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Challenges in Urban Planning for local bodies in India

The CAA74 mandates compulsory reconstitution of municipal bodies within a stipulated time frame, thus ensuring continuity of local representatives. The twelfth schedule of the CAA74 has listed 18 functions and responsibilities to local bodies. These are :
  1. Urban planning, including town planning;
  2. Regulation of land use and construction of buildings;
  3. Planning for economic and social development;
  4. Roads and bridges;
  5. Water supply for domestic, industrial, and commercial purposes;
  6. Public health, sanitation, conservancy, and solid waste management;
  7. Fire services;
  8. Urban forestry, protection of the environment, and promotion of ecological aspects;
  9. Safeguarding the interests of weaker sections of society, including the handicapped and mentally retarded;
  10. Slum improvement and up-gradation;
  11. Urban poverty alleviation;
  12. Provision of urban amenities and facilities such as parks, gardens, and playgrounds;
  13. Promotion of cultural, educational and aesthetic aspects;
  14. Burials and burial grounds; cremation grounds and electric crematoria;
  15. Cattle pounds, prevention of cruelty to animals;
  16. Vital statistics, including registration of births and deaths;
  17. Public amenities including street lighting, parking lots, bus-stop, and public conveniences;
  18. Regulation of slaughterhouses and tanneries.
Importantly the CAA74 expressly recognizes a role for the ULBs within the constitutional framework and provides for devolution of financial powers from the state government for strengthening of municipal finances. The CAA74 also provides for constitution of Ward Committees in municipalities with a population of more than 3 lakh, Metropolitan Planning Committees and District Planning Committees for consolidation and preparation of plans of spatial, economic and social development. From a "top down " approach, the emphasis has thus shifted to the" bottom up" approach.

In view of the challenges facing by ULBs the planners have to prepare themselves for a new role and much wider responsibilities. As a bridge between the civil society and the politico-economic structure, the planners have to perform the role of the catalysts of change. With the ongoing globalization, economic liberalization and devolution of power to local bodies, gone are the days of armchair professionals. In the context of decentralization of power from Central / State Governments to local levels, there is a clear need to strengthen the Urban Local Bodies and endowing them with the finances, commensurate with their assigned responsibility. The experience indicates that the first and foremost priority should be to strengthen the local bodies and improve their performance who have the primary responsibility to provide urban services. This would involve the following key initiatives:-
  • The introduction of short and medium-term, Integrated Action Planning, to complement comprehensive long term objectives.
  • Simplification of plans and procedures.
  • Assets inventory for optimum utilization and the increase of the revenue base.
  • A new urban land policy, to match with the national Housing and Habitat Policy. Whereby the local authorities act as the facilitators and harness the resources of private sector / Community.
  • Upgrading technology and environment focus for infrastructure services and transportation.
  • Exploring new options and public-private partnership for development and financing of nfrastructure, land development, housing, conservation, and environmental improvement.
  • Networking with international and national urban programmes, e.g. Citynet Healthy Cities, UMP etc.
  • Mandatory performance management system and MIS.
  • Networking with NGO’s CBO’s and private sector for planning, management and maintenance.
Issues in Urban Planning
It is now being recognised that cities are the engines of growth at both regional and national level. To facilitate and sustain this growth, cities have to provide both a high quality of life and an efficient infrastructure for economic activities.

Environment management and protection strategy addresses the critical environmental problems, which mainly concerns preservation of lakes and water bodies, its catchment area and its water quality and land use management in catchment areas. The other environmental issues relate to the disposal and treatment of urban waste and its recycling and the socio-economic problems caused by the displacement of population, in context to future city spread. Environment management of lakes and water bodies are vulnerable to urban pressure in its close vicinity. It is essential to enforce land use control measures in the catchment areas to prevent further environmental degradation and thereby achieve desired level of sustainability. The sustained efforts are needed for plan implementation to improve the quality of city life. Hence an effective plan implementation strategy needs to be evolved to achieve the following objectives
  1. Protect natural environment.
  2. Conservation of areas of cultural heritage.
  3. Optimize land use and land utilization
  4. Provide services and infrastructure
  5. Participatory approach for supply of land and infrastructure development.
Urban planning is basically resource generation, resource development and resource management exercise. The efficiency of urban settlements largely depends upon how well they are planned, how economically they are developed and how efficiently they are managed. Planning inputs largely govern the efficiency level of human settlements. There is a widely held view that the Master planning methods adopted over the last few decades have not produced a satisfactory physical environment. The urban development planning process in the past has been unduly long and has been largely confined to the detailing of land use aspects. The plans have paid inadequate attention to the provision of trunk infrastructure, environmental conservation and financing issues. They have been unrealistic and have not been accompanied by investment programmes and capital budgets. Integrated urban development planning approach, taking into account regional, state and national strategies, and spatial, functional and other linkages between human settlements, has not been given much recognition. Also the planning and plan implementation processes have not paid adequate attention to the integration of land use and transport planning. The fact that transport is a key determinant of land use and “leads” development is sometimes ignored.

The Five Year plans laid stress on the need to undertaken town planning and evolve a National Town Planning Act so as to provide for zoning and land use, control of ribbon development, location of industries, clearance of slums, civic and diagnostic surveys and preparation of Master plans. Although a significant step in urban development was undertaken in the Plan in the form of Central assistance to the states for the preparation of master plans for selected areas, comprehensive action was not taken by the states for the adoption and implementation of the plans. The urban development planning should, essentially, be supportive of the economic development in the country. At present, hardly 20 percent of the urban centers have some sort of a Master Plan, which is many cases is just a policy document. It is estimated that there are about 1200 master plans prepared by various Agencies responsible for plan preparation but their implementation is not encouraging. The implementation of master plan facilitates the orderly and planned development of cities in a sustainable manner, which would ultimately help in good governance.

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