[Sansad TV] Perspective: Urban Planning



  • Prime Minister has said that well-planned cities are going to be the need of the hour in the fast-paced environment of India in the 21st century. 
  • He emphasized that the development of new cities and the modernization of services in the existing ones are the two main aspects of urban development.

What do you mean by Urban Planning?

  • Urban planning is the process of designing and managing the physical and social development of cities, towns, and other urban areas.
  • It involves a range of activities, including land use planning, transportation planning, environmental planning, and community development.
  • Urban planners work to create livable and sustainable communities by balancing the needs of different stakeholders, including residents, businesses, and government agencies.
Urban planning in India: A quick recap

The first Municipal Corporation was set up in the former Presidency Town of Madras in 1688.
It was followed by similar corporations in the then Bombay and Calcutta in 1726.
Lord Mayo’s resolution of 1870 laid out a roadmap for these bodies in India.
The ‘Magna Carta’ of local self-government is considered to be Lord Ripon’s resolution of 1882. In 1907, a royal commission, chaired by Hobhouse, was established to focus on decentralization.
The Government of India Act of 1919 assigned the subject of local self-government to an Indian minister.
The Cantonments Act was passed by the central legislature in 1924.
Local self-government was declared a provincial subject under the Government of India Act of 1935.

Features of Urban Planning

  • Land use planning: This involves the allocation of land for various uses, such as residential, commercial, industrial, and recreational.
  • Transportation planning: Planning for efficient and sustainable transportation systems, including roads, public transit, bike lanes, and pedestrian walkways.
  • Housing planning: Ensuring the availability of adequate and affordable housing for all residents.
  • Economic planning: Supporting economic development and growth by creating jobs, attracting investment, and providing business opportunities.
  • Infrastructure planning: Developing and maintaining infrastructure, such as water supply, sanitation, and waste management systems.
  • Community engagement: Involving the community in the planning process to ensure that their needs and priorities are reflected in the final plan.
  • Zoning: Regulating the use of land and the placement of buildings to ensure compatibility with neighboring uses and adequate provision of open space.
  • Urban design: Creating an attractive and functional built environment through thoughtful design of public spaces, buildings, and streetscapes.
  • Environmental planning: Incorporating environmental considerations, such as the preservation of natural resources, reducing pollution, and promoting sustainable practices.

Urban Planning Mechanism in India

India’s local governance system underwent a transformation in 1992 with constitutional reforms through the 73rd and 74th Amendments.

  • 12th schedule: Urban planning, regulation of land use, and planning for economic and social development are the first three subjects listed in the 12th schedule.
  • 74th Amendment: It empowers elected municipalities with the task of preparing and implementing plans and schemes for economic development and social justice, along with subjects listed under the 12th Schedule.
  • Metropolitan Planning Committee (MPC): The 74th Amendment mandates the creation of a MPC for metropolitan cities with over 1 million population, with at least two-thirds of its members to be elected local representatives, to prepare a development plan for the metropolitan area incorporating local bodies’ plans.
  • Creation of master plans: These agencies prepare “master plans” that regulate land use and development across the city every 10-20 years, such as the Delhi Development Authority or the Bangalore Development Authority.
  • District Development Authorities: State government-controlled DAs are primarily responsible for urban planning in most of India’s major cities, instead of municipal government or MPC.

Why is it a daunting task in India?

  • Rapid urbanization: India has been witnessing rapid urbanization, with a significant population shift from rural areas to cities. This has led to unplanned and haphazard urbanization, resulting in inadequate infrastructure, lack of affordable housing, and overcrowding in cities.
  • Cost of urban planning: The cost of urban planning can be substantial, especially if the plan involves the construction of new infrastructure, such as roads, bridges, public transport systems, and housing. The cost can also vary depending on the level of development, infrastructure, and services required in the city.
  • Poor infrastructure: Many Indian cities lack proper infrastructure such as roads, public transport, water supply, and sewage systems. This leads to traffic congestion, pollution, and health hazards.
  • Lack of open spaces: Many urban areas in India lack open spaces such as parks, playgrounds, and public spaces. This can impact the physical and mental well-being of residents, especially children and the elderly.
  • Inadequate housing: The demand for affordable housing in Indian cities far exceeds the supply. This has led to the proliferation of slums and informal settlements, where living conditions are often substandard.
  • Corruption: Corruption in urban planning is a significant issue in India. It leads to the allocation of resources based on political and personal considerations rather than objective criteria, resulting in inefficient use of resources and poor urban planning outcomes.
  • Lack of citizen participation: Citizens’ participation in urban planning is minimal in India. Most planning decisions are made by bureaucrats and politicians, with little input from citizens. This can lead to decisions that do not reflect the needs and aspirations of the people.

