With its population set to cross the one million mark, Mysore will soon qualify for the status of a metropolitan city

The image can only be as bright as the reality. And Mysore's images reinforced the notions of being a “pensioners' paradise”, a “garden city” or a city trapped in a time-warp reflecting the bygone era of the Maharajas with its palaces and heritage buildings. Indeed, that was the reality about Mysore and hence such images in popular perception.

But the winds of change are sweeping away the last vestiges of the Maharaja's era and with it many sobriquets. And also the notion that it is a city with an easy and a laid-back attitude where time stands still.

Thanks to unbridled urbanisation in the recent past accompanied by population growth and the city's emergence as a favourable destination for investment, the contours of Mysore is changing fast and the city is almost unrecognisable for the old-timers.

Census

But the pace with which Mysore is urbanising will be brought out by the ongoing decennial census and the authorities have projected the city's population to cross the one million mark. This, when officially announced around March 2011, will be a significant event in the annals of the once small-time village as Mysore will qualify for the “metropolitan city” status based on its population.

In fact, when the capital of the erstwhile Mysore kingdom was changed from Srirangapatna to the present city, a British officer lamented that the “new capital” has nothing to boast of, not even a single structure befitting its status to hold the coronation ceremony of the king. The region was known as ‘Mysooru' or ‘Mysuru' as may be ascertained from the ancient inscriptions, but the city as it exists is relatively new and its transformation is a modern phenomenon.

The Deputy Commissioner, P. Manivannan, pointed out that based on the growth trends, the city's population, which was pegged at 7.86 lakh in the 2001 census, will cross the one million mark and hence Mysore will qualify for the metropolitan city status. , The Constitution of India clearly states that a city with a population of one million or more should be bracketed as a metropolitan city.

The Government anticipates the number of “metropolitan” cities to increase from 35 to 50 based on the projected population of the 2011 census which means renewed focus on urban infrastructure development. The number of “metropolitan” cities with a population of million plus after the 1991 census was 23. The list of metropolitan cities with a population of more than one million already includes Kanpur, Jaipur, Bhopal, Coimbatore, Madurai, Kochi, Nashik, Meerut, Indore and Agra among others while Kolkata, Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore and Chennai are among the mega cities.

Challenges

While Mysore city's population is expected to cross the million mark, the district population figures have been pegged at 30 lakh for the 2011 census while it was 26.4 lakh after the 2001 census. The ensuing exercise will bring to light the extent of urbanisation and the accompanying challenges in the district.

While Mysore's gradual transformation has been documented and monitored and there is growing awareness to stop its run-away and unregulated growth, the metropolitan city status will forever sweep away the images of a sleepy and a languid city but with it comes the negative images associated with a million-plus population cities – that of overcrowding, lack of green cover, shanty towns, poor infrastructure due to lack of planning, all of which can only lead to chaos.

But urbanisation of Mysore does not mean an increase in the population alone. It heralds with it changes in the socio-economic pattern and will have a bearing on the political equations.

Other issues associated with urbanisation include deteriorating environment, new challenges to the city authorities to provide the necessary civic amenities and services to the burgeoning population, effective transportation, drinking water facilities, education, sanitation, energy etc to keep the city on the track of steady growth, devoid of the accompanying chaos that characterises Indian cities.

The absence of these services and regulation of growth can only lead to proliferation of slums, increase in urban poverty, increase in crime rate etc., which goes against the avowed philosophy Mysore of making a slum-free city.

The City Development Plan submitted to the Government of India under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) hinted at the emerging scenario. One was the growth in the city area. An analysis of the land use pattern clearly depicted this as per the projections of the Mysore Urban Development Authority, and the total area of Mysore or the size of the city is set to double when compared to the 1990s.

Mysore's sprawl continues unabated and the city is likely to be spread around 15,600 hectares. It increased from 7,569 hectares in 1991 to 9,221 hectares in 1995. But since then, the horizontal sprawl of Mysore has been rapid.

The first casualty of this growing urbanisation is the shrinking of green cover and as per the CDP for JNNURM the total area demarcated for parks and open spaces or green spaces is expected to decrease in future.

This will reduce from 3,060 hectares to around 2,690 hectares by 2011 while the total area demarcated for residential purposes is expected to increase to 6,098 hectares, which is an increase of 114 per cent over the 2001 figure of 2,850 hectares.

Land use pattern

The CDP's projected land use pattern for 2011 indicates that the residential zones of Mysore will occupy 43.45 per cent of the total area while parks and open spaces will account for 7.52 per cent.

The available land for public utility will be a mere 0.31 per cent or 43.35 hectares while the space available for traffic and transportation will be around 2,308 hectares that will account for 16.96 per cent of the total area.

The demographic trend of Mysore was also foreseen in the CDP. The average decadal percentage growth rate of Mysore's population, starting with a low base rate of 4 per cent, increased from 68,000 to 71,000 between 1901 and 1911 and reached around 84,000 in 1921.

The city's population increased to 1.07 lakh by 1931 and was around 1.5 lakh by 1941 and crossed the 2.44 lakh mark by 1960 and has been steadily increasing.

Given the present growth rate, the city's population is expected to cross the 15.7 lakh mark by 2020 and 22 lakh by 2030.

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