The Union budget 2022 had announced the formation of a high-level committee of planners, economists and institutions to create recommendations on urban sector policies.
The minister of finance said that by the time India turns 100, nearly half the population are going to be living in urban areas, making it imperative to not only nurture India’s megacities but also facilitate tier-2 and tier-3 cities to set for the long run.
India is witnessing and observing one of the most important urban growth spurts in history ever. However, three-quarters of the infrastructure that may exist in cities by 2050 is yet to be built.
This presents Indian cities with an unprecedented opportunity to appear in urban planning and development through a long-term strategic lens to enable economic, environmental and social impact.
Urban infrastructure development leads to high economic value-add but often ends up in unequal and inequitable growth. As a developing economy, negative externalities like air and pollution, climate change, flooding, and extreme heat events also strike the amount of urban infrastructure.
Research has shown in detail that if cities are developed as compact and climate-resilient centres, then infrastructure investments can produce more economic gain over time with minimal climate impact whilst ensuring equitable growth.
Town and country planning acts in India have largely remained unchanged over the past 50 years, hoping on techniques founded by Brits. Cities in fact still create land use and regulatory control-based master plans which, on their own, are ineffective in planning and managing cities.
Despite the various changes that led to modernisation, the main target of coming up with continues to be the strict division of the town into various homogeneous zones like residential, commercial and industrial.
This is often done to forestall the mixing of incompatible uses and to avoid economic and social integration — a relic of the economic age when manufacturing and trade were the first economic activities in cities
set of strategic projects that have the potential to trigger growth within the region, to attain the vision, are identified through a negotiated process. The projects are designed and developed within the context of land that may be made available and capital resources which will be raised.
Indian cities should be used to transition to using master plans for developing a shared vision and stating desired long-term outcomes as a regulatory control tool.
Strategic plans should be developed every five years to extend a city’s competitiveness and help it achieve its strategic goals with relevance to sustainability and economic development by identifying key projects to be implemented.
Finally, local area plans should be developed to confirm the health, safety and welfare of citizens through public participation, contextualising local challenges, needs and ambitions, while supporting the general objectives of the programme.
Cities should also aim to mainstream the utilization of specialised social, economic and environmental data to make robust links across the urban-rural continuum.
Plans are about people, their perspectives and not just physical spaces. Building consensus around future growth and development, with attention to climate action, and economic and social integration, is crucial. Such a participatory process is what’s going to help build a vibrant, inclusive and liveable urban India.