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Urban Policy And City Planning – IMPRI Impact And Policy Research Institute

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Urban Policy and City Planning

Event Report
Mansi Garg

Urban Policy and City Planning A One-Month Immersive Online Introductory Certificate Training Course on Urban Policy and City Planning was organized by #IMPRI Center for Habitat, Urban and Regional Studies (CHURS), IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute, New Delhi in July (4, 5, 11, 12, 18, 19, 25, 26), 2023.

The sessions were hosted by  Mahek Agarwal, an IMPRI researcher who welcomed and introduced the eminent speakers for the event. The course, spread over one month, involved detailed discussion on various topics. The Conveners for the course were Dr. Soumyadip Chattopadhyay, Dr. Tikender Singh, Mr. Sameer Unhale, Dr. Arjun Kumar, and Dr. Simi Mehta.

The participant for the program was from all parts of the country and came from various fields like academics, research, corporates, civil bodies, practitioners and many more. For the complete list, visit our participants list and details page.

Introduction

Urbanization is a global phenomenon that holds both promise and challenges. In India, rapid urbanization has led to the evolution of cities with historical significance and modern complexities. To shed light on these diverse aspects of urban development, a series of insightful panel discussions were organized for several weeks. These discussions brought together eminent experts, scholars, and practitioners to delve into the multifaceted nature of Indian cities, their historical evolution, challenges in achieving Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), urban governance, social security, inclusive urbanization, waste management, and pollution prevention.

WEEK 1 | July 4 & 5, 2023 | Theme for Week 1: Overview, Planning, Policies & Schemes

Day 1: An Overview of Urbanization & Urban Governance in India

The second session, “An Overview of Urbanization & Urban Governance in India,” featured Professor Chetan Vaidya, an Independent Urban Advisor. Professor Vaidya’s insights emphasized the need for diverse approaches to managing India’s complex urban landscape. He highlighted the significance of the 74th Constitutional Amendment Act in empowering local governments and sharing successful urban governance models from different states. The importance of public transport, multi-modal integration, and sustainable mobility was underlined, along with the need for citizen participation in urban planning.

To read a more elaborate session report: click here

History of Indian Cities & Challenges Towards Attaining SDGs

On July 04, 2023, a captivating panel discussion titled “History of Indian Cities & Challenges towards Attaining SDGs” set the stage for a comprehensive exploration of India’s urban journey. The event featured Shri Tikender Singh Panwar, a distinguished Senior Fellow at IMPRI and the former Deputy Mayor of Shimla, as the keynote speaker. Mr. Panwar’s presentation illuminated the historical evolution of Indian cities, contrasting ancient urbanization with modern times.

He emphasized the shift from community-driven urban development to externally dictated urban planning. The presentation highlighted architectural marvels from different historical periods, providing a rich tapestry of urbanization in India. It traced the impact of colonial rule, railways, and post-independence policies on urban development, setting the context for the challenges in achieving SDGs.

To read a more elaborate session report: click here

Day 2: Urban Planning in India

The following panel discussion on “An Overview of Urban Planning in India” featured Mr. Romi Khosla, an esteemed architect, researcher, and writer. Mr. Khosla’s thought-provoking insights addressed the paradox of urban planners’ dependence on governmental agendas and the need for a shift towards human-centered, decentralized planning. He advocated for the integration of technology and community engagement in shaping urban landscapes. The importance of mesh planning over centralized approaches was emphasized, aligning with the dynamic nature of modern urbanization.

To read a more elaborate session report: click here

Mobility and Urban Transport in India

Mr. Srinivas Alavilli, a Fellow at the World Resources Institute, led the discussion on “Mobility and Urban Transport in India.” His session explored various modes of commuting, principles of sustainable mobility, and challenges posed by induced demand and infrastructure like flyovers. The discussion underscored the importance of non-motorable transport, multi-modal integration, and effective governance in addressing mobility challenges.

To read a more elaborate session report: click here

WEEK 2 | July 11 & 12, 2023 | Theme for Week 2: Economy, Finance, Infrastructure, Practice & Built-Environment

Day 3: Financing of Urban Infrastructure in India – Issues and Way Forward

Dr. Ravikant Joshi led an insightful session on “Financing of Urban Infrastructure in India – Issues and Way Forward.” He emphasized the significance of urban infrastructure financing in both the global and Indian contexts. Cities contribute over 50% of the world’s GDP and more than 70% of CO2 emissions, making them pivotal for economic growth and climate change concerns.

