New Delhi: The Planning Commission is considering ways to increase integration in urban planning by setting up regional boards as several cities are growing beyond the bounds of existing administrative entities, said Arun Maira, a member of the apex body.

Urban concerns: Planning Commission member Arun Maira says cities are beginning to spill beyond the bounds of single administrative units. Ramesh Pathania / Mint

Maira, who handles urban development, industrialization and tourism for the commission, said the panel needs to look into the needs for regional planning boards, along the lines of the National Capital Region Planning Board (NCRPB), because cities are beginning to “spill over beyond the bounds of single administrative units."

According to the 2001 census, 28% of India’s population resides in urban areas, which constitute around 2% of the country’s land mass. By 2050, nearly half the country’s population will live in the cities.

He stressed the need for integrating services that are currently operated by several different agencies. “Currently, several functions such as transportation, housing (and) land use are handled by different agencies, which work in silos," Maira said.

Massive growth in India’s cities and the resulting difficulties in keeping pace with growing infrastructure needs has been a major concern for policymakers. The urban development ministry has in the past talked about a policy to develop some 35 satellite towns around large cities, to be able to provide better facilities to the extended areas.

The idea of regional planning boards will be considered by the Planning Commission during the mid-term appraisal of the 11th Plan period (2007-12), which is expected soon. Major schemes such as the Rs50,000 crore Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission will be reviewed during the appraisal. Under this scheme, the Union government provides cities with grants of as much as 90% of the cost of urban renewal projects, if they agree to put in place reforms such as double entry accounting systems and property titling systems.

The Planning Commission would also be looking at ways to provide skills training in people-intensive sectors such as leather, garment manufacturing and other small and medium enterprises, said Maira.

He added that the government should look at providing cities ways to leverage their land and raise finances to build infrastructure.

“The 74th constitutional amendment provides for a metropolitan planning committee (MPC), whose jurisdiction is not just the city but the entire district. The point is, all these MPCs haven’t become active," said O.P. Mathur, principal consultant with the National Institute of Public Finance and Policy. “The point is to activate them rather than create new ones."

Mathur added that cities should be educated on how to leverage their land resources. “The problem with our system is that no one really knows how much money to generate from land," he said.