The most pressing challenges facing Indian urban areas, where the population is set to increase to 590 million by 2030 – such as health, sanitation and labour issues – are to be tackled in a series of projects which aim to get a better understanding of economic and social issues.

The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and the Indian Council of Social Science Research (ICSSR), are awarding £2 million towards a programme of research which will measure issues that are predicted to arise in developing areas including urban planning, governance and management; population types; and small town challenges such as the dynamics of change and migration.

Five projects, which form part of the wider Urban Transformations in India Newton Fund research call, are being launched. They include:

  • Learning from small cities: Governing imagined futures and the dynamics of change in India's smart urban age – Dr Ayona Datta (King's College London) and Professor Sanjay Srivastava (Institute of Economic Growth)
  • From the margins: Exploring low-income migrant workers' access to basic services and protection in the context of India's urban transformation – Dr Jeevan Sharma (University of Edinburgh) and Dr Radhika Chopra (University of Delhi)
  • UNDERstanding Indian Urban Governance REFORM: A comparative analysis of the Smart City Mission reforms and their impact on sustainable urban mobility – Professor Greg Marsden (University of Leeds) and Professor Sanjay Gupta (School of Planning and Architecture, Delhi)
  • Rurality as a vehicle for Urban Sanitation Transformation (RUST) – Dr Paul Hutchings (Cranfield University) and Dr Prajna Paramita Mishra (University of Hyderabad)
  • Ageing well in urban environments: Developing age friendly cities and communities – Dr Ryan Woolrych (Heriot-Watt University) and Professor D. Jamuna (Sri Venkateswara University, Tirupati)

Jennifer Rubin, ESRC Chief Executive, said: "While prominent global cities receive the vast majority of investment and attention, the majority of urban population growth is taking place in smaller towns and cities in the global south that are undergoing rapid transformation. As the world continues to urbanise, the challenge will be to provide integrated policies which address issues of sustainable development which urban and rural dwellers face.

"It is predicted that India will be home to 68 cities with populations of one million or more, 13 cities with populations of four million, and six megacities with populations of 10 million or more. Of these six megacities both Mumbai and Delhi will be among the five largest cities in the world by 2030.

"How India manages this change during the forthcoming years will have major consequences for its society and economy. This programme of research will look to get a better understanding of how the nation can face these expansive issues."

Professor Malhotra, Member Secretary of ICSSR, added: "This research will enrich the global research community through developing knowledge of Urban Transformations in India. India is seen as an important research performing nation with its growing share in international research and publications in social sciences and humanities."

Grants are expected to begin in May 2018 and will run over 24 months.