The city master plans are supposed to make proposals/schemes for the provision of various facilities and ensure that the basic amenities/services are in place and in that process they are also supposed to guide the urban development. But the legislation on which our town planning system is based was framed by the British who adapted it to suit the requirements of the Indian cities and this was primarily done through the town and country planning acts of various States. When the British implemented the system, it was purportedly designed to serve the economic interests of the British first while the social interests of citizens was secondary.
These acts have mandated the development of Master Plans for the development of cities with a plan period of 20 or 25 years. The Master plans, or development plans, featured the land use plan – present and proposed – and development control restrictions. In many states, this involves estimation of future population, socio-economic conditions and their infrastructural needs and preparation of plans for ensuring that the necessary facilities are in place when the development takes place.
However, the efforts made to plan cities in India are confronted to multiple issues, especially in small and middle-sized cities, which can be considered as poor through several criteria: socio-economic level of majority of population; low levels of public investments, weak quality of local administration, and large dependence of external donors.
Globally there are alternative models of urban planning better adapted to medium-sized cities, focusing on the intermediation with their environment, in the perspective to offer new instruments of urban planning able to tackle in an efficient way the main constraints of their urbanization: growing population; territorial extension and fragmentation; environmental contamination and health; poverty and social exclusion, urban governance.
Primarily, our approach is based on the fundamental assumption that the government is the major producer of all goods and services – a thinking that originated and thrived during the erstwhile Soviet era. But today the government says (and rightly so) it has no business to be in business and is slowly planning to dispose off most of the companies set up when the private investments were not forthcoming.
In a globalised world, the competitiveness of a city in attracting the investments is critically dependent upon the factors relating to the growth prospects, access to capital and knowledge, and availability of good infrastructure facilities. As economic growth and competitiveness of a city assumed importance in the post-liberalised India, urban planning has to take different course and alternative approaches that complement and reform the traditional methods need to find place after economic liberalization. A city which fares poor in terms of both the provision of essential services and a good quality of life will certainly not be in a position to attract investments and businesses will not favour locating in such cities.
The result of the traditional planning approach in the form of master plans is turning out to be frustrating because of the unrealistic plans; long time taken for their preparation and approval, ill adequately or inadequately thought or planned proposals etc. Its high time we opt for vision planning system that attempts to provide a development perspective by identifying the strategic interventions and the benchmarks so that it can move on to the growth path and provide a better economic and physical environment.