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HIGH URBAN DENSITIES IN DEVELOPING COUNTRIES: A SUSTAINABLE SOLUTION?

High Urban Densities in Developing


Countries: A Sustainable Solution?
SEEMA DAVE

High-density developments are widely claimed to make an important contribution


to achieving sustainable growth of cities in developed countries. The compact city
model is claimed to be a suitable model for such cities. How far the high-density
compact city model is relevant for sustainable urban growth in cities in developing
countries which already have higher densities than those in developed countries is
as yet unknown. This paper contributes to this theoretical debate with empirical
evidence from eleven neighbourhoods of varying densities and built form patterns
within the Mumbai Metropolitan Region in India. In so doing, the critical aspects
of social, economic and environmental sustainability as well as both physical and
perceived dimensions of densities are discussed within the particular context of
Mumbai. Evidence from this research suggests that higher densities and compact
developments do have potential to achieve sustainable development in rapidly
growing cities in developing countries.

Higher-density developments are widely (Rapoport, 1977). Therefore urban com-


claimed to provide the solution to achieving paction has to be tested for its cultural and
sustainable growth of cities in developed local appropriateness. Some theorists argue
countries (CEC, 1990; Williams et al., 1996). that compact city models may not be relevant
Among many suggested sustainable urban in developing countries due to their very high
forms for developed countries, the high- growth rates (population and urban areas),
density, compact development or compact cultural and climatic differences and different
city is argued by many to be the most mix of use patterns, leading to crowding and
suitable model. As a result of rapid growth, congestion (Hardoy et al., 2000; Williams,
many cities in Asia are facing many urban 2004; Kaji, 2003). While these arguments
challenges including severe housing and in- are based on considerable evidence, this
frastructure shortages and growing numbers is largely focused on cities in developed
of squatter settlements within the city. These countries (Bae and Hee, 2004; Owens, 1991)
problems are exacerbated by the physical and there is limited study to establish the
scale and continuously growing urban relevance of compact urban forms and high-
sprawl. Within this context, a key question density development in developing countries.
is posed: can the high-density compact city Such research as exists is related to a few
model provide a sustainable solution to the specific issues of sustainability and lacks a
rapid urban growth of these cities which comprehensive approach (Bertaud, 2004a; Yeh
already have a higher concentration of people and Li, 2000; Griesmayer, 1988). Therefore,
than cities in developed countries? the relevance of high-density compact form
The density of human habitat is closely has remained untested in cities in developing
intertwined with its society and culture countries.

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The present research aims to address and unplanned growth and expansion of
this gap by developing empirical tests for urban edges. Further, growth on the edge
the theoretical claims about compact devel- of cities is not as compact as the old core of
opments for developing countries. Mumbai, the city; densities are often very low, with
the largest metropolis of India, was taken as a uneven (leapfrog) patterns of development.
case study and the impacts of urban densities This creates a vicious circle: urban size is
on the three main aspects of sustainability again related to many problems caused
social, economic, and environmental by lack of basic infrastructure including
were established using multiple indicators transport networks and to issues of social
(Dave, 2008). The theoretical background exclusion. The plight of the urban poor and
and the concepts of social, economic and en- disparity of development benefits continues
vironmental sustainability as well as density to increase. Transport networking to the
used in the research are described in the edge areas becomes even more costly and
next section. The methodology employed inefficient for these cities, which already
in the research is explained, followed by the lack financial capacity. It is predicted that
presentation of the empirical findings. The in future there will be many Asia-Pacific
last section attempts to establish the validity cities with populations of over 3040 million
of high-density compact urban form in cities (Department for International Development,
of developing countries within the context of 2006). Achieving sustainable patterns of devel-
existing knowledge, the empirical findings opment (mono-centric or multi-centred) in
and present urban policies. these cities is important and urban intensi-
fication and compaction may provide a
sustainable solution.
Urban Development in Developing
However, since the 19601970s in Mumbai,
Countries: Focus on Mumbai
as in many other Indian cities, urban devel-
Urban populations consume more energy, opment policies were centred on reducing
produce more emissions per capita, and built-up densities to avoid overcrowding by
use more natural resources than rural adopting low-density development controls
populations. One of the main arguments and applying them uniformly across the city.
of the compact city model is that it reduces Low-density developments or sprawling
urban consumption patterns by concentrating cities consume more land, causing the ex-
urban development. Recent high economic pansion of cities built-up boundaries. Such
growth is reflected in rapid urbanization in forms have many negative impacts on sus-
this region. The Asia-Pacific countries are tainability, which are widely discussed in
currently home to approximately 58 per cent the literature (Bae and Hee, 2004; Newman
of the worlds population and 45 per cent of and Kenworthy, 1989), and are exacerbated
the worlds urban population. Urbanization in by the use of development control tools to
Asia has proceeded so rapidly that, between create low-density built forms (Alexander,
1980 and 2002, the regions urban population 1993). In Mumbai and many other Indian
more than doubled, from 646 million to 1,333 cities, Floor Space Index (FSI) is commonly
million (UN ESCAP, 2005). used in setting controls for the built form. FSI
Such high urban population growth is has gained significance in Indian cities as it
mainly due to economic progress, increased is used to control the built volume, thereby
employment opportunities, and the potential governing building activity over space, plot
for improved quality of life in urban areas. by plot. It prescribes a maximum built-up
There is a huge migration from surrounding area on all floors taken together in relation
rural areas to the economically vibrant urban to the area of the plot (Lele, 1983). Mumbais
centres, which has resulted in uncontrolled recent density policy allows a very low built-

