In India, out of the total population of 1210.2 million, about 377.1 million are in urban areas as on March 1, 2011. Further the number of million plus cities/urban agglomerations (UA) increased from 35 in Census 2001 to 53 in Census 2011. By 2031, it is projected that there will be 6 cities with more than 10 million population. At current rates of growth, urban population in India will reach a staggering total of 575 million by 2030. In recent years, the urban sector in India has undergone a major change following the country’s transition towards a market based economy.
The urban sector of Kerala consists of 6 municipal corporations and 87 municipalities. The State has a population of 33,387,677 people according to 2011 Census as against the 31,838,619 of 2001. The urban populace of Kerala has registered a huge growth over the last decade as the number of towns in the State increased three times. Urbanisation, as measured by the share of urban population of the State, has shown a sharp increase from 25.96 per cent in 2001 to 47.72 per cent in 2011. Corresponding levels for India were 25.52 per cent in 2001 and 31.16 per cent in 2011. Kerala, positioned 19th in terms of the level of urbanisation among the States of India as per the 2001 Census, was ranked 9th in 2011. Ernakulam (68.1 per cent) is the most urbanised district of Kerala and Wayanad (3.9 per cent) the least urbanised. A shift in the pace of urbanisation is noted between south and north of Kerala. Malappuram district shows the highest increase in urban population within a decade (2001-2011), followed by Kozhikkode district. Details of urban and rural population in Kerala are given in Appendix 1.3.
Urbanisation in Kerala shows marked peculiarities. Generally, increase in urban population growth rate is the result of over-concentration in the existing cities, especially in the million-plus urban agglomerations. However, in Kerala, the main reason for urban population growth is the increase in the number of urban areas as well as urbanisation of the peripheral areas of existing major urban centers. Kerala is very unique in settlement pattern also. In most of its parts, it is a continuous spread of habitation without much open lands or fields separating habitations. So the settlement pattern itself gives an image of urbanisation. Moreover, the infrastructural facilities available to the population in general do not vary much between rural and urban, especially in the case of access to educational and health care facilities.
The spatial distribution of urban areas within the State shows that urban areas are concentrated in coastal and midland regions. The midland and high land regions are being subjected to urbanisation at an increased pace. As per present urbanisation pattern of Kerala, fertile agricultural lands in the midland region are being converted for non agricultural purposes.