANK, available at: https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SP.URB.TOTL(last accessed on August 29, 2018).

[7]Spence et al. (Eds.), Urbanization and Growth, COMMISSION ON GROWTH AND DEVELOPMENT (THE WORLD BANK), 2009, https://siteresources.worldbank.org/EXTPREMNET/Resources/489960-1338997241035/Growth_Commission_Vol1_Urbanization_Growth.pdf.

[8]Metamorphosis – DMIC Overview, http://www.dmicdc.com/Uploads/Files/5df_dmic-overview.pdf.

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