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HIGH URBAN DENSITIES IN DEVELOPING COUNTRIES: A SUSTAINABLE SOLUTION?

up density range: an FSI of between 1 and average living space is just 4.5 m2, which is
1.33 is permitted throughout the city and claimed to be the lowest in the world.
for various land uses. In many large cities of The National Commission on Urbanisation
the world, FSI varies from 1 to 20 between (1988) reported that in Indian cities, 12.8 per
residential and CBD areas (Bertaud, 2004b). cent of the urban population lives in 0.9
This approach of promoting low built-up per cent of the urban area, at densities in
densities while encouraging huge sprawling excess of 500 p/ha. Among them, only 2.5
cities is questionable when considering the per cent lives at extremely high densities,
urban problems and challenges. in excess of 1000 p/ha, on 0.1 per cent of
Looking at the growth and density patterns the urban area. However, 51.5 per cent of
of Mumbai, (table 1 and figure 1), it is clear the urban population lives at low densities
that although cities like Mumbai have higher on 91 per cent of urban land, a little short
population densities than many cities in of 125 p/ha, while 32.6 per cent lives at very
developed countries, the overall form and low densities of 62.5 p/ha, in 80.3 per cent
spatial patterns are not uniformly compact of the urban area. This shows that overall,
(Dave, 2008). The main problem found in Indian cities are not so densely populated
the development of Mumbai is that there is and compact as the city-scale statistics might
huge disparity between built form densities suggest. This also shows the magnitude of
and population densities. In other words, densification potential in urban settlements
the concentration of population densities is even in India. Although these are figures
higher in Mumbai and other such mega cities from the late 1980s, they help to illustrate
(with populations of 10 million or more) in the overall development patterns, and such
India than their built up density. While a disparity in distribution of density still exists
difference between building and population in Indian cities. Generally speaking, old and
density is to be expected in most cities, the economic core areas of the cities are markedly
huge differences in Mumbai are indicative of dense, and later additions on the peripheries
the great disparity between economic groups. are often of medium to low density and often
In Mumbai the average population density is reflect a lack of planning.
389 persons/hectare, and per capita, available Figure 2 helps to explain how certain areas

Figure 1. Built up, land use and


density patterns of Mumbai.
(Source: Bertaud et al., 2003)

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Table 1. Cities in developed and developing countries: comparison of population densities.


Cities in Density Cities in Developing Density
Developed (central city) Countries (central city)
Countries persons/km2 persons/km2
London 1,667 Mexico 5,568
Sydney 2,001 Shanghai 10,358
Los Angeles 2,836 Delhi 11,050
Washington 3,566 Beijing 11,500
Moscow 8,418 Jakarta 14,084
New York 9,166 Buenos Aires 14,120
Osaka 12,430 Karachi 18,900
Tokyo 13,973 Mumbai (Greater) 22,677
Seoul 16,899 Kolkota 23,487
(Sources: based on Richardson et al., 2000; Williams, 2004; MMRDA, 1995; http://www.citymayors.com/statistics/largest-
cities-population-250.html).

of cities in developing countries develop to understand the nature of urban densities


very high concentrations of population for while examining the relevance of high density
reasons other than culture or traditional in cities of developing countries.
preferences. In many such cities, locational
advantages push market forces to opt for
Urban Densities in Developing Countries
intensely high residential ratios, increasing
the residential population densities of such Certain dierences exist between cities in
areas (National Commission on Urbanisation, developing1 and developed countries, re-
1988). To address such disparities, cities like flected in the density patterns of these two
Mumbai would need more built-up space types. It is important to dierentiate between
to accommodate the large population in them as the levels of suggested sustainable
adequate houses and to improve their quality densities and urban form may dier, as
of life. It is claimed that high-density compact will the associated impacts of such forms.
cities can provide a solution to many of these For example, the compact city is based on
urban problems, but in the case of cities of the principles of intensifying use of space
developing countries, there is an urgent within the city through higher residential
need to address this debate. It is important densities and centralization, mixed land

Figure 2. High density in cities of developing countries: forces and causes. (Source: adapted from
National Commission on Urbanisation, 1988, Vol. 5, p.53)

