A Way Forward for Urban Planning & Governance in Indian Cities

Session Report
Mansi Garg

Urban Policy & City Planning is an online one-month online immersive certificate training course organized by Center for Habitat, Urban and Regional Studies at Impact and Policy Research Institute, IMPRI, New Delhi in the month of July 2023. An informative and panel discussion on the topic “A Way Forward for Urban Planning & Governance in Indian Cities” was held on July 26, 2023, by Dr Rumi Aijaz Senior Fellow and Head, Urban Policy Research Initiative, Observer Research Foundation (ORF), New Delhi.

Dr Rumi Aijaz began the session he drew the participants understanding with what are the opportunities that are available and what further can be done to ensure that the citizens living in the country lead a better quality of life.

Demographic Profile of India v/s the World’s

Statistical data for population of India based on the data available until now and the dynamics of the change that is taking place i.e., how the rural population would be reducing, and urban population is gradually increasing was discussed.

The speaker then compared the urbanization pattern of India with other countries where sizable population lives in urban areas. According to the census published in 2011, 31% of the India’s population lives in urban areas whereas with the case of other countries some European nations and Indonesia, Russia and Japan have urban populations that are over 70% so this means that over 70% of those countries people live in urban areas. India is relatively urbanized and as India’s moving towards greater urbanization more urban population is expected in the next few decades and India has to be prepared for handling this rapid growth.

Human Priorities in different Phases of Life Cycle

During human life cycle people have various priorities like, the new-borns need proper nutrition and clean environment, adolescence need good health care facilities and education and recreational facilities, adults need jobs skill training institutions and transportation facilities and elderly need good care and protection. There are deficiencies that need to overcome in all these sectors whether it’s related to health, education, recreation, environment, jobs, affordable homes, mobility facilities available in urban areas and there is a major inequality when we see the ground reality.

The strategy which can be used to handle and manage urbanization highlighted by speaker is to align all proposals and policies by looking at the concerns of the people. Significant drawback observed was that the master plans and the schemes that are developed by the government and development authorities.

They cover most of these aspects for preparing the plans and development strategies but for various reasons certain things are lacking because adequate understanding of the ground realities is not collected prior to making of that plan or development scheme and therefore many deficiencies exist in the practices that are followed and it results in the existence of inequalities what we see in our urban areas in housing sector, drinking water supply, sanitation sector.

Many urban areas are considered unsafe for the vulnerable populations and access to health and education, it’s still an issue and the environmental conditions are deteriorating, we have observed from time-to-time incidents occur, and the authorities and the administration are unable to respond effectively to those uh to those to those calamities and disasters that occur.

Inequity in India

Next issue highlighted was that, when we again compare India to other global cities like Abu Dhabi, Shanghai, Beijing, Berlin, Oslo, etc. despite having many problems existing related to migrant population, racial problems, and others, the quality of like led by the people in these cities are way ahead that that of India’s. There is much more scope for working more on topics such as making people cities people friendly and the kind of facilities that are required by them in order to do their work a city should be people friendly, while planning and development activities should be designed considering the requirements of the people and similarly the city should be inclusive for all the sections of the society.

Within India, there has been an inequity in terms of the quality of life especially when one looks at the sanitary condition of the people who lives in slums with other sections of the society. Lastly while talking about how the livable society should be, speaker mentioned some indicators of “A People’s City” and the need to work on it to make a healthy city. Many smart cities innovative approach that can be utilized and also citizens can contribute ideas and knowledge to improve the existing scenario.

Case Study: Water related Subject

Dr Aijaz shared his experience of a visit to the Sabarmati Riverfront. Low-income people that were living along the river of course were relocated to peripheral areas of the city because of the Sabarmati Riverfront development project and they face great difficulty in mobility they felt cut off from the city centre where they had been working and earning money or having a day-to-day living.

Recent event happened with Delhi, when water was released from upstream and he lack of proper management resulted in flooding streets in Delhi especially in the case in Old Delhi, where fire occurs or building collapses during monsoon city governments are not prepared to respond effectively and the out-turn of this unpreparedness is loss of life and property. It’s a shared responsibility and if the government is doing some work the citizens have to respond in a certain manner.

Speaker concluded by presenting some of the way out to manage a city in order to release pressure of urban sprawling. Civic agencies functions related to planning and governance process, land-use planning, integration of technology and internal strengthening has to be done. Also, international cooperation, like G20 presidency, helps in countries to pool resources, about the climate change aspects or weather, and better respond to the situations.

Mansi Garg is a Research Intern at IMPRI.

See picture gallery from the session on Instagram: IMPRI (@impriindia) • Instagram photos and videos

Read more session reports for Urban Policy & City Planning:

An overview of Urban planning in India
Mobility and Urban Transport in India