Confluence 2017, Building Cities To Last

"Cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody." - Jane Jacobs

BY : Team Mahindra World City
May, 2017

Description - How can we create cities that are liveable, inclusive and sustainable? Confluence 2017 takes it up, head-on.

It was around 2008 that the human population scales tipped in favour of the world's cities. Today, more than half the planet's population resides in its urban areas, and most of us will agree that the cities that we live in influence our lives, choices and aspirations. Cities are hubs for employment, education, entertainment and innovation. They provide access to intellectual, social and cultural capital, and enable socio-economic growth across strata. Cities create markets for business, attract global investment and talent, and allow for the efficient distribution of services.

However, cities are also responsible for drawing on natural resources and GHG emissions. Overcrowding, unchecked sprawl, unemployment, lack of access to quality housing, inadequate sanitation and other infrastructural challenges often plague fast-growing towns and metropolises. Nonetheless, accelerating urbanisation - be it via the growth/densification of existing agglomerations, or through the greenfield development of new urban ecosystems – is already underway across the world. A wave of urbanisation is thus imminent, and city creation appears to be both an opportunity and a challenge. We have before us the opportunity to create environmentally responsible, economically viable and socially inclusive cities. At the same time, the speed and scale of urbanisation brings its own set of challenges; these include demands for housing, scalable urban infrastructure, public transit and employment.

Building inclusive, resilient and sustainable cities entails intensive planning and collaboration. Once a city is built, its physical form and land use patterns can be locked in for years, with limited scope for systemic shifts. What is it, therefore, that we need to look at, today, to ensure that we build sustainable urban ecosystems for future generations? Should planning take precedence over flexibility? How about finance for city infrastructure development? What is the role of the private sector and the potential for public-private partnerships? To begin with, how can stakeholders representing diverse areas of expertise come together to generate transformative and meaningful ideas that can be converted into action towards Building Cities To Last?

The genesis of Confluence, by Mahindra World City

As pioneers of integrated cities promoted in Private-Public-Partnership (PPP) with state governments in India, we believe that for urban growth to be truly sustainable, it must meet the needs of all stakeholders. In other words, urban planning must encompass social, economic and environmental growth in equal measure. Mahindra World City embodies this approach to urbanisation, via the development of integrated cities built on the ethos of Livelihood, Living and Life.

City building is a creative and collective process. In India, for example, while the Government has set in motion visionary, pro-growth initiatives such as the Smart Cities Mission and Housing For All, more hands on deck can ensure participatory urban development that is holistic and all-encompassing. Be it government, business, planners, city administrators, architects or citizens, the modern planned city is the manifestation of many ideas and approaches that converge to create common urban value.

As the global focus on urbanisation shifts towards a more equitable, inclusive and resource-efficient future intensifies, it is time to redefine our approach to building cities that last. It was thus that Confluence was conceived in 2013, as a knowledge platform and meeting point for leaders, experts and innovators from varied spheres of influence; the objective being to catalyse participation, collaboration and an exchange of ideas on critical issues related to urban development.

This year, months of planning, research and co-ordination culminated in the third edition of Confluence, held on 2nd March, 2017, in Delhi. As our esteemed speakers and panellists arrived at the conference venue, the excitement in the air was palpable. Global experts representing academia, industry, government, technology, arts & culture, city creation and sustainability were to come together on common ground. It was a day of intense, scintillating discussions on the challenges facing our city futures, and ways and means to work around them. From Singapore, Delhi, Barcelona, New York, Tel Aviv, Gujarat and Mumbai – our speakers shared their experiences and beliefs about current and future issues impacting global cities, together with potential solutions for the same.

Knowledge Partners since the last 2 chapters, McKinsey India have enriched the platform with their expertise across geographies on sustainable urban development. ET Now partnered the conference, to proliferate the cause of sustainable urbanisation, both in India and globally.

Expertspeak at Confluence 2017

Speakers at the conference engaged and inspired. They drew upon their experiences as artists, city builders, experts, leaders and planners to share inventive and effective ways in which we might address present day urban challenges. Featuring panel discussions and keynote sessions, Confluence 2017 put forth thought provoking, actionable ideas for a sustainable urban future. Here are a few highlights.

"In India, we are in a unique situation today, where urbanisation has outpaced urban planning, and we are having to catch up." - Mr. Arun K Nanda, Chairman, Mahindra Lifespace Developers Ltd. (MLDL) And Mahindra Holidays & Resorts India Ltd (MHRIL).

"Urbanisation is one of the areas where India can leapfrog and create a good example for other countries." - Amitabh Kant, CEO, NITI Aayog.

"The test is one is of space and the price of technology. We need to upscale such that prices are reduced. Sustainability is doable, but it is a step at a time." - Dr. Ajay Mathur, Director General, The Energy and Resources Institute

In a keynote session titled 'Inspiring Ideas', Mr. Eytan Schwartz, CEO, Tel Aviv Global, shared how applications of technology and digital science can steer city growth.

"The inherent identity of India is its inclusiveness." - Shombit Sengupta, Artist, Founder & Chairman,Shining Consulting

"Building cities is about competing with existing and future cities to stay relevant to the economy." - Mr. Yee Ean Pang, Director General, Investment Operations Department, Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB).


One might ask, "What does city creation have to do with me?". The answer, is 'everything'. Our cities have a strong role to play in defining our identities; at a personal level, they contribute to our education, professional progress and social circles. In a similar manner, each citizen influences the urban development process - economically, culturally and otherwise.

Urbanization and economic growth go hand in hand. The emerging future of cities largely depends on the way we plan and manage this transformative process to achieve positive change. The good news is that Sustainable Urbanisation can respond to the challenges of our times, thereby addressing issues such as inequality, climate change and unmanageable forms of expansion. Even more inspiring is the fact that the world over, new forms of collaboration and learning that can drive positive change are emerging. Confluence seeks to learn from, and contribute to, these collective efforts.

We'd love to hear from you on your ideas for how we can improve the next edition of Confluence! What do you think should be discussed at the next edition? Is there anyone you'd like to recommend as a speaker, or any interesting examples of innovation (in urban development) that you'd like to share? Do reach out to us at [email protected]

We believe collective voices and ongoing conversations are crucial to driving long-lasting, systemic change.Watch this space, as we continue to share our thoughts and experiences from Confluence 2017 and beyond - towards Building Cities To Last.