Careful urban planning is imperative for progress
Urbanisation is the key to India’s future
Urbanisation is the key to India's future. Our cities occupy just 3 per cent of the nation's land, but their contribution to the GDP is a whopping 60 per cent. India is swiftly moving forward to becoming half urban in a couple of decades. This would bring enormous opportunities of economic growth and global competitiveness. Efforts must be channelised to ensure the preparedness of the nation to manage such a massive urban transition and save our cities from the clutches of unplanned urbanisation and unregulated construction activities.
Our urban planning machinery has not grown at the pace of the demands posed by urbanisation and global technological advancements. Urban local bodies face a massive shortage of skilled and trained human resources as well as financial challenges. Furthermore, poor quality of planning is a huge limiting factor to realise the true economic potential of urbanisation. Over the years, the country has witnessed the expansion of cities based on car-centric planning. However, the future of urban mobility and urban living needs to evolve on the back of public transportation. The cities need to be very compact and adopt a circular economy system to minimize their negative impacts on the environment.
A global city like Singapore was raised through firm political leadership, a professional approach, and intelligently created capacities. Therefore, it is not just important to enhance the number of urban planners in India but to also ensure a simultaneous improvement in the quality of planning. Of the 7,933 towns that are accounted as urban, almost half have a status of census towns and they continue to be governed as rural entities. With business as usual, the country may become a haven for unplanned urbanisation.
This needs planning interventions at a massive scale, which could be fostered by private sector companies through their problem solving capacities and efficiencies. However, currently the ecosystem for the development of private sector companies and start-ups in this domain is not robust enough to meet the needs, experts feel. If the country has to witness a quantum leap in its planning capacities, the private sector companies need to be nourished and developed-to provide innovative solutions to the public sector and good quality jobs to the future urban professionals. On the front of the education system of urban planning, a lot needs to be done to ensure that future planners are equipped with all the technological prowess and multi-disciplinary expertise to pave the socio-economic progress of the cities as well as the upcoming rural settlements.
The report, prepared by the Advisory Committee on 'Reforms in Urban Planning Capacity in India' chaired by the Vice Chairman NITI Aayog, has come at a critical time. As India reaches the tipping point of transitioning from a mostly rural to an urban society, the focus must be on ensuring the best opportunities for economic growth for all sections of the society. None of our cities feature among the top 50 cities in many global rankings. For cities to flourish, it is important that their economic and social infrastructure are in a sound state. The road to reform may be long. The time to start is now, if the country has to keep pace with the developed world.