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Gujarat "no urban model": Urban malnutrition levels are higher than rural areas, says govt document

By Our Representative
In a major admission, the Gujarat government in a recent document has gone to suggest that, far from being an urban model, Gujarat’s urban areas are extremely poorly managed. Giving figures, the document admits, malnutrition levels in the state’s urban areas are higher than rural areas, even as adding, 50 per cent of urban areas lack basic infrastructure like water and sanitation. The document says, in the urban areas, two per cent children are “severely malnourished” and 33 per cent are “moderately malnourished”, in the rural areas, 1.5 per cent are “severely malnourished” and 25.86 per cent are “moderately malnourished”.
The data are based on survey of the integrated child development centres (ICDS), or aanganwadis, and do not include those not going to ICDS. It says, “These data indicate that in urban areas prevalence of malnutrition is higher”, and “there is a need for a comprehensive nutrition support and development of children particularly among the urban poor.” It proposes to “narrow the gap” by undertaking a “five year mission in seven municipal corporations in the state with additional anganwadis.”
As for urban infrastructure, the document -- submitted to the Centre-appointed 14th Finance Commission in October 2013 to assess financial requirement of each state -- seeks to suggest that they are “terribly stressed.” “Gujarat has emerged as one of India’s most urbanized states with a high level of industrialization”, it says, adding, currently 42.5 per cent of population residing in the urban areas, and it increased by almost 36 per cent between 2001 and 2011, while the rural population rose by just 10 per cent. This has overstressed the urban areas.
Thus, there is wide “intra-urban disparity” in the distribution of water. “While the average water supply is 99 litres per capita per day (lpcd) and 97 lpcd in class A and B towns, the supply levels in class C and D towns are much lower. These levels of per capita water supply are much lower than the Government of India norms”, the document says.
Things are same with sewerage facilities – of the 167 municipalities, only 67 have sewerage, while “the rest of the towns depend on onsite sanitation, drains and open defecation.” It adds, “This means 48 per cent or the urban population disposes of their wastewater onsite. Even in eight municipal corporations, sewerage coverage is about 58 per cent.” All this, the document underlines, “affects the poor the most.”
“Due to insufficient provision of infrastructure, gap between requirement and availability has increased further because of high rate of growth of population”, the document say. Pointing out that the urban population is slated to rise from 2.41 crore in 2014 to 3.82 crore in 2021, the document says, “Gujarat will have to provide basic infrastructure facilities to additional 1 million people additional persons in urban areas just to maintain the current level of services which is also behind the normal level.”
The infrastructure is stressed because, the document says, the urban areas, particularly Ahmedabad, Surat and Vadodara, contributing to 29 per cent of the population of Gujarat, are “receiving migrant population from other states.” It complains, “The growth in urban infrastructure and public services has not been able to match the growth in the population inflow of these cities. Immigration has put tremendous pressure on urban infrastructure and has widened the gap between demand and availability of infrastructure.”
The problem has become worse compounded because, the document says, “population spillover” or “outgrowth” has taken place “beyond the administrative boundaries of municipal areas.” It adds, “These areas continue to be administered under rural set-up resulting in haphazard developments”, and face “problems of inadequate infrastructure.” Here, there is a need to bring the “expanded areas into urban administration through amalgamation of areas”, and “creation of new urban local self-governments and provision of urban services.”

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