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August 02, 2016

Mismanaged Urban Planning System

This post in Livemint, while lauding Gurgaon for achiving "economist Edward Glaeser’s contention that cities are the ideal form of modern civilization", laments "the chaos created last week by the monsoon ... [as] a warning of what happens when the state abandons its role of shaping and enabling that growth." Excerpts below:


" ... Two decades after its creation by the Haryana government in 1979, its boom started with General Electric (GE) opening an office in 1997 ... All this, however, happened without adequate local government. There was no municipal body, with the state-level Haryana Urban Development Authority (HUDA) expected to build the connective infrastructure. This meant the lack of any semblance of planning—not helped by malfeasance where private developers were able to push projects through without adequate development plans...


Gurgaon might be one of the most visible examples of the shortfalls in Indian urbanisation, but it is hardly alone. Bengaluru is currently in the midst of monsoon-created chaos as well—its transport infrastructure is terrible at the best of times—and Mumbai’s potential has been trammelled for decades by its lacking infrastructure and byzantine land market. Some common threads run through the issues these and other Indian cities face...


... urban planning in India is a strange mix of not enough planning and too much of it. On the one hand, several cities have no holistic 20-year or 40-year guidelines at all ... On the other, urban planning continues to be based on the UK’s Town and Country Planning Act of 1947 with an emphasis on land-use zoning and all the rigidity that comes with it... This is contrary to current global best practices: flexible planning with local governance bodies accommodating market forces and seeing land use and urban transportation as complementary, simultaneous processes...


... the devolution of urban governance envisaged by the 74th constitutional amendment never really took place. Urban local bodies (ULBs) lack both accountability and authority. The lack of an effective mayoral system is particularly keenly felt in metropolitan regions. Devolution of urban financing is another aspect of this ... There are several other avenues innovative planning could explore—from monetizing state land assets to user charges for urban infrastructure such as road networks in prime areas..."


Read the full piece here.

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