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use, and controls on developments within the former are criticized for creating con-
city limits (Churchman, 1999). While such gestion, pollution and a poor quality of life
strategies are seen as appropriate for cities in many cases (Ibid.). But again, it would
in developed countries, they are contestable be difficult to say that these problems are
for cities in developing countries. Examining directly due to density and higher mix of
the dierences between population density uses.
patterns, it is clear that cities in developing The third difference between cities in
countries, as observed in previous research developed and developing countries is in
(Dave, 2008), face higher growth rates and their socio-cultural patterns and climatic
already have high population levels (table 1). conditions, and these may be responsible
Many researchers argue that the compact for the high densities of cities in developing
city or intensified city is not a concept countries. Climate is discussed in much
transferable to cities in developing countries architectural research advocating the compact
(Hardoy et al., 2000; Kaji, 2003; Williams, built form (Correa, 1982; Turner, 2003). Such
2004). These cities already experience prob- densely developed places in hot-arid climates
lems of high pollution, congestion, and lack consume less energy for cooling, by blocking
of infrastructure (Burgess, 2000). However, out strong sunshine and providing shade
these problems may reflect the failure of to adjoining buildings, to the streets and
urban planning, public transport services, public places, and making spaces more
governance and management, or simply a sociable (Correa, 1982). Above all, in many
lack of finance. Indeed, the current level of instances these compact cities do not suffer
compaction itself may not be the cause of the so-called ill effects of higher densities,
the undesirable conditions in the cities of perhaps due to unique socially homogeneous
developing countries. patterns of grouping, i.e. maholla and poles
Even in metropolises or mega cities, there (traditionally compact neighbourhoods; in
is scope to consider recycling or reusing many Indian cities there are good examples
land for brownfield developments instead of such settlements) (National Commission
of urban expansion on the periphery. For on Urbanisation, 1988), social and cultural
example, in Mumbai, within the core area, acceptance of traditional high-density living
there is a large amount (600 acres or 245 ha) and high social bonds and social cohesion
of disused industrial land (Knight, 2003). allow them to accept the lack of privacy.
These brownfield sites, if developed, could Extended families live in the same dwelling.
have a major impact on development by Developed cities in East Asian countries,
providing more land within the core city. like Tokyo, Seoul and Osaka demonstrate
The second significant difference between higher densities than London or New York,
cities in developing countries and those in reflecting cultural and traditional patterns
developed countries is their pattern of mixed inherent in their urban patterns.
land use. Traditionally, cities in developing
countries have a greater mix of uses in their
Density and Sustainable Development
highly concentrated developments. It is very
common to find commercial uses, religious To be described as sustainable, urban devel-
buildings, housing, and many other facilities opment must support social conditions and
in a single street (Williams, 2004). This high- cohesion, encourage resource eciency and
density mixed-use model is claimed to be economic sustainability, and provide a high
sustainable in its support of communities in quality of life for all residents (Williams
relation to accessibility, compatible travel and Dair, 2007). High-density development
patterns, and often generates local businesses, remains at the centre of the debate on urban
when compared to single use areas. However, form and its relation to social, cultural,

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economic and environmental sustainability. area, and on preferences for moving in or


Density can be described as a simple con- out of an area of a city. Thus perceptions of
cept, expressing how many buildings, how density may affect the acceptable levels of
much floor space, or how many people physical density and vary from individual to
are in a given piece of land (DETR, 1998). individual depending on cultural preferences
However, its various measures and the and lifestyles in different places, cities and
way it is perceived, arguably render it more countries (Churchman, 1999). These factors
complex. Density has two main dimensions: can have significant impacts on policies
physical or real density and perceived related to compaction and intensification
density. Physical density can be prescribed of urban areas (Breheny, 1997). Therefore,
or measured using number of buildings, both physical and perceived densities are
households or people within the given site. important for this research. It remains a
A higher number of households or people major problem for cities to decide how to
on a neighbourhood site may be beneficial use density control tools to set an appropriate
to certain aspects of sustainability, such density target to achieve sustainable devel-
as optimum use of land, cost efficiency in opment. Improper use of these tools can
terms of construction, infrastructure lay- lead to serious environmental, economic
out and energy consumption. But how and social damage. Therefore, to examine
density is perceived by residents or users and establish their relationship to density
(crowding of buildings or people) may have in the context of Mumbai, economic, social
significant impacts on social interaction, and environmental indicators have been
community cohesion, satisfaction with the developed in this study.
built environment, the reputation of an

Figure 3. Locations of case studies within Mumbai Metropolitan Region.

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Research methodology of density and the policies required to


control development in achieving sustainable
Mumbai, the largest metropolis as well as development. Thus, Mumbai is a good case
the financial capital of India, with topo- study within which to examine the rela-
graphical constraints (water on three sides, tionship between density and social, eco-
as shown in figure 3), currently houses nomic and environmental sustainability.
12 million people (Census India, 2001). It The broad question this research seeks to
is estimated that the city will become the answer is: Is high-density development a more
second largest city in the world after Tokyo sustainable option for the future urban form
by 2015 (United Nations, 1999). Mumbai of cities in developing countries like India? To
faces many of the urban challenges of other address the main research question, the
cities in developing countries including land following specific questions were posed:
shortages, insucient housing supply, in-
eective development policies, overstretched 1. Do densities have any impact on the
transport facilities and a poor quality of life. social, economic and environmental sustain-
These problems also indicate the importance ability of the neighbourhoods of Mumbai?

