Urban Transformation – Smart Cities, AMRUT, etc.

Urban planning can change the future of cities to happy cities


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: NA

Mains level: Urbanization issues

Urban planningContext

  • In the recent few years, the growth of the economy and urbanization have accelerated. Rapid unplanned urbanization has put extreme pressure on natural resources.
  • 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.

What does urban planning mean?

  • Urban planning, also known as regional planning, town planning, city planning is a technical and political process that is focused on the development and design of land use and the built environment, including air, water, and the infrastructure passing into and out of urban areas, such as transportation, communications, and distribution networks and their accessibility.

What are ‘Happy Cities’?

  • A term that follows the Green City, Sustainable City, Liveable City, in the lingo of urban planning

What is a smart city?

  • A smart city is one that uses information and communication technologies to enhance citizen engagement. It is a neo-vision which seeks to improve the delivery of services in urban areas. The following story maps out the steps being taken by India to explore this concept in practice.

What is the Smart Cities Mission?

  • Sustainable cities: The Smart Cities Mission aims at developing 100 cities, which were shortlisted, into self-sustainable urban settlements.
  • Chronology: The mission was launched on June 25, 2015 and was projected as one aimed at transforming the process of urban development in the country.
  • Comprehensive revamp: Among its strategic components is ‘area-based development’, which includes city improvement (retrofitting), city renewal (redevelopment) and city extension (Greenfield development), plus a pan-city initiative in which ‘smart solutions’ are applied covering larger parts of the city.

Fast Facts – Urbanization in India

  • Most Urbanized States: Tamil Nadu 43.9%; Maharashtra 4%; Gujarat  37.4%
  • 3 out of world’s 21 mega cities: Mumbai (19 mill); Delhi (15 mill); Kolkata (14 mill)

Urban planningUrban planning challenges


  • Many urban governments lack a modern planning framework
  • The multiplicity of local bodies obstructs efficient planning and land use
  • Rigid master plans and restrictive zoning regulations limit the land available for building, constricting cities’ abilities to grow in accordance with changing needs.


  • Building regulations that limit urban density – such as floor space indexes – reduce the number of houses available, thereby pushing up property prices
  • Outdated rent control regulations reduce the number of houses available on rent – a critical option for the poor
  • Policy, planning, and regulation deficiencies lead to a proliferation of slums

Service delivery

  • There is a strong bias towards adding physical infrastructure rather than providing financially and environmentally sustainable services


  • Most urban bodies do not generate the revenues needed to renew infrastructure, nor do they have the creditworthiness to access capital markets for funds
  • Urban transport planning needs to be more holistic – there is a focus on moving vehicles rather than meeting the needs of the large numbers of people who walk or ride bicycles in India’s towns and cities.


  • The deteriorating urban environment is taking a toll on people’s health and productivity and diminishing their quality of life.

Urban planningSolution offered by NITI ayog committee report on urban planning

  • Demystifying Planning and Involving Citizens: 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

Interesting fact

India is home to 11% of the total global urban population.

Government initiatives

  • Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT);
  • Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (PMAY) – Housing for all (Urban),
  • Smart Cities Mission (SCM),
  • Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM),
  • Heritage City Development and Augmentation Yojana (HRIDAY);
  • Deen Dayal Antyodaya Yojana – National Urban Livelihoods Mission (DAY-NULM).


  • What is now increasingly understood, is that urban planning and design can be a powerful contributor to the happiness of citizens. The structure and layout of our streets, the availability of green spaces, the possibility of using urban spaces freely, the inclusion of beauty in public space.
  • It is safe to assume that when there are avenues for a community to come together in a pleasant environment, which is accessible to everyone, it can only increase well-being.

Mains question

Q. Can urban planning and design change Indian cities to be happy cities? Express your views by addressing the roadblocks in the same.

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