Why India needs to work on its Urban Planning?

Of the 1.21 billion people counted in India in March 2011, 377 million are urban dwellers. The urban settlements of the country have experienced relatively rapid population growth and the percentage of India’s population living in urban areas has doubled from 14% at the time of independence to 31.8 % in 2011 (Census of India). Towns and cities are dynamic entities and are subjected to unprecedented changes in terms of requirements of infrastructure and other basic services / amenities. Most of the existing and emerging urban settlements, are characterized by haphazard and unplanned growth, non-conforming land uses, mushrooming unauthorized/illegal colonies, and land conversion from agriculture to urban due to overwhelming need for housing, resulting in environmental degradation and poor quality of life.

The Third Five Year Plan of India defined ‘Master Plan’ as a statutory instrument for controlling, directing and promoting sound and rational development and redevelopment of an urban area with a view to achieving maximum economic, social and aesthetic benefits. In fact, the master plan is a vision document that gives a spatially oriented perspective of the years to come, keeping in view the future growth of physical infrastructure, population, economic development and ecological improvements. It acts as a major tool for urban land management, providing detailed land-use allocation for the sustainable and systematic development of city/town. Most master plans are developed for a period of 20 years, in phases of five years for a periodic review and revision. (D.S. Meshram, 2006)

Basic Objectives of a Master Plan

  • A Master Plan acts as a guiding document of the development of a city in a sustainable and orderly manner so as to improve the quality of life of its citizens and the urban environment, along with promoting economic growth.
  • The Plan also clearly defines the intricate relationships between existing and proposed land uses like: Commercial, Residential, Public/Semi-public, Transportation, Open Spaces
  • It maps the urban social and economic characteristics based on comprehensive surveys and studies on the present status and the future growth prospects.

Development of Master Plan: Breaking Myths

Proper management of urban areas calls for an accurate and vital information to be available on a regular basis in order to formulate a spatial planning framework. The most crucial information for formulating a Master Plan is an accurate and updated Base Map of the planning area, indicating roads and building layout, spatial extent of existing development.

Proper management of urban areas calls for an accurate and vital information to be available on a regular basis in order to formulate a spatial planning framework. The most crucial information for formulating a Master Plan is an accurate and updated Base Map of the planning area, indicating roads and building layout, spatial extent of existing development.

Kumar and Pandit (2013) have outlined the following steps in relation to the stages involved in urban planning in India:

  1. The Master Plan of a city is notified by a competent planning authority of the region. For example, Bengaluru Development Authority notifies and prepares the master plans of Bengaluru mega-city. The objectives of the Master Plan are directly taken from the town planning act of the state.
  2. The most important part of master planning is the survey of existing conditions of the city and database is prepared. Post collection, the urban data is analysed and this knowledge forms the basis of future projections for the plan period.
  3. Thereafter the draft master plan is prepared which primarily consists the existing and proposed — landuse maps, transportation network, facilities and amenities. The draft master plan also formulates regulation and zonal regulation.
  4. After preparing the draft master plan, the concerned agency publishes it widely and objections and suggestions are invited from the public and other authorities, up to a certain date. The finalized draft master plan is then submitted to the Government for approval. Once approved, the concerned agency publishes it for the open reference and sale.

New Technologies to Enable Better Master Planning

Since data collection and spatial planning form the core of master planning process, technology can improve these processes by reducing data collection time, improving data quality and analyzing data more intelligently. Use of Satellite Images, Drone Images and GIS, can effectively support this cause and help in quick analysis of land form, soil, vegetation, settlement pattern, road network etc. on the basis of which more efficient master plans may be developed. Digital maps depict physical and proposed urban features in a layer-wise manner and further assist the planners in thematically depicting intangibles like public perception, socio-economic growth in future, planning scenarios, etc.

Transerve Data Collector is one such tool, which has helped several urban local bodies in India realize the power of smartphones and geo-location in improving data collection process.

To know more on what Transerve can do in helping planning authorities and city administrations with master plans, please write to: info@transerve.com

About the Author (Roseann Diniz):

Roseann evangelizes urban practice and thoughts in Transerve team. She holds a masters in urban planning and has been working with our deployment team with generating property tax and urban databases and aligning them with municipal practices.