Table 2. Case study neighbourhoods, their location, selection criteria and survey response.
Location Age of Density Net Average Number
Neighbourhood and Form Household Family of
Density/ha Income Interviews
(Rs/month)
Artist Village Navi Mumbai, 1987 Low density, 68 5,00012,000 29
satellite town low rise
Dadar Parsi Dadar: Mumbai 19202002 Low density, 18 12,50025,000 28
colony Island low rise
Palm Acre Mulund: 19761981 Low density, 155 12,50025,000 20
Mumbai East medium rise
suburb
Hiranandani Powai: Mumbai 19922006 Low density, 26 25,000 and 12
Gardens East suburb high rise above
Pawai
Khotachiwadi Girgaum: 18031935 Medium 214 12,50025,000 29
Mumbai Island density, low rise
Ville Parle Mumbai West 196685 Medium 214 12,50025,000 30
suburb density,
medium rise
Cuffe Parade Mumbai Island 19701985 Medium 231 25,000 and 13
density, high above
rise
Bhoiwada Bhuleshwar: 19401950 High density, 588 5,00012,000 24
Bhuleshwar Mumbai Island low rise
Nana Chowk Mumbai Island 19302003 High density, 385 12,50025,000 11
medium rise
Satyam Shivam Mahim: Mumbai 2000 High density, 518 4,0005,000 27
Sundaram, West suburb high rise
Dharavi
Vashi Sec-1 Navi Mumbai, 1980 Low density, 146 5,00012,000 36
satellite town mixed form

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2. If so, what is the nature of these impacts? given site or space is difficult to express with
a single measure. For example the number
To address the research questions, eleven of people or households per hectare does not
neighbourhoods with differing densities and explain the physical form of the buildings;
built forms were examined. To find appro- hence multiple measures are required to give
priate study areas within the Mumbai Metro- a clearer picture of density (table 3).
politan Region, density guidelines given by As the studys focus was the impact of
Mumbai Metropolitan Authority in their density on aspects of sustainability, inter-
draft development plan (MMRDA, 1995): low vening variables claimed to interact with
density (up to 200 units p/ha), medium den- density and argued to influence aspects of sus-
sity (201400 units p/ha), and high density tainability were identified: built form, mix of
(401600 units p/ha) in a range of low-, uses, and socio-demographic characteristics
medium- and high-rise neighbourhoods were of a neighbourhood (Turner, 2003; Urban Task
used as selection criteria. The levels of ex- Force, 1999). Care was taken to consider the
isting social, economic and environmental effects of these factors on the research which
conditions were assumed to be different in are shown in figure 4 together with the
different locations (central, middle, edge) multiple indicators employed in the study to
due to variations in their form and densities. measure social, economic and environmental
Therefore, within this range of density and sustainability.
built form, to study various samples across Data availability was the biggest challenge
the city, small residential areas in different in carrying out this research, as most of the
locations were considered appropriate in required data were not readily available;
terms of scale to enable the evaluation and hence most of the data were collected
comparison of the impact of different densi- through primary data collection that included
ties on sustainability. They were compared in-depth interviews, site observations and
using multiple indicators (figure 4). Table physical site surveys. Interviews were con-
2 and figure 3 explain the selected neigh- ducted with 259 residents in eleven case
bourhoods, their location and their selection study neighbourhoods. Statistical tests of
criteria.2 correlation, partial correlation and regression
The physical and perceived density of a were applied to the data using SPSS. The

Table 3. Measures of physical and perceived density.


Density measures List of Indicators Number of
Indicators
Physical Physical density: Net residential density (households/ha) 4
density measuring capacity Net residential population density (persons/ha)
and usage Average number of households/block
Floor area per person
Physical density: Coverage 2
measuring physical form Average number of floors per block
Perceived Measuring external Residents perception of their neighbourhood in 2
density crowding terms of space between buildings (measuring
crowding of buildings)
Residents perception of their neighbourhood in
terms of number of people (measuring crowding
of people)
Measuring internal Residents perception of their size of home 1
crowding (measuring crowding within dwelling)

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Figure 4. Analytical process and research framework.