Dr. Joshi delved into India’s scenario, revealing that Indian cities require a substantial capital investment of USD 840 billion for urban infrastructure and municipal services by 2036. This estimation, equivalent to 1.18% of GDP, presents a challenge as it primarily focuses on conventional infrastructure, neglecting factors essential for building sustainable and climate-resilient cities.

The discussion progressed with an examination of the financing structure from 2011 to 2018, indicating that a mere 0.8% of GDP contributed to infrastructure financing. He outlined the investment distribution, with 72% coming from center and state funds, 15% from ULB surpluses, and other sources contributing the remaining.

Dr. Joshi highlighted key issues in Indian urban infrastructure financing. The limited share of municipal finance, considerably lower than national and state finance, along with stagnant investment percentages (0.6-0.7%) proved to be significant challenges. The dominance of national bodies in financing and the skewed allocation of funds across states further compounded the problem. The inability of ULBs to augment their resources, coupled with the lack of funds’ utilization, underscored the complexity of the issue.

To address these challenges, Dr. Joshi proposed several solutions. Enhanced fund transfers from the Government of India to ULBs, rectifying the municipal finance gap, and incentivizing revenue generation were suggested. He stressed the need for policy and regulatory measures to facilitate borrowing and capital market engagement by ULBs. Additionally, improving financial and project management, budgetary reforms, and capacity building were highlighted.

To read a more elaborate session report: click here

COVID-19 and Urban Governance in India: Reshaping People’s Everyday Lives in Poorer, Slums & Informal Urban Neighbourhoods

Dr. Williams presented a compelling case study encompassing Chennai, Ahmedabad, and Thiruvananthapuram, conducted in two phases: document analysis and interviews with key stakeholders. The research emphasized the need for a responsive state apparatus that meets evolving societal needs, highlighting India’s challenge of underfinancing municipal corporations.

National responses, guided by the Disaster Management Act (2005) and Epidemic Diseases Act (1897), were criticized for their control-oriented approach. Kerala stood out for recognizing the pandemic as both a health and welfare crisis early on, utilizing decentralized governance structures and learned experiences from past crises.

In Tamil Nadu, the extensive public distribution system and community-driven initiatives played a pivotal role in pandemic mitigation, while Gujarat struggled with limited welfare response and weaker embedded autonomy.

The presentation underscored the significance of community-level organizational capacity, political visibility, and infrastructure for effective governance during crises. 

To read a more elaborate session report: click here

Day 4: Urban Planning, Governance & Practice from an Administrator View & Local Bodies – State / Central Governments Relation

Dr. Akshaya K Sen offered an overview of Indian housing policies’ evolution. He detailed policies like the National Housing Policy of 1994 and the National Urban Housing and Habitat Policy of 2007, transitioning government roles from providers to facilitators. Government initiatives and housing finance transformations were explored, along with the National Urban Policy framework of 2018 and 2021.

These discussions collectively illuminated the challenges, opportunities, and multifaceted nature of urban development in India. From planning intricacies to financial sustenance and housing policies, the event provided holistic insights into a critical aspect of India’s growth story.

To read a more elaborate session report: click here

Strengthening the Financial Health of Indian Cities & Indian Urban Planning Schemes & Initiatives

Dr. Soumyadip Chattopadhyay commenced his presentation by shedding light on the critical issue of bolstering Indian cities’ financial stability. He opened with macro statistics illustrating the challenges faced by municipal health, where municipal revenue’s contribution to GDP has stagnated at around 1%, while self-generated revenue to the country’s GDP hovers at 0.43%. Smaller urban local bodies (ULBs) struggle to generate sufficient revenue, compounded by the additional duties placed upon them.

Two key policy avenues were discussed for addressing this dilemma:

  • Increasing revenue from existing local taxes
  • Strengthening ULBs’ revenue-raising power by diversifying the revenue base

He introduced the audience to the Standard Bahl and Linn 1992 model, a simple framework of municipal taxation. Chattopadhyay highlighted issues such as revenue-obligation mismatches and the underutilization of available tax tools. The primary challenge, he noted, is identifying feasible opportunities that can yield significant impacts.

Criteria for municipal tax selection were explored, encompassing efficiency, equity, economy, and transparency. Property tax emerged as an untapped revenue source. He discussed the sectors requiring attention in property tax reform and the intricacies of determining tax rates, addressing challenges, and potential policy strategies.

