Role of Cities in achieving MDGs and SDGs

Cities, by and large, have higher per capita incomes, better and more modern schools and superior state of art health infrastructure than the villages. Thus, it is logical that they should be in the forefront in the achievement of the development goals. It is pertinent to note that the better schools and hospitals in the cities are often provided by the private sector and their charges are beyond the affordability levels of the poor.

‘Cities everywhere are makers of wealth, magnets for the industrious and motors of invention’. (Livable Cities for the Twentieth Century: World Bank)
Cities, by and large, have higher per capita incomes, better and more modern schools and superior state of art health infrastructure than the villages. Thus, it is logical that they should be in the forefront in the achievement of the development goals. It is pertinent to note that the better schools and hospitals in the cities are often provided by the private sector and their charges are beyond the affordability levels of the poor. Nevertheless, they provide services to a large number of citizens, typically to more than half the population in large cities.
The Millennium Development Goals, adopted in 2000 for completion by 2015 were the following.
• To eradicate extreme poverty and hunger,
• To achieve universal primary education,
• To promote gender equality and empower women,
• To reduce child mortality,
• To improve maternal health,
• To combat HIV/ AIDS, malaria and other diseases,
• To ensure environmental sustainability,
• To develop a global partnership for development.
The City Administrations had important roles in achieving the MDGs 2 to 7, since the main functions of municipal governments, called the ULBs in India, are solid waste management, water supply and sewerage, health and education. Almost the entire garbage collected in the City and the drinking water supplied to a City is by the municipal administration, where they have a near monopolistic role. About 50 percent of the provision for primary education and basic health cover in a city is made by the municipal / public schools and hospitals. In the MDG of gender equality, the women’s reservation of 50 percent to the elected posts in the ULBs has ensured that this vertical reservation for women is across all tiers. Further, in most city level jobs, there is a vertical reservation for women for one-third of the jobs. Thus, the message of gender equality has been passed on to all the communities and income groups.
During the last two decades, substantial progress has been achieved on the MDGs. As per the MDG-Final Country Report for India, the net enrolment in primary grade has improved from 77 per cent in 1990 to more than 87 per cent in 2015. The literacy rate of the 15 to 24 years old has improved from 61 per cent 86 per cent. Although these fell short of the MDG target of 11 percent, nevertheless it was a good achievement. In the child mortality rates, the country did even better. The Under-five morality rate (per 1000 live births) came down from 126 during 1990 to 43 in 2015 against the MDG target off 42. The Infant Mortality Rate reduced from 80 in 1990 to 34 in 2016 against the MDG target of 27.
The cities usually lead the rural areas by about ten points in the achievement of the goals and thereby push up the national average. For example the latest IMR (Infant Mortality Ratio) of Maharashtra is 19 per 1000, 13 for urban areas and 24 for rural areas. Similarly the Maternal Mortality Ratio (MMR) for Maharashtra is 21 per 100000, 14 for urban and 27 for rural areas. As per 2011 census, nearly 50 percent of the population in developing countries lived in urban areas, as against less than 30 percent in 1980s. This urbanization led to increased achievements in development indicators. Urbanization, which reduces the population pressure on farm land and shifts the population to better paying jobs is also accompanied by tapped water supply, better health cover and more productive education. More urbanized countries have lower poverty rates and better development indicators.
Although the rural poverty tends to spill over to the urban areas giving rise to slums, there is a wide disparity between different Indian states in Poverty Head Count Ratio (PHCR) of rural and urban areas. The NITI Aayog reports that the states with high rural-urban gap in PHCR during 2011-12 were Mizoram (more than 20 percent), Chhattisgarh, Arunachal Pradesh, Orissa, Jharkhand and Maharashtra (more than 15 percent), Madhya Pradesh, Assam, Gujarat and Pondicherry (more than 10 percent). In these states, cities were much better off than the rural areas. The Poverty Gap Ratio, i.e. the depth of poverty or the distance of the poor people from the poverty line is also higher in the rural areas. Thus, with their shift of primary sector jobs to secondary and tertiary sectors, the cities serve as leaders in prosperity.