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relationship between density and aspects which has the highest residential density
of sustainability was examined individually. had the highest percentage of respondents
Due to space constraints, summary research reporting that space between buildings was
findings only are discussed here. Further insucient (71 per cent). Twenty-five per cent
details of statistical tests can be found in of residents thought that their homes were
Dave (2008). too small while in Hiranandani Gardens,
83 per cent of residents reported having
sucient space between buildings in their
Density and Sustainable Development:
neighbourhood. Higher physical density was
Empirical Evidence
found to have a negative impact on the health
The following section addresses the two of the inhabitants (particularly stress-related
sub-research questions. Do densities have health) of the neighbourhood.
any impact on the social, economic and Net residential density was found to
environmental sustainability of the neigh- have no impact on community spirit and
bourhoods of Mumbai? And if they do, what social interaction within the neighbourhood.
is the nature of these impacts? Only perceived density was found to have a
negative association with them. For example,
neighbourhoods with higher commercial use
Density and Social Sustainability
(75 per cent as in Bhuleshwar) were found
The relationship between density and social to have negative effects on social interaction
sustainability of neighbourhoods was evalu- and sense of safety. Developments with low
ated using six key aspects: access to facilities rise and higher coverage (for example 70
and amenities; amount of living space; health to 80 per cent as in Khotachiwadi), were
of the inhabitants; community spirit and social positively associated with social interaction
interaction; sense of safety; and satisfaction and community cohesion as well as with
with the neighbourhood. Table 4 shows that sense of safety. Physical (net residential
overall, higher household densities3 [net density) density had no impacts on sense
residential density (households/ha)] had of safety within the neighbourhood, while
positive impacts on access to facilities and perceived density (crowding of buildings
amenities at the neighbourhood level. For and people) was found to have a negative
example, neighbourhoods like Bhuleshwar relationship with sense of safety. Crowding
(588 hh/ha) in the island core city were within a dwelling was also found to have
found to have higher accessibility while no relationship with indicators of sense of
the low-density high-rise neighbourhood safety. Both physical and perceived densities
of Hiranandani Gardens (26 hh/ha) had were found likely to have an overall
the highest average distance to all the negative impact on satisfaction with the
facilities and amenities and the poorest neighbourhood.
accessibility. Overall, both physical and It was observable, while examining the
perceived densities are likely to aect the overall impacts of both physical and per-
amount of living space negatively. It was ceived densities, that although density had
found that in areas with higher residential a negative relationship with most of the
and population densities, neighbourhoods examined aspects of social sustainability, by
provided less floor area per person and a and large, these effects are more related to
smaller amount of living space. Residents perceived density rather than physical. This
who had perceived their neighbourhood would suggest the intervening variables: built
as crowded with buildings, also perceived form, layout, design and type of mix of uses
their amount of living space as insucient. of a neighbourhood might have an important
For example, Bhoiwada in Bhuleshwar, role in achieving social sustainability.

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Table 4. Perceived and physical density impacts on social sustainability.


Social List of Indicators Physical Density Perceived density relationship Overall Impact of
Sustainability Relationship Density
(Neighbourhood
level net
residential Perceived
building and Perceived Density
population Neighbourhood within the
densities) Density Dwelling
Access to Average distances to social Positive Positive relationship:
facilities and facilities and amenities Denser neighbourhoods
amenities Number of schools, Positive are associated with
hospitals and open spaces better accessibility
and parks per 1000 people
Amount of living Floor area per person Negative Negative Negative relationship:
space (building and Denser neighbourhoods
people) are associated with less
Perceived level of Negative Negative residential living space
satisfaction with the size of (building)
home
Self reporting any outdoor No impact No impact
private spaces within the home
Health of the Number of family members Negative No impact No impact Negative relationship:
inhabitants having a stress related health Denser neighbourhoods
problem are associated with
Number of family members No impact No impact No impact more stress- or
having a pollution related pollution-related
health problem health problems
Number of family members Negative No impact No impact
having no health problem
Community spirit Perceived number of social No impact Negative Negative Negative relationship:
and social contacts (knowing people) (people) Residents in
interaction within the neighbourhood neighbourhoods
Perceived number of informal No impact No impact perceived to be
chatting with neighbours crowded reported
Self reported involvement in No impact Positive fewer social contacts
various community activities (building)
at various levels in the last
12 months
Perceived friendliness of the No impact No impact No impact
neighbourhood
Sense of safety Perceived safety within the No impact Negative Negative Negative relationship:
neighbourhood during (people) Residents in
daytime neighbourhoods
Perceived safety within the No impact No impact No impact perceived to be
neighbourhood after dark crowded reported
feelings of insecurity
and vandalism
Perceived vandalism in the No impact Negative (both Negative
neighbourhood building and
people)
Perceived reputation of the No impact No impact No impact
neighbourhood
Satisfaction with Perceived neighbourhood in No impact Negative No impact Negative relationship:
the neighbourhood terms of attractiveness (building) Residents in higher-
Architectural character Negative No impact No impact density
Well-maintained buildings Negative Negative (people) No impact neighbourhoods were

continued on p. 20

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Table 4 continued

Social List of Indicators Physical Density Perceived density relationship Overall Impact of
Sustainability Relationship Density
(Neighbourhood
level net
residential Perceived
building and Perceived Density
population Neighbourhood within the
densities) Density Dwelling
Well-maintained outdoor areas No impact No impact No impact less satisfied with their
Well-maintained infrastructure No impact No impact Negative neighbourhood in
Parking facilities No impact No impact No impact terms of architectural
style, attractiveness,
appearance, noise
pollution, perceived
privacy, and overall
satisfaction
General appearance of the Negative Negative No impact
neighbourhood (building)
Quality of environment Negative No impact No impact
Cleanliness No impact No impact No impact
Measured intensity of noise Negative No impact No impact
within the area
Perceived problem of noise No impact Negative Negative
pollution within the (people)
neighbourhood
Perceived privacy within the No impact Negative No impact
neighbourhood (building)
Residents satisfaction with No impact Negative Negative
the neighbourhood as a (building)
place to live
Desire to move out of the No impact No impact No impact
present home