In conclusion, he summarized the various avenues through which municipalities can generate funds, underlining potential pathways to enhance their financial well-being. He emphasized the need to reduce reliance on central and state governments and bolster local financial autonomy.

To read a more elaborate session report: click here

An Overview of Housing Policies & Housing Finance in India

Dr. Akshaya K Sen’s presentation delved into the evolving landscape of Indian housing policies. He underscored the escalating housing demand due to population growth, necessitating effective policies. He traced the trajectory of Indian housing policies, from the National Housing Policy of 1994, with its goals, to the pivotal National Housing and Habitat Policy of 1998 that shifted the government’s role to a facilitator via legal reforms.

The National Urban Housing and Habitat Policy of 2007, which focused on affordable housing for marginalized sections, deepened the government’s role. Government initiatives like Jawaharlal Nehru Urban Renewal Mission, Rajiv Awas Yojna, and Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojna were highlighted, alongside models of the Affordable Rental Housing Complex scheme.

The 2018 and 2021 National Urban Policy framework, adopting “MORE” pillars, aims to address urban challenges. Dr. Sen explained the Draft National Urban Rental Housing Policy’s objective of establishing inclusive rental housing options.

Dr. Sen’s presentation provided a comprehensive understanding of India’s housing policies, their evolution, and the challenges associated, leaving the audience with valuable insights into the nation’s ongoing efforts to meet housing demands.

To read a more elaborate session report: click here

WEEK 3 | July 18 & 19, 2023 | Theme for Week 3: Human Settlements, Social Security, Environment & Welfare

Day 5: Cities, Environment, Climate Change & Social Justice

Mr. Leo F. Saldanha, the Founding Trustee and Coordinator of Environment Support Group (ESG) in Bengaluru, commenced the event by addressing the audience on the intersection of urban policy, environment, climate change, and social justice. He highlighted the intricate nature of city life, particularly emphasizing the challenges faced by the working class in areas like suburban Bangalore and electronic cities.

Mr. Saldanha discussed the transformation of Bangalore and the concept of “Brand Bangalore” under the recent return of the Congress party. He concluded with a call to action, discussing the need for course corrections without commercial motivations, the importance of Public Interest Litigations (PILs), and the Constitutional 74th Amendment (Nagarpalika) Act of 1992 that aims to strengthen urban local bodies. The lecture culminated in an exploration of the “Governance of Commons” approach, emphasizing community-led goals for inclusive urban development.

To read a more elaborate session report: click here

Waste Management and Air Pollution

The final lecture by Dr. Shyamala Mani discussed key issues in waste management and pollution prevention in India. The adverse impacts of improper waste management on health, the environment, and climate change were highlighted. The lecture underscored the need for proper waste management regulations, community engagement, and sustainable urban planning to address these challenges.

To read a more elaborate session report: click here

Role of Communities & Civil Society in Urban Planning & Development

Ms. Vanessa Peter, Founder of the Information and Resource Centre for the Deprived Urban Communities (IRCDUC) in Chennai, conducted a session titled “Role of Communities & Civil Society in Urban Planning and Development.”

Ms. Peter’s presentation focused on two main areas: “Existing Challenges in Community Participation” and the “Role of Activists and Civil Societies in Enhancing Community Participation.”

Addressing the first topic, Ms. Peter emphasized the need for community-led initiatives rather than just participation. She highlighted that urban development often excludes the voices of marginalized communities, stressing the importance of including vulnerable perspectives in policymaking for creating inclusive and resilient cities. She shared her experiences from participating in the Chennai master plan consultations, where issues such as accessibility for visually impaired individuals were raised.

She discussed challenges like information asymmetry, language barriers, and class divides that hinder genuine community participation. Ms. Peter emphasized the significance of NGOs and civil society groups in helping communities frame their feedback and navigate complex technical consultations. Regarding the second topic, Ms. Peter discussed the vital role of activists and NGOs in creating safe spaces for marginalized communities to engage in urban planning. 

To read a more elaborate session report: click here

Day 6: Migration and Right to City

The session, led by Prof. R B Bhagat, delved into urbanization’s socio-economic implications and the concept of the Right to City. Chairing the session, Dr Rumi Aijaz, emphasized migration’s role in demography. Prof Bhagat highlighted urbanization’s impact on economies, discussing economic concentration, wealth inequality, and its correlation with migration. He introduced the Right to City, addressing its significance, origin, and implications. He underscored how commodification contributes to inequality and environmental degradation. He emphasized local democracy, inclusion, and migration as vital components of urbanization. Attendees engaged in a Q&A session covering topics like post-COVID effects on migration and rural development. Dr Aijaz commended the informative session’s insights and relevance.

