Sunday, December 04, 2005

Sprawl Comes to India

If you can handle Amy Waldman's simplistic neo-colonialist characterization of India's "stubborn natives'" irrational rejection of "progress," then her article in today's New York Times on the Golden Quadrilateral Highway, which circumscribes the Indian sub-continent, is worth a read.

Waldman's tone is especially condescending, but her descriptions of the way in which the massive, controlled-access highway project is changing life in India's cities and villages are worth noting. Much like the interstate highway system in the US, the Golden Quadrilateral is bisecting villages, transforming urban and rural economies, and changing mobility patterns in the country.

Noteworthy is how everyday Indians affected by the highway have largely been shut out of the process of planning the road. Also noteworthy is the absence of any discussion about the viability of such investment in highways given the realities of global oil markets. India imports more than 70% of its oil from abroad. In an era of increased demands and decreasing supplies, the energy implications of such investment are significant.