A statistically significant relationship was in neighbourhoods with smaller dwelling


found between lower perceived and actual sizes. The amount of floor space people have
densities and the overall satisfaction and in their home is clearly of greater importance
desire to stay in the neighbourhood. It was than neighbourhood level densities. To pro-
found in the preliminary correlations that vide sufficient living space is not merely
residents living in larger and less crowded an issue related to neighbourhood-level
dwellings were more likely to want to stay densities, but may be more related to city-
in their present home and neighbourhood. wide or regional policies.
Higher household densities apparently had
no significant impact on overall satisfaction
Density and Economic Sustainability
with the neighbourhood or desire to move out
or stay in the present home/neighbourhood. The relationship between density and
Further, it was found that neighbourhoods economic sustainability was evaluated using
with larger dwelling sizes were perceived to three key aspects: employment opportunities;
be more attractive, with good maintenance aordability of houses; and cost-eective
of buildings and infrastructure and better infrastructure. The overall findings in table 5
parking facilities. The general appearance show that higher net residential building and
and quality of the environment, perceived population density are likely to have positive
cleanliness and satisfaction with the neigh- impacts on employment opportunities. Find-
bourhood were all found to be higher than ings also indicated that high-density neigh-

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bourhoods with higher commercial use may spaces and parks, recycling of household
oer more employment opportunities. Higher waste, opportunity for walking/cycling, and
residential building and population densities public transport use were selected as indi-
are also likely to have positive impacts on cators of environmental sustainability. Table
cost-eective infrastructure. Both higher 6 shows that both higher physical and per-
physical and perceived densities were found ceived densities are likely to have a negative
to have a negative influence on aordability relationship with air and water pollution.
of houses. This is the only aspect of economic Only the indicator of perceived crowding
sustainability that was influenced negatively of people within the neighbourhood was
by higher density. For economic aspects of found to have a negative relationship with
sustainability, higher physical densities, in perceived trac congestion on the streets
terms of higher household and population of the neighbourhood. Higher commercial
densities, have overall positive eects, but activities create crowding and congestion
physical planning, built form and ecient (as in the case of Bhuleshwar, which has
management also need to be taken into con- the highest residential density as well as
sideration, to ensure aordability of housing. the highest commercial use). Higher house-
hold density was found to have a positive
impact on recycling of household waste.
Density and Environmental Sustainability
A reason for this could be that waste
Air and water pollution, amount of open collectors are generally on foot and find it

Table 5. Impacts of density on economic sustainability.


Economic List of Indicators Physical Density Perceived density relationship Overall Impact of
Sustainability Relationship Density
(Neighbourhood
level net
residential Perceived
building and Perceived Density
population Neighbourhood within the
densities) Density Dwelling
Employment Percentage of employment/ Positive Positive relationship:
opportunities 1000 people Higher-density areas
Percentage of family members Negative are associated with
unemployed more employment
Percentage of family members No impact opportunities and
employed generally have lower
Percentage of family members No impact travel-to-work
self-employed distances
Percentage of family members No impact
informally self-employed
One way travel distance to Positive
work place
Affordability of House price to income ratio Negative No impact Negative relationship:
houses House rental to monthly Negative Negative Higher-density areas
income ratio are associated with
fewer affordable houses
Cost-effective Density of sewerage pipe per Positive Positive relationship:
infrastructure hectare Higher-density areas
Road area to number of Positive are associated with
households higher density of
sewerage pipes/ha and
less road infrastructure
per household

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THE COMPACT CITY REVISITED

Table 6. Impacts of density on environmental sustainability.