Major challenges plaguing Urban Centres

  • Lack of Efficient Transport: Overcrowded roads, pollution, and increased travelling time due to the dependency on private vehicles in cities, which also contributes to climate change.
  • Slums and Squatter Settlements: High cost of living in cities leads to the growth of slums as safe havens for migrants, with 35.2% of the total urban population living in slums in India, and Dharavi in Mumbai being the largest slum in Asia.
  • Degradation of Environmental Quality: Congestion of people in limited spaces results in reduced air quality, contaminated water, destruction of forests and agricultural land for construction, and wastes being channelized to rivers, leading to garbage mountains outside cities.
  • Sewerage Problems: Inefficient sewage facilities due to unplanned and haphazard growth of cities, with almost 78% of the sewage generated in India remaining untreated and disposed of in rivers, lakes, or sea.
  • Urban Heat Island: Dense concentrations of pavement, buildings, and other surfaces in urban areas lead to increased energy costs, air pollution, and heat-related illness and mortality.
  • Urban Flooding: Encroachment on lakes, wetlands, and rivers due to new developments in low-lying areas, ineffective natural drainage systems, and lack of solid waste management leading to flooding and waterlogging.
  • Ineffective Functioning of ULBs: Imbalance between the powers, responsibilities, and funds assigned to Urban Local Bodies (ULBs) outlined by the Constitution, resulting in their ineffective functioning due to the lack of time-bound audits and revenue dependence on the Centre and State.

Major schemes for urban planning and development

The GOI has launched several schemes related to urban planning to address the issues faced by Indian cities. Some of the major schemes are:

  • Smart Cities Mission: Launched in 2015, this scheme aims to develop 100 smart cities across India by leveraging technology and infrastructure. The mission focuses on sustainable development, citizen participation, and the use of technology to improve urban services.
  • Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT): Launched in 2015, this scheme aims to improve basic urban infrastructure such as water supply, sewage, and transportation in cities with a population of over 100,000. The scheme focuses on improving the quality of life of citizens.
  • Swachh Bharat Abhiyan: Launched in 2014, this scheme aims to achieve a clean India by promoting sanitation and hygiene. The scheme focuses on improving waste management, constructing toilets, and promoting behavioural change.
  • Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (PMAY): Launched in 2015, this scheme aims to provide affordable housing to urban poor and homeless. The scheme provides financial assistance to construct houses and promotes the use of eco-friendly and sustainable building materials.
  • Heritage City Development and Augmentation Yojana (HRIDAY): Launched in 2015, this scheme aims to preserve and revitalize the heritage cities in India. The scheme focuses on improving tourism infrastructure, promoting heritage tourism, and preserving cultural heritage.

Way forward

To move forward with urban planning in a sustainable and cost-effective manner, the following steps can be taken:

  • Adopt a participatory approach: Citizens’ participation is essential for effective urban planning. Cities should involve citizens, community groups, and stakeholders in the planning process, from the early stages to implementation and evaluation.
  • Prioritize sustainable development: Urban planning should prioritize sustainability, including reducing carbon emissions, improving public transportation, promoting renewable energy, and preserving natural resources.
  • Promote public-private partnerships: Public-private partnerships can provide resources and expertise to urban planning projects. They can also help to mobilize private investment in infrastructure and services.
  • Use technology to improve planning and implementation: Urban planners can use technology to improve the accuracy and speed of planning and implementation. For example, geographic information systems (GIS) can help with mapping, data analysis, and visualization.
  • Address corruption: Corruption in urban planning can lead to inefficient use of resources and poor outcomes. Cities should prioritize transparency and accountability in planning processes to reduce corruption.
  • Prioritize housing: Affordable housing is essential for the well-being of citizens. Cities should prioritize the provision of affordable housing, and this can be achieved through innovative financing models, such as social housing and rent control.
  • Emphasize the importance of green spaces: Green spaces such as parks, public spaces, and playgrounds are essential for the physical and mental well-being of citizens. Cities should prioritize the preservation and creation of green spaces.


  • By adopting these steps, urban planning can be carried out in a sustainable, cost-effective, and citizen-centric manner.
  • This will help address the challenges faced by cities and create livable, vibrant, and sustainable urban environments for citizens.

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