Measuring Urbanization around a Regional Capital: The Case of Bhopal District

The present working paper by Anima Gupta is the first in the SUBURBIN Series.

It tackles a central question of the program: ‘What is an Urban Area?’

The working paper is based on a Master Thesis in Regional Planning from the School of Planning and Architecture (SPA), New Delhi conducted under the supervision of N. Sridharan and P. Mukhopadhyay in 2011. It provides a very informed and stimulating report based on an explicit methodology, in-depth fieldwork and an excellent usage of mapping techniques. The location of fieldwork is in the district of Bhopal, which includes the capital of Madhya Pradesh. In a very clear manner, Anima Gupta presents the international variations in the definition of “urban”, and the issues raised by the Indian definition. Then, her paper explores a palette of potential indicators to measure, divide and categorize urban and rural localities which open up an important debate on the notion of urbanity. A detailed analysis of eight selected localities in Bhopal’s district follows, based upon this multi-criteria approach in order to assess the level of urbanity of these settlements.
This analysis of a set of localities questions the institutional limits of the metropolitan area, its mode of governance, and the dependence of localized growth. It shows that in the submetropolitan environment, localities are very diverse: one locality can remain a village while another changes into a town. Furthermore, the existing official criteria for urbanisation are insufficient and incomplete in describing the character of settlements. The research shows that transformation depends on multiple factors, ranging from accessibility and location to situated historical capital and the size of the settlement is not necessarily a determinant of this transformation.