Economic List of Indicators Physical Density Perceived Density Relationship Overall Impact of
Sustainability Relationship Density
(Neighbourhood
level net
residential Perceived
building and Perceived Density
population Neighbourhood within the
densities) Density Dwelling
Air and water Amount of SO2 in the air No impact Negative relationship:
pollution Amount of NO2 in the air Negative Higher-density areas
Amount of RSPM in the air Negative are associated with
Perceived traffic congestion Negative Negative problems of air
on the streets of the (people) pollution, traffic
neighbourhood congestion and
Perceived air-quality within Negative No impact perceived poor air
the neighbourhood quality.
Perceived quality of drinking No impact No impact
water within the
neighbourhood water supply
Amount of open Number of open spaces and No impact Positive relationship:
spaces and parks parks/1000 people Higher-density areas
Area of open space and parks Positive are associated with
to total area of the ward more open spaces and
Perceived satisfaction with Negative Negative Negative parks
the amount of open spaces (people) Negative relationship:
and parks Higher-density areas
are associated with less
satisfaction with the
amount of open spaces
and parks
Recycling of Percentage of residents of Positive No impact Positive relationship:
household waste the neighbourhood who sell Higher-density areas
various household waste for are associated with
recycling higher levels of
household waste
recycling
Opportunity for Percentage of people who Positive Positive Positive relationship:
walking/cycling walk for work trips Higher-density areas
and public Percentage of people who No impact No impact are associated with
transport use use public transport for more walking to work
work trips and shopping trips, and
Percentage of people who No impact No impact Positive more public transport
use public transport for use as proximity to
leisure trips transport nodes is
Percentage of people Positive Positive closer
who walk for daily use (building and No impact
shopping people)
Percentage of people who No impact
use public transport for
social visits
Average travel distance Positive
to nearest transport node
Self reported frequency of No impact
use of public transport
Perceived public transport No impact No impact Negative
service by their users

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HIGH URBAN DENSITIES IN DEVELOPING COUNTRIES: A SUSTAINABLE SOLUTION?

more convenient to attract business within sity were related to the perceptions of density
shorter distances (e.g. in Khotachiwadi) rather than to actual density. Land-use,
rather than having to walk further in a lower physical planning and built form are also
density neighbourhood such as Hiranandani found to be important for environmental
Gardens. sustainability. These findings related to
Interestingly, higher physical densities density, especially perceptions of density,
were found to have an overall positive rela- indicating that in higher density neigh-
tionship with the area of open spaces and bourhoods, positive impacts may be achieved
parks, but perceptions of higher densities with appropriate design, layout and mix of
were found to have a negative association use patterns.
with the level of perceived satisfaction with
the area of open spaces and parks within
Discussion
the locality. The research shows that, in
higher densities, a sufficient amount of The previous sections have provided a
natural green open spaces and parks can broad theoretical discussion at macro level
be maintained. For example, looking across of the relevance of high density in cities of
the eleven neighbourhoods, the core areas developing countries, supported by empirical
(which were formally and better planned) evidence at micro level from a selection
have more parks and green spaces, even of Mumbai neighbourhoods. This section
though neighbourhoods with the highest addresses the main broad research question:
densities are located in these areas. By Is high-density development the most sustainable
comparison, outer suburbs were left largely model for cities in developing countries like
unplanned and, hence, have fewer green India?
areas and parks. Findings related to the The research findings reveal that higher
amount of open spaces and parks make a household densities are positively associated
very important contribution at odds with with many aspects of sustainability if
high-density compact city theory. It has managed carefully through the amount of
been widely believed that high-density areas living space, design, layout, physical form,
cannot offer or protect a sufficient quantity of amount of mix of uses and amenities/
green and recreational space (Breheny, 1992) facilities. Cities like Mumbai and many
due to economic pressure on land. But the other such cities in developing countries
findings support the compact city claim that have not been planned in a comprehensive
green space can be provided and designed or sensitive way. Governments often lack the
in dense urban areas, indicating that physical vision and skill to control development and
planning and policy decisions are more gain the positive impacts of higher-density,
important than density. compact developments. There are many
Finally, overall, higher physical and examples of improper regulations and lack
perceived densities were positively associated of planning, as seen in the case of Mumbai,
with indicators measuring opportunities for and many cities in India, including land-use
walking/cycling and use of public transport. control regulation, FSI, rent controls (frozen
In higher density neighbourhoods there are in some areas since 1942), muddled property
shorter distances to public transport links, taxations (with huge differences between
which potentially encourages more public old and new property taxes), geographically
transport use. dispersed living and work locations and
Overall, for environmental aspects of sus- huge uncontrolled rates of migration due to
tainability, higher household and population ineffective economic development policies.
densities were found to have mostly posi- By reducing/controlling the built-up den-
tive impacts; any negative influences of den- sity to a great extent and not controlling

