How one Indian city cracked the problem of urban spread

Nov 22, 2018

A FEW MILES west of Ahmedabad, in the state of Gujarat, a smiling patriarch named Shivaji still farms the land around the small redbrick home where he was born. But the city is creeping towards him. Mr Shivaji has already sold about a quarter of his land to a speculator (he hid the money in a hole before India suddenly cancelled most banknotes two years ago, forcing him to come up with a better plan). Slicing through his farm is a wide, straight strip of grass on which the municipal government will eventually build a road. Under it, a sewer has already been installed.

Ahmedabad, which contains 6m people, is growing by about 2% a year, both in population and in size. In that sense, it is a typical Indian city. But whereas most Indian cities—and indeed most of them in the emerging world—sprawl haphazardly, Ahmedabad is spreading in an orderly way. Many farms close to the metropolis, like Mr Shivaji’s, already contain the ghostly outline of a rectilinear road grid. This is gradually being filled with homes...

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