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Redraw the lines for better planning (hindu)

The Smart Cities Mission calls for appropriate local spatial development plans

Cities in India are governed by multiple organisations and authorities which have their own jurisdictions; thus Indian cities are characterised by multiple boundaries. The governing authorities in a city include urban local bodies (ULB) with the primary functions of service delivery, planning for socio-economic development and regulation of development. This results in their subdivision into different wards. Large cities also have development authorities, urban development authorities or improvement trusts responsible for planning and development that divide cities into various planning zones. Line departments, that is sector-specific organisations, deal with the provision of services in their respective sectors — the water supply agency has its own supply zones. Sewage disposal is also done based on various zones. The organisations responsible for safety and security delineate another set of zones. None of these zones is coterminus, generating a ‘maze of boundaries’. Since planning aims at achieving a shared vision, the different spatial entities of the city formed by non-coterminus boundaries deter effective planning and good governance. This is exemplified in the case of Delhi, for example.

India’s capital, the National Capital Territory of Delhi (NCT) bordered by Haryana, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh covers an area of 1,484 and has a population of 16.7 million as per Census 2011. Being a megacity, urban planning for promoting and streamlining development has always been a national priority. However, a close look at multiple governing bodies and their zones of jurisdiction reveals significant issues.

A maze in Delhi

Until 2012, Delhi was governed by three municipal corporations — the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD), the New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC) and the Delhi Cantonment Board. The area under the MCD was further sub-divided into 12 zones. In 2012, the MCD area was divided into three municipal corporations — the North Delhi Municipal Corporation, the South Delhi Municipal Corporation and the East Delhi Municipal Corporation. Thus the NCT is governed by five bodies. In 2012, the administrative boundaries were reformed to include two more districts — South East and Shahdara — to form 11 districts. The Master Plan for Delhi, 2021, notified in 2007 and formulated by the Delhi Development Authority (DDA), identifies 15 planning zones.

The Delhi Jal Board, the authority responsible for water and sewage management within the jurisdiction of the NCT, has delineated 11 zones. The Delhi Police looks after the safety and security of 13 districts. The Delhi Traffic Police has divided the NCT into 11 districts, which are subdivided into 53 traffic circles. The multiple boundaries of jurisdictions of all these governing bodies and their spatial non-alignment and non-coherence further reinstates the argument of a ‘maze of boundaries’.

Such a multiplicity of authorities is a problem in other metropolitan cities too; a minimum organisational set-up was suggested to bring these multiple agencies on a common platform to determine a metropolitan-wide strategy for planning and implementation. Since the planned development of Mumbai was deterred by a multiplicity of authorities such as the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation. the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority, the Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation, the City and Industrial Development Corporation of Maharashtra Ltd and the Maharashtra Housing & Area Development Authority, a single planning authority was suggested.

The Singapore model

In this context, it is instructive to look at urban development abroad and learn from best practices. Singapore, with its planning boundaries and smart urban development, is a good example. The urban planning boundaries of Singapore were first delineated by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) in the 1991 Concept Plan. It comprised 55 planning areas organised into five planning regions, namely, the central, west, north, north-east and east regions.

The 2014 master plan retains the five planning regions and 55 areas which are further divided into smaller subzones. The fact to be noted is that since the implementation of these boundaries, other departments have also adopted them for their administrative purposes. The Statistics Department of Singapore published the 2000 census based on these planning area boundaries — earlier, electoral boundaries were used. Subsequently, further studies were based on these boundaries as seen in the 2010 census and 2015 household survey. Similarly, the Singapore Police Force constituted the jurisdiction of its neighbourhood police centres based on these planning regions, which replaced the then existing seven land divisions. As for the administrative and electoral divisions, in 2001, the earlier nine districts were replaced with five districts corresponding to the urban planning regions of the URA. Each district was then further divided into town councils and electoral constituencies, which continues as of now, evident from the divisions of the 2015 election. The unified boundaries of the various forces in planning and coordinated efforts have contributed to the planned and smart urban development of Singapore.

In India, the Smart Cities Mission, an initiative meant to drive economic growth and improve the quality of life of people, calls for appropriate local spatial development plans. However, a multiplicity of boundaries is a deterrent for proper planning efforts and good governance. The existing maze of boundaries needs to be revamped for more coherent and integrated planning and governance.


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