Photo: Ramesh Pathania/Mint
Photo: Ramesh Pathania/Mint

Twin urban planning norms may overlap, say experts

Ministry appoints consultants to prepare fresh guidelines on urban planning nearly a year after receiving spatial planning guidelines

New Delhi: The urban development ministry has appointed consultants to prepare fresh guidelines on urban planning nearly a year after receiving spatial planning guidelines, even as an expert committee is set to recommend such planning for the ministry’s flagship scheme.

Consultants Mott MacDonald were given the contract to rework an earlier set of guidelines called the Urban Planning, Development and Funding of Infrastructure (UPDFI) for making and finding urban plans, said Jay B. Kshirsagar, chief planner at the town and country planning office (TCPO) under the urban development ministry. These are being called UPDFI-II and supposed to be submitted by February-March 2014.

“The guidelines were first compiled in 1996 and now they are being revised," Kshirsagar said. The tender for consultants to revise the UPDFI guidelines was floated even though the status of the urban spatial planning and development (USPD) guidelines is not known, a government official said, requesting anonymity. The ministry has neither accepted nor rejected the guidelines designed by the Urban Space Foundation, the official said.

Experts said the two sets of guidelines may lead to confusion in the future. The urban development ministry will consider spatial development plans before clearing projects under the second phase of its flagship mission on urban renewal, Mint reported on 3 September.

The second phase of the mission, known as the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM), is expected to begin by the middle of next year. The second phase will have a outlay of 1.75 trillion, according to Kshirsagar.

However, a change in the ministry’s officials has led to the spatial planning and development guidelines being neglected, said another government official, who also declined to be named. The ministry has not encouraged spatial planning even at the regional and city level, the official said. “The UPDFI, which is a set of guidelines written in 1995-96 to make, finance and build capacity for urban plans, has existed for long, but why was it never adopted?," said the second official.

An appraisal note for the second phase of JNNURM does not make spatial city planning a necessary condition for funding or even mention it as a reform condition, the official said. This is even as an expert committee under planning commission member, Arun Maira, formed by the plan panel to suggest processes for planning and building capacity as required by the flagship urban renewal mission, is expected to form process guidelines and templates for the second phase of JNNURM based on the spatial planning and development guidelines.

“If this the approach, then it may unfortunately lead to a situation where two different streams of guidelines and procedures could emerge which will need a final arbiter as far as the right approach is concerned," said former urban development ministry secretary, M. Ramachandran. “What is required is well formulated practical guidelines which would take into account current day complexity specially in the context of fast urbanisation of the country," said Ramachandran, who is also a member of the expert committee.

Agreeing that this may lead to the committee’s recommendations being sidelined, Maira said, “A committee is not the place to defend your department’s turf, but people continue to wear their departmental hats rather than being driven by what’s good for the country."

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