Reforms in 'urban planning capacity in India' to sustainably transform country's urban landscape: NITI Aayog Special Secretary

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By Joymala Bagchi

New Delhi [India], September 23 (ANI): After NITI Aayog launched a report on measures to ramp up 'urban planning capacity in India', its Special Secretary Dr K Rajeswara Rao said that the reforms are going to bring sustainable transformation in urban landscape through qualitative and quantitative leaps in ensuring city master planning.

Last week, the NITI Aayog launched a report on measures to ramp up urban planning capacity in India, recommending a set of short to long term interventions that can create an enabling environment for planning in India. This report was an outcome of extensive consultations with four ministries, academia, professional experts, think tanks and so on.

The report stated that 65 per cent of the 7,933 urban settlements do not have any master plan and laid importance on the 'master plans', which will be instrumental for guiding and regulating the development of cities for managing urbanisation as well as 'spatial sustainability'.

The proposed central sector scheme '500 healthy cities programme' for a period of five years is intended to integrate the planning of cities with public health and ensure a healthy city for all by 2030.

To support the slew of reforms, adequate and technically sound human resources would be a critical link. On the demand-supply aspects of the workforce, the report has estimated a need of about 12,000 planners. As of now, not even one planner is available per city or town in the States' town and country planning departments (only 3,945 sanctioned posts of town planners, of which 42 per cent are lying vacant).

Speaking to ANI, Dr Rao said, "Recommendation of the committee to create one planner post per 30,000 urban population after relevant action by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs and state urban development departments is going to benefit urban management. The function of town planning can be managed in a more professional manner by adequately staffing the urban local bodies with qualified planners. The education of Urban Planners positions them well, to bring all the relevant players on the table and synthesize the working with private and academia. It needs to be further strengthened with a stronger focus on the subject matter of economics."

"City planning has become a highly technocratic exercise with long delays and there is a need for the demystification of the masterplans. So that there will be more and more towns that prepare and implement the masterplans with the active participation and suggestions of the citizens. This will impact a positive development in the urban areas," he added.

Significantly, the report recommended interventions and synchronisation between the public and private sector to achieve the capacity in speed and strength.

Asked about the implementation of the recommendations suggested on the final report 2021, Special Secretary Dr Rao said, "The recent reforms proposed under 'urban planning capacity in India' is "going to bring qualitative changes in the way the plans are prepared. Members of the committee are supportive of the reforms. We have requested them to participate and organize webinars with the state-level urban functionaries so that certain actions are done at the state level and at the centre as well under cooperative federalism. And thus, short term and long-term action plans are prepared. NITI Aayog will facilitate, guide and support them. I am very hopeful."

The report also added the lack of synergy between urban and rural planning and development . It stated that the 'State Town and country planning acts' need to be revisited to harmonise the two.

The report has been developed by NITI Aayog, in consultation with ministries concerned and eminent experts in the domain of urban and regional planning. It presents a condensed outcome of the extensive deliberations and consultations conducted over a period of nine months.

The Central universities and technical institutions in all the other states/UTs are encouraged to offer postgraduate degree programmes (MTech - Planning) to cater to the requirement of planners in the country in a phased manner.

India is observing an unparalleled rate of urbanisation and it is crucial to acknowledge that our country's journey to becoming a highly productive nation depend on its engines of economic growth; our cities. NITI Aayog recommends that concerted and immediate actions are required to build capacities to plan for India's urbanisation. (ANI)

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