Are We Building Too Much?
Indian population has grown much over the past 150 years. In fact, from 1880 to 1910, Indian population grew from 200 million to 1,200 million. That is a growth of six fold in a span of 130 years. But, in the same period, the built-up area rose from about 0.5 million hectares to 2 million hectares, a rise of four fold. But, India has about 329 million hectares of land. So, the amount of land on which people have built houses, offices and other buildings is negligible. It is nearly 0.6 per cent of India's land.
If you look at this figure, you will notice that cropland has grown significantly in this period. This is not because of the need to feed the rising population. This is largely because of government regulations that prevent people from selling off their agricultural land or converting agricultural land for other purposes. (In the figures, the percentage of cropland is represented, on a scale of 1.)
Forest land has declined slightly, but, this is not a consistent pattern. For example, forest land rose from 1980 to 2000. We can expect it to rise again, if people choose to grow more trees, or of government policies support such growth.
Grasslands and shrublands are declining, too, but this was growing moderately for long. People have a rational reason to clear land that is not useful to them.
The rise in build up area is significant, but even this should be attributed to government policies, which prevent real estate developers from building more floor space without raising the built-up area.
Of the four parameters, the only consistent rise is in built-up area. As mentioned earlier, this does not really matter. But, even if it matters, we can easily contain this by setting developers free. For example, if the floor area ratio is 20 (Floor area ratio or FAR is the ratio between the floor area constructed and the area of the plot), the built-up are needed to house X number of people will be one-tenth of that of the built-up area required if the FAR is 2. So, without raising the existing built-up area, India can easily house ten times as many people.