Large-scale urban development is likely to be one of the primary sources of environmental change in Asia over the next decades, and more of this development will take place in India and China than in any other two countries. Understanding the dynamics and the ecological consequences of urban expansion is critical to crafting policies and institutions to manage it properly. Comparative analysis of these processes within and between different countries is an indispensable prerequisite to such an understanding.
This study has assembled remote sensing, demographic, environmental and other data over a period of forty years for a systematic comparison of urbanizing regions in China and India. Data on trajectories of urban development in parallel samples of 10 Chinese and 10 Indian cities over 1970-2010 were compared to examine how urban forms have changed and the consequences for environmental change.
The analysis has revealed strikingly different transformations of urban form in Chinese and Indian urban regions. In China peri-urban expansion has proceeded consistently regardless of city size in coastal regions with strong external investment, but less systematically in some inland regions and little in others. In India, peri-urban expansion has been less dramatic and has varied less between regions with higher and lower external investment. Indian patterns of peri-urban expansion also differ systematically from corresponding Chinese patterns.
The sources of these variations in different land market institutions, policymaking structures, national policy, infrastructure investment, transnational investment flows and patterns of rural-urban migration. Detailed qualitative and quantitative case studies in several paired urban regions of China and India have scrutinized these dynamics more closely. Meetings with stakeholders in both countries have provided lessons for policy and aided the analysis. Results have also been presented at the IHDP Conference on Urbanization and Global Environmental Change and other international scientific fora.