Event ReportsPublished on Sep 24, 2013
Preparation of a town/city plan is a comprehensive exercise involving collection, tabulation and analysis of data on numerous urban development indicators. The enormous amount of time, labour and resources involved in this process usually go to waste as compliance to plan proposals is often quite minimal.
ORF-GIZ Urban Workshop Series Need for effective implementation of urban development plans

In India, the growth and pattern of development of towns and cities is guided by an urban development plan. The plan contains proposals on controlled location of new facilities and activities, such as residential and work places, markets and commercial establishments, infrastructure and networks, recreational and green spaces, etc. It aims to ensure optimal utilisation of space and optimal distribution pattern of human activities.

Once the plan is notified by the government, it is to be implemented. For this purpose, the broad policy directions for future urban development outlined in the plan are translated into action programmes/projects/schemes. In addition to such traditional urban planning practices, a series of parallel reform measures designed by the National and State governments are also implemented in order to address future urban challenges and requirements of the growing population, as well as to support the urban plan implementation process.

A visit to any urban centre, however, shows occurrence of a rather haphazard and irregular form of development. In no way do these centres represent examples of planned, equitable and sustainable development. Thus, while the urban plan offers a planned vision of the future town/city, achievement of this vision is not proving to be an easy task.

In view of the problems being faced in the field of urban planning, Observer Research Foundation (ORF) and the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) organised a workshop on "Effective Implementation of Urban Development Plans" in order to build a better understanding of the reasons responsible for inefficiency in implementation of urban plans, and to identify measures for strengthening the process of plan implementation.

The workshop was held at ORF Delhi, on 24 September 2013. It was the fourth in a series of urban workshops being organised by ORF and GIZ in this year. The previous three workshops dealt with topics such as urban population trends, development of new urban centres and affordable housing. In each workshop, distinguished urban planners and professionals working in the urban sector have participated and shared their urban experiences. Issues pertaining to growth of census towns, capabilities of town planners, significance of creating the backbone of cities and states’ encouragement of real estate sector in housing had come up for discussion in the earlier workshops.

The fourth workshop was chaired by Mr. Harsh Sethi, Consulting Editor, Seminar, and Advisor ORF and was represented by speakers from Brazil, India and South Africa.

In the opening remarks, Mr. Harsh Sethi shared his impressions about urbanisation. He mentioned that its significance has grown during the last 15 years, mainly due to the huge demographic changes and greater media highlight and concern about urban problems. It was submitted that urban centres of today comprise people with different backgrounds and identities, and managing this diversity has become a huge challenge. He urged the participants to throw light on urban planning interventions needed to address the challenges of urbanisation.

The Brazilian practice was presented by Dr. Bernardo Alves Furtado, Assistant Director at the Regional, Urban and Environmental Department, Institute for Applied Economic Research (Ipea), Brasilia, Brazil. He said that from 2005, it became mandatory for every municipality having population of 20,000 and above to prepare a master plan, and by 2006, about 1,500 municipalities accomplished this task. However, effective plan implementation remains an issue. Some of the major problems in this respect, according to Dr. Furtado, are: the nexus between the municipal functionaries and the real estate developers resulting in deviations from plan provisions; incomplete information in the plan about the budget, responsibilities of actors; low technical capacity of municipalities; and the failure in convergence of various urban development sector plans.

Mr. Dunu Roy, Director, Hazards Centre, Delhi, explained the deficiencies in the urban planning process of India. He emphasised the fact that planning has not been done taking into account the ground realities due to which numerous problems are being faced today. It was argued that in many respects India is still planning on the basis of data and norms that were evolved years ago. He also commented on the validity of the recently introduced city development plans, and held the view that this is seen as a radical departure from traditional form of land use planning to investment planning. According to Mr. Roy, local solutions could help in designing a completely new paradigm of urban planning.

Dr. Firoz Khan, Senior Lecturer, School of Public Leadership, University of Stellenbosch, Matieland, South Africa, described numerous developments in the past which have adversely affected the urban planning process in South Africa. To this end it was stated that the nature of the democratisation process was highly elite driven, and insignificant attention has been paid to radical strategies. This resulted in the adoption of a macro-economic strategy which was essentially neo-liberal in nature. The approach of the government was to accelerate the strategies for restructuring of the economy by way of direct liberalisation, import liberalisation, financial de-regulation, which impacted on how one structured the built environment, or the economy, and the issues of redistribution, and those dealing with township development were put on the backburner. He expressed concern over the existence of an illegitimate capitalist class which has the power to control institutions, and that fundamentally shapes how the city works.

Prof. Jamal Ansari, former Director, School of Planning and Architecture, Delhi, gave insights into the difficulties faced in the preparation of master plans. According to him, plans are prepared not just by planners, but in this entire process, the politicians, bureaucrats, pressure groups (NGOs) and real estate developers quite often play a dominating role and dictate their terms in almost all kinds of planning and development. And the people for whom the plan is prepared are nowhere in the planning process, he added. The example of NOIDA plan was given to support these arguments, where some influential persons got the expressway alignment dragged to their property so that the land values of their properties would go up. This matter lasted for about three years after which the planners were told to prepare the plan again. Prof. Ansari said that to tackle this problem, satellite imageries were used to fix the alignment, and another master plan was prepared. Another issue described was related to unreasonable demands of real estate developers, such as increase of area under commercial use and increase of FAR. Here, the interest was profit, said Prof. Ansari.

Some of the most fundamental aspects which were being excluded in the urban planning process were highlighted by Dr. K.K. Pandey, Professor of Urban Management, Indian Institute of Public Administration, Delhi, such as insufficient attention given by planners to: creating an environment for building the economic potential of small and medium towns; urban mobility; disaster management; flooding; hazardous waste disposal; energy and water audits; and environmental impact assessment. In addition, it was suggested that there is an urgent need to create urban local governments in census towns, build municipal capacities, and to set up planning wings in municipalities that have been made responsible for urban planning after the enactment of the Constitution (74th Amendment) Act, 1992.

Prof. Utpal Sharma, Planning and Public Policy, CEPT University, Ahmedabad, shared his experience of preparing plans for different urban centres of India and pointed out numerous problems that affect the plan implementation process. It was suggested that there is a need to find ways to make plans for regions, because there are several small settlements within a region. Accordingly, for Hyderabad, a plan with rural-urban interface has been prepared, but still there is no mechanism to implement the plan, he said. Similarly, in Chhattisgarh, an integrated regional plan based on corridor development is being prepared for the entire state, and all investment is tied up with physical space. Prof. Sharma also said that sometimes the situation is such that there is a plan but it cannot be implemented. He observed this problem in the case of Guwahati, where natural drainage lines have been blocked, people have built on it, hills are being denuded, and with a little rain water, the whole city is affected badly. Likewise, there was absence of: urban development Act, building bye laws, and technology (Patna), land records (Jammu), all of which makes implementation difficult.

Concluding remarks were given by Ms. Regina Dube, Head of GIZ Sustainable Urban Habitat Programme. She stressed the need to make urban planning a participatory process, whereby people from various sections of the society are given greater chance to have a voice in decisions that would ultimately affect them in future.

Preparation of a town/city plan is a comprehensive exercise involving collection, tabulation and analysis of data on numerous urban development indicators, based on which projections are made and suggestions are given to guide future development. The enormous amount of time, labour and resources involved in this process usually go to waste as compliance to plan proposals is often quite minimal.

(This report is prepared by Dr. Rumi Aijaz, Senior Fellow, Observer Research Foundation, Delhi)

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