Germany ready to help Mumbai, Merkel returns home


Mumbai : German Chancellor Angela Merkel Thursday said her country was willing to help Mumbai to deal with a host of problems related to urbanisation, and spoke glowingly about growing strategic ties with India as she wrapped up her four-day visit to the country.

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While presenting the Deutsche Bank Urban Age Award to two city projects in Mumbai, Merkel said Germany would provide any assistance it can to help solve the problems India’s financial capital was facing.

The $10,000 award is shared by Triratna Prerana Mandal and Waterfront, which carried out innovative projects in Mumbai’s sprawling suburbs. The Urban Design Research Institute, which has carried out the Fort Management Project in south Mumbai, earned a special commendation at the function held in the convocation hall of the University of Mumbai.

The award ceremony was followed by a two-day Urban Age India Conference organised by the Deutsche Bank in partnership with the Tata Institute of Social Sciences and the University of Mumbai.

Maharashtra Governor S.M. Krishna spoke about the explosion in urban population over the last few decades. “For the first time in the history of human civilization, the world urban population has come on par with the rural population,” Krishna said.

“The jump up to 50 percent has taken place in just 107 years, thanks to improved living standards, better education and healthcare,” Krishna pointed out. As per current trends, the number of urban dwellers would touch five billion in the next 23 years, with Asia and Africa dominating global urban growth through 2030.

Maharashtra, India’s second largest urbanized state, follows global urbanization trends. Almost 45 percent of its population lives in urban areas, with Mumbai’s population hovering around 20 million, making it the fourth largest urban agglomerate in the world after Tokyo, Mexico City and New York.

This, the governor stressed, poses immense challenges to the state and local authorities, who grapple with inadequate resources and technical manpower to address the issue.

“This journey pushed the relationship between Germany and India forward,” Merkel told reporters here before leaving for Berlin.

“India is a country that is a good strategic partner” for issues like combating global warming, she stressed.

Merkel’s four-day visit provided an added momentum to the burgeoning strategic and economic ties between one of Asia’s fastest growing economies and Europe’s industrial giant.

Being her first visit to India, it was a voyage of discovery for Merkel who made it a point to interact with civil society, intellectuals and artists here. The two countries signed seven pacts, including four in the area of science and technology and one in defence co-operation.

Germany’s emphasis on cooperation in the area of cutting edge technology was reflected in the setting up of an Indo-German science and technology centre, and the launch of a Science Express train, aimed at popularising science among the country’s youth.

In New Delhi, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Merkel Tuesday held talks on a wide range of bilateral, regional and global issues including UN reforms, terrorism, energy security and cooperation in the Doha round of multilateral trade negotiations and a new evolving mechanism to combat climate change.

In a big boost for India’s NSG diplomacy, Germany, which becomes the chair of the 45-nation body next year, indicated its support for the India-US nuclear deal but only after New Delhi negotiates a safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

The two countries also set an ambitious target of bilateral trade worth 20 billion euro by 2012 and sought to underpin the burgeoning economic relationship with an enlarged defence cooperation on the basis of a cooperation agreement that will include a dialogue on export control.