BUILT ENVIRONMENT VOL 36 NO 1 23


THE COMPACT CITY REVISITED

urban migration from rural areas, policy- us that the compact city is not a new concept.
makers create a mismatch between built up As discussed earlier, the built form found in
and population densities. Density control hot climates is generally compact, to avoid
regulations, such as equally distributed low heat penetration and to provide shadows on
FSI throughout the city, create shortages of the streets, making places naturally cool. The
floor space within city limits, thus raising real built forms adopted based on these factors,
estate prices. As a result, average affordability and on time-tested knowledge and past
decreases and the poor are priced out of experience, make them more sustainable.
favourable locations within the city or While it is well known that lifestyles and
they form illegal squatter settlements. The technology are changing globally, there is
existence of such illegal settlements is not due arguably a need to maintain links to the
to higher densities, but is caused by factors past while adopting changes, to retain the
such as those discussed above as well as integrity of the urban form and benefit from
unemployment or low income. Unaffordable centuries of experience.
house prices can lead to less living space per Unfortunately the present seems to connect
person, negatively affect the overall quality to neither the past nor the future in cities of
of life and unsustainable spatial growth and developing countries. The race to win global
patterns (Bertaud, 2004b; Nallathiga, 2004). image, to achieve the status of world city and
The results can be seen in the large slums in to attract foreign investment has encouraged
Mumbai and low floor space per person in them to adopt modern and gigantic urban
some neighbourhoods. forms, while ignoring the unsustainability
A problem for many cities in developing of such forms, as well as not considering
countries is that sustainability is not the future direction of growth (Jenks, 2000).
properly defined even in theoretical terms Cities in developing countries lack vision
or at policy level. Hence the cities lack any and planning. They also lack considered and
strategic direction for sustainable growth. long-term policies and strategies, proper
It is difficult to achieve sustainability in its land-use and infrastructure planning, urban
ideal condition; however, there should be design, investment and efficient management.
efforts to make cities less unsustainable as There is a need to improve urban planning,
far as possible. For example, 65 per cent design and management and to attract more
of Mumbais inhabitants live in slums, investment while maintaining high-density
which make it highly unsustainable and compact urban forms.
fragmented in its current state, and it is not This research provides empirical evidence
creating desirable conditions for people to from cities in the Indian context which
live in. The findings of this research have supports compact urban forms. Due to
shown that higher household or population the limitations of the research, it was not
densities have overall fewer negative impacts possible to examine other cities in developing
than crowding within the dwelling. Many countries, for which higher density and
negative impacts are related to perceptions compact form might have equal potential. But
and hence bad design and layout of the the research has identified common problems
neighbourhood are negative effects of policy and issues in cities in developing countries.
rather than household densities. It is, however, worth noting that between
Sustainability has to be considered within different developing countries socially
a historical, social and cultural context. acceptable space consumption and density
Central areas of many Indian cities reflect patterns as well as economic growth rates
the history, tradition, culture, climate and and pace of development vary considerably.
socio-economic patterns of the period in It would therefore be inappropriate to
which they developed. This pattern reminds generalize this claim to other cities of

24 BUILT ENVIRONMENT VOL 36 NO 1


HIGH URBAN DENSITIES IN DEVELOPING COUNTRIES: A SUSTAINABLE SOLUTION?

developing countries without considering in addressing the serious contemporary issue


contextual influences and differences. But of urban growth in developing countries,
looking at the environmental implications which is vital for global sustainability,
of development e.g. resource consumption considering the Asia-Pacific regions growing
and waste generation compact urban form share in economic development and pop-
seems to have the potential for many cities ulation size. Higher densities alone do not
in developing countries. There is clearly provide the solution; land-use planning,
considerable scope for testing this through physical form, city size, layout, and other
further research. socio-economic variables too are important.
There is also a need to look at urban growth
policies at regional and national levels to
Conclusion
tackle rural-urban migration in the complex
This paper suggests that the high-density challenge of achieving sustainability in
compact city model has the potential to tackle rapidly growing cities.
uncontrolled growth patterns and to achieve
sustainable urban form in Mumbai and other
Indian cities. It is evident that high density in NOTES
itself is not a problem in cities like Mumbai 1. Before setting out the key discussion of this
and positive impacts can be achieved within section, it is important to define developing or
an area or a neighbourhood, if links between developed countries. For the purpose of this
built form, layout, design, minimum standard research, developed countries are countries
defined as the thirty-five market-oriented countries
of living space and culturally acceptable belonging to the Organisation for Economic Co-
amount of mix of uses are established. People operation and Development (OECD). Developing
assess their home and neighbourhood by the countries are the rest of the worlds 172 countries,
standards of public and private amenities generally defined as having less than US$5000
provided, and not by the density at which Gross National Product per capita (Crump and
Ellwood, 1998 in Jenks, 2000a, p.4). This is a very
they are built (TCPA, 2003) this study contested way of categorizing countries. Yet this
shows that this relates to developing as well oversimplified definition has a reasonable basis
as developed countries. and has been accepted globally (Jenks, 2000). In
However, while higher densities may be terms of this classification India is classified as a
desirable, policies must take into account the low-income, developing country.
needs of different social groups. It would 2. Further details on case study neighbourhoods
be inappropriate to recommend increasing can be found in Dave (forthcoming 2010).
densities only in low-income areas as is the 3. The research found similar relationships of net
practice in Mumbai. Higher densities can be residential (households/ha) and net population
delivered in many different forms and it is (persons/ha) densities. Therefore, in this research,
important that these forms match the needs findings mainly describe building densities in
terms of households/ha.
and aspirations of residents, to deliver the
best possible quality of life.
It is important for policy-makers to avoid a
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