Urbanisation Policy in India

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    • Recently, NITI Aayog launched a Report on Reforms in Urban Planning Capacity in India to discuss why India needs an urbanisation policy.

    Report Summary

    • Global Urban Population: 
      • India is home to 11% of the total global urban population
      • By 2027, India will surpass China as the most populous country in the world. 
      • Unplanned urbanization, however, exerts great strain on our cities. In fact, the Covid-19 pandemic has revealed the dire need for the planning and management of our cities.
    • Spatial Sustainability:
      •  65 percent of the 7,933 urban settlements do not have any master plan. They are instrumental for guiding and regulating the development of cities for managing urbanisation as well as ‘spatial sustainability’.
    • India:  
      • From a population of 377 million in 2011, Indian cities are projected to house 870 million people by 2050, according to the UN’s projections — by far the highest among all nations. 
    • Delhi: 
      • Delhi is likely to become the world’s most populous urban agglomeration by 2030, surpassing Tokyo. Clearly, a major demographic transformation is taking place.
    • Several Recommendations: 
      • The report has made several recommendations that can unblock bottlenecks in the value chain of urban planning capacity in India. 
      • The report suggests that every city must aspire to become a ‘Healthy City for All’ by 2030.
      • As India urbanises, it must ensure that its cities offer a decent quality of life and facilitate job creation. 
      • These imperatives are fundamental to India’s ambitions of becoming a five trillion-dollar economy by 2025 and a 10 trillion-dollar economy by 2030.
    • Three-fold Vision: 
      • The MoHUA recognizes that India’s growth story is unfolding in its cities and post COVID-19 urban India shall have to increasingly contribute towards  realizing Hon’ble Prime Minister’s three-fold vision for:
      • Atmanirbhar Bharat (Self Reliant India)
      • Vocal for local
      • USD5 trillion economy by 2025

    Challenges faced by Cities

    • Affordable Housing: 
      • Inadequate affordable housing has meant that almost one-sixth of the urban population lives in slums. 
    • Water Supply & Waste Management:
      • Water supply is unreliable. 
      • Mountains of solid waste sit on the fringes of our cities. 
      • Poor drainage, congested roads and deteriorating air quality are other challenges. 
    • Poor Urban Planning:
      • The existing urban planning and governance framework is complex, which often leads to ambiguity and lack of accountability.
      • City planning has become a highly technocratic exercise with long delays and there is a need for the demystification of the masterplans. 
    • Lack of Coordination:
      • Lack of synergy between urban and rural planning and development. The ‘State Town and country planning acts’ need to be revisited to harmonise the two.
    • Funding: 
      • More sources for funding are required like resources other than the public budget need to be tapped. High prices will make services unaffordable.
    • Migrant Crisis:
      • Urban dwellers are ignored and unable to live, work and play safely and happily. 
      • An urbanisation policy needs to take cognisance of future mobility patterns.

