Environment & Urbanization

World leading environmental and urban studies journal

Book: 6 Metros. Urban Planning and Implementation Compared

Shirish B Patel, Oormi Kapadia and Jasmine Saluja

Vakils, Feffer & Simons Pvt. Ltd, Mumbai



This is a very fine, very detailed and beautifully presented comparative study of six cities – London, New York, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Delhi, Mumbai – each of them among the world’s largest cities, each part of a functioning democracy, each with successes and failures. Each with long and complex histories including histories of planning and land use management.

It is interesting to compare and contrast cities, in part in the hope that documenting good practice examples (or bad practice examples!) will influence practice in other cities. But how is this possible when each city’s current structures and problems are so particular to that city (and its surrounds), so rooted in its physical/environmental context, history and local and national contemporary political economy? And when there are huge gaps in city- and sub-city level statistics, especially on processes (e.g., the quality and coverage of health care services) rather than outcomes (e.g., infant and child mortality rates?

Along comes this 656-page study of six metros – London, New York, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Delhi, Mumbai – comparing and contrasting urban planning and implementation across the cities with the (unprecedented?) and so much needed historic and contemporary depth and detail. Its main aim is changing urban policy and practice in India but it has so much relevance to other cities and nations. Holding experiences of Delhi and Mumbai up against experiences of the four other metros raises many important issues.

The book is in two volumes. In the first, Signposts, the authors outline their core beliefs. This is followed by development histories of the six metros followed by 10 cross-city chapters comparing different aspects of urban planning process and implementation: acquiring control over land use, land use and zoning, transit, housing planned and unplanned, open spaces, amenities (including education and health) then density, urban form and urban fabric. The chapters that provide each city’s development history include much-needed but rarely seen depth and scope. For instance, in the chapter on London we ae taken back to Roman London into its development as a capital of Roman Britain replacing Colchester, to civil wars and religious disputes and by critical changes in governance during the 19th century – all relevant to the city’s contemporary issues. There are also evolution timelines for each city that start with its foundation. The last chapter in this volume has recommendations for Indian cities for each of topics discussed.

Having read or just dipped into this book, another volume appears: Mapping. The difference in intent between the two volumes is that Mapping records in detail the city-by-city research which signposts then draws upon it to make comparisons that lead finally to recommendations for the new guidelines for the expansion of Indian cities. The two volumes are intended to be read together as if they were single books in sequence.

But there is another way of looking at and using these two volumes. If you are engaged in work on (for instance) transit or transferable rights or parks or in discussions of urban density, look at the coverage of these in the two volumes. The set of recommendations are intended for planning and land use management in city extensions or new cities, focusing on India, but are possibly relevant to other countries and cities as well. The literature on urban issues seems obliged to stress that most of the world’s population growth in the next few decades will be in cities; here is a wonderful and beautifully presented call for change and for the directions this should take.

Book note prepared by David Satterthwaite.

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