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India's Human Settlement Challenge

Public Lecture by Kirtee Shah
Please join us for a special guest lecture by Kirtee Shah, discussing India's human settlement challenges as population projections grow to 820 million in 2050.

Event details

Date: Monday 12 August
Time: 6 - 7.30pm, refreshments from 5.30pm
Venue: Lecture Theatre 1, Wilkinson Building, 148 City Rd, Darlington 2006
The University of Sydney School of Architecture, Design & Planning

Please note, this is a FREE event, however registrations are essential.

About the talk

Kirtee Shah

India’s human settlements development challenge that includes both the rural habitat sector with some 900 million people, 68 percent of the total, living in 6, 30, 000 villages, small and big, and rapidly growing urban sector with about 370 million people in nearly 8000 towns and cities (projected population: 820 million by 2050 form 50 million in 1950 ) is daunting by any standard.

The response to the development challenge of the villages, large in numbers, spread widely across the country and of varying sizes, is mainly determined by two factors: change in the structure of the rural economy where its share in GDP has declined from 50 percent in 1947, at the time of the country’s independence, to 14 percent currently; continuing rural to urban migration, and rural economic distress. Though infrastructure in form of electricity, connecting roads, water supply, health and education facility, etc. has improved; industrial development on the urban periphery is often in the rural territory with its positive ( economic, jobs) and negative (pollution, use of land and water resource) effects; much appreciated rural sanitation improvement campaign under which millions of private toilets have been constructed, and massive rural housing programs for the inadequately sheltered villages are improving living conditions, yet a long term vision, especially in the context of rapid urbanization and technological changes, remains unclear.

On the other hand channelling urbanization process and managing growth of the Indian cities in a manner that ensures equal opportunity to all citizens; addresses issues of poverty, inequality and employment effectively; preserves environment and environmental resources; respects ecology; balances modernity with tradition; puts technological advances to creative use; protects cultural heritage and social diversity; preserves human values and nurtures new norms of a democratic, participatory, equity-ous and just society, is undoubtedly one of the most demanding of the development challenges facing India. The challenge is not only to ensure livelihood, shelter, services, dignity and opportunity to grow and prosper to some 80 million in the city slums and other forms of marginal existence but also for the 350 million more people who will be in the cities, many of them bursting at the seams already, in three more decades. It is also not only maintaining the higher growth rate in the region of 8/9 percent, some 65/70 percent of which gets produced in the urban sector or the resource crunch or keeping the investment and development balance correct between the rural and the urban. Inclusive growth, sustainable development and participatory governance are formidable challenges too. The responses in form of 100 Smart Cities and 20 million affordable houses are a pointer to a new resolve.

How are these daunting challenges addressed and what are the signals that things are on track?

About Kirtee Shah

Concerned that the ‘architecture’ he was studying at one of the best schools in the country, way back in the ‘60s, was not sufficiently oriented to the contemporary human settlements challenges, especially concerning the needs of the poor and the marginalized groups, Kirtee Shah set out to work with the homeless poor in the villages first and subsequently in the urban slums of Gujarat, India.

The search for ‘content and social relevance’ in professional work, the desire to serve the ‘alternative client’, and an attitude to de-learn and re-learn in face of new challenges have shaped Kirtee Shah’s 50 year long professional career in six parallel and overlapping streams that include architecture practice, grass roots work as an NGO, policy advocacy, disaster reconstruction, institution development and project consultancy. His areas of specialisation include Urbanization, Slums, Affordable Housing, Urban Poverty, Disaster Reconstruction, Civil Society Role in Development and Rlevance of Professional Education.

As a member of the Prime Minister appointed National Commission on Urbanization (NCU) in the mid 80’s, he chaired a Working Group on Urban Poverty in India. Founder Director of Ahmedabad Study Action Group (ASAG; an NGO he set up with likeminded professionals and leads for the past 48 years) he was president of Habitat International Coalition for a decade in the mid ‘90s (HIC; a global coalition of civic groups, activists and professionals working on the housing rights and the people centered urban development). He is founder president of India Habitat Forum (INHAF), a twenty year old national network of habitat professionls and civl society organizations ; founder chairman of Home Losers’ Service Association of Ahmedabad (HOLSAA; set up following the earthquake in Gujarat in 2001); president of Banglore based Institute for Cultural Research and Action (ICRA) for the past 30 years; one of the founders of the Ashoka Innovator for the Public, which now has presence in more than 90 countries of the world and is engaged actively with the institutional development activities of Citynet and Asian Coalition for Housing Rights (ACHR).

He has been on several committees set up by the Planning Commission of India; was on the Board of Directors of Housing and Urban Development Corpration (HUDCO ) and has consulted with the UN agencies, the World Bank, Cities Development Initiatives for Asia (CDIA) and others.

He was associated, as an advisor, with the GOI’s 50,000 houses project for the war victims in Sri Lanka and Chaired a Committee, set up by Hudco, for the Rejuvenation and Strengthening of the Building Centres Nework in India. .

He is Chairman and Chief Architect of Ksa Design Planning Services Pvt Ltd., an Ahmedabad based firm of practicing architects with projects in various parts of the country and outside.

Wilkinson Building