We’ve forgotten the ‘land’ aspect of sustainable cities

By Ruchi Jain

In all our discussions on the replicability and segmentation of ‘model’ sustainable cities, we have assumed that the land has been available for the four ‘actors’ in Professor Macomber’s framework. Living PlanIT was granted the exclusive rights to purchase land in Paredes by the government, Phu My Hung received the land as capital contribution by the state-owned enterprise it was partnering with, and Masdar and KAEC were monarchy-led initiatives.

Step #4 from Professor Macomber’s Overall Framework for Sustainable Urbanization

The ease of availability of land is a critical assumption for some emerging markets, especially democracies such as India. The Law of Eminent Domain is a tough lever to pull for a democratically elected government, as officials often adopt populist policies which have short-term views. West Bengal has seen widespread protests over farmers being forced to sell their land at below-market rates for the Nandigram SEZ and for Tata Motors’ car manufacturing plant in Singur.[i] Reliance Industries’ SEZ planned as a satellite city outside Bombay has also seen farmer protests.[ii] Continue reading


Quick Fixes for KAEC

By Jannis Koehn

King Abdullah Economic City (KAEC) is the first proper city that we discussed in the course. At least, it might eventually become one. Whether it qualifies as a sustainable city remains to be seen, and I do not want to get bogged down in the question what an economic city is exactly. So far the city developers are stuck with interdependency among sectors none of which yet exists, lack of capital, lack of knowledge and lack of a strategic plan. I want to suggest that a few adjustments may help the Protagonists to solve this Gordian Knot. Continue reading

New York – Sustainable and Competitive Urbanization, Infrastructure, and Finance? in the News This Week

By John Macomber

These news items from Gotham City might add some further flavor to our discussion of PlaNYC in Thursday’s class, March 7:

(Learning Hub entry here)

(Related post in this blog about current events here)


Glad to see that long view politicians and domain experts can mobilize funding to make investments based on science and with the benefit of the populace in mind! Continue reading

In the news: Urbanization, Resource Scarcity, Cities, and Political Stalemates

(Updated March 35)

By John Macomber

Once you start tying phenomena together, the topics of our course are in the news everywhere. As we head into the last days of the Q3 term, here are a smattering just from the last week or two. It would be plausible to spring from these into an original post that applies some analysis or frameworks or segmentation to add the “so what” utility. Continue reading

Can you Succeed in the Bottom Right Corner?

By Anonymous

Emerging Economy, Greenfield Situation, Chaotic Governance, Entrepreneur

Emerging Economy, Greenfield Situation, Chaotic Governance, Entrepreneur

The matrix proposed by Prof. Macomber titled “How to Invest in Sustainable, Competitive Cities” points to the bottom right cell as one with the greatest potential opportunity. At a first glance this “opportunity” does not make sense: Who would want to be an entrepreneur investing in greenfield developments in regions with chaotic governance?  However, while thinking about this framework in the context of bringing order to chaotic situations with a lot of activity, one extremely successful business comes to mind. It does not erect the kind of barriers to entry that most HBS MBA students think about. Continue reading

Slum lords as entrepreneurs

By Alice Heathcote

Annawadi sits beside the road to the Mumbai airport, on “a stretch where new India and old India collided and made new India late”

Behind the Beautiful Forevers, Katherine Boo

After much insistence my mother, I recently started reading ‘Behind the Beautiful Forevers’,a non-fiction work from Pulitzer prize-winning journalist Katherine Boo. The book follows the lives of the inhabitants of Annawadi, a slum settlement in the shadow of luxury hotels near the Mumbai airport. The main character, Abdul Hussain, is a Muslim teenager who turns an increasingly success profit through reselling the recyclable garbage that richer people throw away. He begins to dream of a life outside of Annawadi, and even a wife who ‘does not care that he smells’. His success catches up to him however, when his next-door neighbor attempts suicide and he is falsely accused of her murder.

At this point, the true tragedy begins to unfold. In the legal vacuum of Annawadi, the Indian police are anything but a force for good. Despite the fact there are hundreds of residents to prove his innocence, Abdul is charged. The police know his family has money stored away and they have an angle now for getting a slice. Police officers arrest the accused and demand bribes; when Abdul’s mother refuses to pay most bribes, family members are imprisoned and beaten. The story gives us an inside view of the Indian criminal justice system, in which success will attract resentment, unwanted attention from authorities and a higher price tag to buy yourself out of jail. Continue reading

A new way to fund infrastructure

By Alice Heathcote

In a recent class, it was noted that for all of our case studies on ‘new cities’ the developments were inevitably funded with a mixture of both public and private capital. The discussion seemed to conclude that you aren’t ever able to build new cities with the government or private sector alone.

I can think of an example which runs counter to that trend. In the western Pilbara desert of Australia, about 100km from anything that resembles civilization, there are the beginnings of construction for what will be one of the largest mining projects in the world, the Roy Hill Iron Ore mine. At an estimated value of $10 to 15billion, it’s worth more than the GDP of about 60 countries in the world. The mining project is majority owned by Australia’s Hancock Prospecting, with minority stakes held by a number of Asian industrials, including Marubeni Corporation and China Steel Corp. Continue reading