The three components of the HDI, i.e. per capita GDP, literacy and life expectancy are themselves closely related to one another. A correlation study of these figures for the Indian states and different countries found that while the correlation coefficient for literacy and life expectancy was +0.81, the correlation coefficient of per capita GDP with life expectancy was +0.75. Thus, all the three indicators are closely linked with one another and countries that do well in one are quite likely to do well in the other development indicators also. Better education inculcates better health practices and a higher prosperity enables provision of better education and health infrastructure.
The state provisioning for health and education gets usually targeted towards the poor people. In these two sectors, exclusive hospitals and elite schools get set up in all democracies as per the affordability of higher-income groups. Since democracy gives a choice of where the child should be admitted and to which doctor a patient should go, relatively better off persons go to private doctors and private schools. The municipal schools and hospitals are left to take care of those who cannot afford this private provisioning. This does not mean that the municipal services are no good. Dr. Furqun Qamar and Mohammad Zahid of Jamia Mazil have shown that the value addition for the society in state-run schools is, indeed, higher than in private schools. In layman’s terms, while the municipal school will educate an illiterate maid’s child up to the S.S.C. examination, a private school may groom the son of a millionaire to only a slightly higher level of education than his parents. Thus, in the country’s giant strides in literacy levels since independence, state schools have played a bigger role than the private schools.
After many countries striving for and making reasonable progress in the achievement of MDGs, the UNDP adopted the Sustainable Development Goals, to be achieved by 2030. These SDGs are the following.
• No Poverty,
• Zero Hunger,
• Good Health and Well-being,
• Quality Education,
• Gender Equality,
• Clean Water and Sanitation,
• Affordable and Clean Energy,
• Decent Work and Economic Growth,
• Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure,
• Reduced Inequalities,
• Sustainable Cities and Infrastructure,
• Responsible Consumption and Production,
• Climate Action,
• Life below water
• Life on Land,
• Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions,
• Partnerships for the Goals.
It may be seen that that the City administrations have an important role to play in achievements of goals 3, 4, 5, 6 and 11 of the SDGs. Each SDG has been elaborated in detail with specific targets.
SDG 3 aims at a global maternal mortality rate of less than 70 per 100,000 live births. Neo-natal mortality to be brought down to 12 per 1000 live births and under 5 mortality to less than 25 live births. Achievements of these targets will require extension of Preventive and Social Medicine practices to poor areas and to slums. The city administration has a high role to play in this extension to lower income groups. The city administration has a particularly important role when infectious epidemics like swine flu or bird flu strike the city. Private sector may not have adequate quantities of prophylactic or specialized medicines. Moreover, the highly ‘infectious’ nature of such diseases deter private hospitals from admitting such patients in their wards as inmates. In Mumbai, individual city municipal hospitals were earmarked and provided with specialized staff to treat patients of such large scale infectious diseases.
In education, SDG 4 emphasizes quality education, gender equality and early childhood care and pre-primary education for all. Since the municipal schools offer permanent employment to teachers, they are not adequately nimble for quick shifts in education in response to the parental demands. Moreover, political philosophies such as education in mother-tongue make it difficult for municipal schools to adopt new practices. This is why, in spite of the overwhelming demand for English-medium education in Maharashtra, the municipal schools found it difficult to response to this demand quickly.
SDG 5 calls for elimination of all harmful practices, such as child, early and forced marriages and practices such as genetic mutilation. Cities can play a role here in bringing out the societal changes.
Goal 6 aims at achieving universal and equitable access to safe and affordable drinking water for all and also at adequate and equitable sanitation and hygiene for all and end open defecation, with special attention to needs of women and girls. Water supply and sewerage infrastructure in cities has always been superior. The recent drive in India for ‘Open Defecation Free’ cities is such first major drive towards clean cities, towns and also villages.
Goal 11 aims at ensuring access to adequate, safe and affordable housing and basic services to all and also aims at sustainable and safe transport with holistic disaster risk management. City administrations can facilitate this through better land-use planning.

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