    Suggestions in Report to Combat Urbanization

    • Programmatic Intervention for Planning of Healthy Cities: 
      • Every city must aspire to become a ‘Healthy City for All’ by 2030. The report recommends a Central Sector Scheme ‘500 Healthy Cities Programme’, for a period of 5 years, wherein priority cities and towns would be selected jointly by the states and local bodies.
    • Programmatic Intervention for Optimum Utilization of Urban Land: 
      • All the cities and towns under the proposed ‘Healthy Cities Programme’ should strengthen development control regulations based on scientific evidence to maximize the efficiency of urban land (or planning area). 
      • The report recommends a sub-scheme ‘Preparation/Revision of Development Control Regulations’ for this purpose.
    • Ramping Up of Human Resources: 
      • To combat the shortage of urban planners in the public sector, the report recommends that the states/UTs may need to:
        • expedite the filling up of vacant positions of town planners, and 
        • additionally sanction 8268 town planners’ posts as lateral entry positions for a minimum period of 3 years and a maximum of 5 years to meet the gaps.
    • Ensuring Qualified Professionals for Undertaking Urban Planning: 
      • State town and country planning departments face an acute shortage of town planners. 
      • This is compounded by the fact that in several states, ironically, a qualification in town planning is not even an essential criterion for such jobs. 
      • States may need to undertake requisite amendments in their recruitment rules to ensure the entry of qualified candidates into town-planning positions.
    • Re-engineering of Urban Governance: 
      • There is a need to bring in more institutional clarity and also multi-disciplinary expertise to solve urban challenges. 
      • The report recommends the constitution of a high-powered committee to re-engineer the present urban-planning governance structure. 
      • The key aspects that would need to be addressed in this effort are: 
        • clear division of the roles and responsibilities of various authorities, appropriate revision of rules and regulations, etc.
        • creation of a more dynamic organizational structure, standardisation of the job descriptions of town planners and other experts, 
        • extensive adoption of technology for enabling public participation and inter-agency coordination.
    • Revision of Town and Country Planning Acts: 
      • Most States have enacted the Town and Country Planning Acts, that enable them to prepare and notify master plans for implementation. 
      • However, many need to be reviewed and upgraded. 
      • Therefore, the formation of an apex committee at the state level is recommended to undertake a regular review of planning legislations (including town and country planning or urban and regional development acts or other relevant acts).
    • Demystifying Planning and Citizen Outreach Campaign: 
      • While it is important to maintain the master plans’ technical rigour, it is equally important to demystify them for enabling citizens’ participation at relevant stages. 
      • Therefore, the committee strongly recommends a ‘Citizen Outreach Campaign’ for demystifying urban planning.
    • Steps for Enhancing the Role of Private Sector: 
      • The report recommends that concerted measures must be taken at multiple levels to strengthen the role of the private sector to improve the overall planning capacity in the country. 
      • These include the adoption of fair processes for procuring technical consultancy services, strengthening project structuring and management skills in the public sector, and empanelment of private sector consultancies.
    • Steps for Strengthening Urban Planning Education System
      • The Central universities and technical institutions in all the other States/UTs are encouraged to offer postgraduate degree programmes (MTech Planning) to cater to the requirement of planners in the country in a phased manner.
      • The committee also recommends that all such institutions may synergize with the Ministry of Rural Development, Ministry of Panchayati Raj and respective state rural development departments/directorates and develop demand-driven short-term programmes on rural area planning.
      • ‘Planning’ as an umbrella term, including all its specializations such as environment, housing, transportation, infrastructure, logistics, rural area, regional, etc., or any other nomenclature approved by AICTE, should be included as a discipline under the National Institute Ranking Framework (NIRF) of MoE to encourage a healthy competition among the institutions.
      • Faculty shortage in educational institutions conducting degree and PhD programmes in planning need to be resolved in a time bound manner by 2022.
    • Measures for Strengthening Human Resource and Match Demand–Supply: 
      • The report recommends the constitution of a ‘National Council of Town and Country Planners’ as a statutory body of the Government of India. 
      • Also, a ‘National Digital Platform of Town and Country Planners’ is suggested to be created within the National Urban Innovation Stack of MoHUA. 
      • This portal will enable self-registration of all planners and evolve as a marketplace for potential employers and urban planners.
    • Sustainable Plans: 
      • Creating plans and sustainable physical infrastructure to support enhancing ‘economic base’ of urban areas 
    • Set of enablers: 
      • Boosting local economy through set-of enablers (finance, infrastructure, policy, regulation, institutional support and governance) to provide necessary social infrastructure including housing, informal sector livelihood, common services platforms for networking etc.
    • Promotion : 
      • Promoting mass public transport systems, non-polluting modes, promoting  pedestrian safety and cycling (to achieve safer and healthy cities) 
    • Urban Local Bodies funding:
      • Enhancing the finances of urban local bodies, devolving powers to lead, set-outcome based targets and leverage financial resources independently
    • Real time database for monitoring: 
      • Create real-time urban information hub at local level, integrated with the  regional, state and national level database for informed decision making
    • Environment Sustainability: 
      • Establish systems and technology to ensure environmental sustainability to minimize negative impact and improve urban resilience (including readiness for managing pandemic). 

     Conclusion

    • For our growth ambitions to succeed, not only do the gaps have to be filled, but even greater needs, necessitated by the growing population, have to be accommodated. 
    • A proper balance between agglomeration economies and manageability as well as density and distance will hold the key in determining the right size for our cities.
    • The huge investment in urban infrastructure is outside the range of what the public budget can support. Thus, the participation of all other stakeholders is needed.

    India’s Global Commitments

    • SDGs (Goal 11): Promote urban planning as one of the recommended methods for achieving sustainable development.
    • UN-Habitat’s New Urban Agenda: It was adopted at Habitat III in 2016. It puts forth principles for the planning, construction, development, management, and improvement of urban areas.
    • UN-Habitat (2020) mentions spatial sustainability, as a concept. It suggests that the spatial conditions of a city can enhance its power to generate social, economic and environmental value and well-being.
    • Paris Agreement: India’s National Determined Contributions (NDCs) includes the goals to reduce the emission intensity of the country’s GDP by 33 to 35% by 2030 from 2005 level.

    Source: IE