The Maharashtra government expects to strengthen its existing sister-city relations and establish more international collaborations through the three-day BRICS Cities conclave, being attended by officials of major cities from all the BRICS nations, that started on Thursday in Mumbai.

At the inaugural function, Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis said, “Till now, sister-city relationships were restricted to just Memoranda of Understanding (MoU), but now it is time to take them forward and translate them into reality.” Among the cities in attendance, Mumbai already has sister-city agreements in place with Shanghai from China and Russia’s St Petersburg.

The very first session of the BRICS cities’ conclave on Friday will be on the collaboration amongst BRICS cities, where all heads of delegations will make presentations. There will also be a special presentation by Xue Zezhou, minister of organisation from the Ministry of Shanghai, on how best to operationalise the sister-city agreement between Shanghai and Mumbai.

Senior government representatives and planners from cities such as Shanghai, Beijing, Qingdao, Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Johannesburg, and St. Petersburg, among others will attend the conclave. The conference will focus on various issues of urban development such as urban transport, affordable housing, safety and security, successful models of city governance, building sustainable cities, and financing city infrastructure.

“The BRICS countries are home to 42 per cent of the world’s population and contribute 20 percent of the world’s Gross Domestic Product. They are not only managing challenges of urbanisation, but also playing a major role in fuelling urban growth and setting the development discourse,” Venkaiah Naidu, Union Minister of Urban Development said, adding that world over, urbanisation and migration from rural to urban areas is inevitable, and the conclave will be helpful in sharing experiences.

The BRICS cities conclave in Mumbai would be the first one after India assumed presidency of the group in February.

Naidu said there would be any urban forum of the BRICS nations in Vishakhapatnam in September 2016 with an agenda to deepen the understanding or urban-rural linkages and city clusters.