To read a more elaborate session report: click here

Inclusionary Urbanisation in India

Prof. Debolina Kundu, from the National Institute of Urban Affairs (NIUA), led a panel discussion on “Inclusive Urbanization in India.” The session addressed the underaddressed issues of informal and peri-urban areas, gender exclusion, and the needs of differently-abled individuals in urbanization. Prof. Kundu’s presentation covered various aspects of inclusive urbanization, including child welfare, maternal health, education, and the economic implications of urbanization.

To read a more elaborate session report: click here

Social Security in Indian Cities: Employment, Livelihoods, Health & Social Protection

Mr. Sandeep Chachra, Executive Director of ActionAid Association India, discussed “Social Security, Employment, and Livelihoods in Indian Cities.” His presentation traced the historical evolution of social security and emphasized the need for universal, high-quality public services. The challenges posed by India’s large informal sector and fragmented administrative systems were highlighted. Mr. Chachra recommended a multi-sector approach and investment in the Social and Solidarity Economy to address market and state failures.

To read a more elaborate session report: click here

WEEK 4 | July 25 & 26, 2023 | Theme for Week 4: Current Issues, Challenges & Way Forward

Day 7: India’s Urban Development Schemes: Impact & Way Forward

Dr. Deepak Sanan, a Former IAS Officer and Senior Advisor, led a session focusing on “India’s Urban Development Schemes: Impact & Way Forward.” The discussion examined the transition from rural to urban development focus post-independence and the challenges faced in implementing schemes like the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission. The need for capacity building, citizen engagement, and sustained demand for development was emphasized.

To read a more elaborate session report: click here

The Missing Links in Governing Cities

Professor Amita Bhide’s panel discussion on “Governing Cities: The Missing Links” highlighted the unfulfilled promises of the 74th Constitutional Amendment and deviations in urban governance schemes. The complexities of urban governance, including overlapping authorities and financial challenges, were addressed. Professor Bhide stressed the need for clear roles, robust local democracies, citizen participation, and local adaptation for inclusive urban development.

To read a more elaborate session report: click here

Day 8: Urban Policy & City Governance in New India: Challenges & Opportunities

Dr. M Ramachandran, Former IAS officer and Secretary, Ministry of Urban Development, Government of India, spearheaded a comprehensive discussion on “Urban Policy & City Governance in New India: Challenges & Opportunities.” The session highlighted the evolving urban landscape in India and the significance of collaborative governance arrangements. Dr. Ramachandran stressed citizen engagement as a catalyst for positive change and urged participants to actively contribute to their city’s development. The panel discussions collectively illuminated the multifaceted challenges and opportunities associated with urban policy and governance in contemporary India.

To read a more elaborate session report: click here

A Way Forward for Urban Planning & Governance in Indian Cities

Dr. Rumi Aijaz led an insightful session on the way forward for urban planning and governance in Indian cities. He discussed India’s demographic profile, emphasizing urbanization trends and inequalities. Dr Aijaz highlighted human priorities across life stages and stressed aligning policies with people’s concerns. He critiqued existing urban planning practices for lacking an understanding of ground realities, resulting in deficiencies in housing, sanitation, and disaster response. He emphasized the need for people-friendly cities, inclusivity, and shared responsibility between citizens and authorities. Case studies on Sabarmati Riverfront and Delhi’s flooding underscored the importance of preparedness and cooperation. Dr. Aijaz concluded by suggesting civic agency strengthening, technological integration, and international cooperation to manage urban challenges.

To read a more elaborate session report: click here

Conclusion

These panel discussions and lectures provided a comprehensive overview of the complexities and challenges of urban development in India. They illuminated the historical evolution of Indian cities, the importance of citizen engagement, the significance of governance, the need for social security, the urgency of waste management, and the imperative of inclusive urbanization through urban planning. Collectively, these discussions highlighted the multi-dimensional nature of urban development, urging proactive reform, community-centered approaches, and sustainable policies. As India’s urban landscape continues to evolve, these insights will play a crucial role in shaping its future.

The courses ended with active participation from the audience who raised pertinent questions throughout the sessions and contributed towards making this program a success.

Acknowledgment: This event report is written by Mansi Garg.

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