The Union government is set to come up with India’s first National Urban Policy framework by March this year. With urban development being a state subject until now, there has never been a comprehensive national policy that spells out the country’s plan for urbanisation.
The housing and urban affairs ministry has appointed a panel, headed by Smart City Mission Director Sameer Sharma, to develop such a policy framework. The panel, expected to submit its report by March 2018, also includes all mission directors (AMRUT, PMAY-Housing for All, Swachh Bharat), and urban experts from the National Institute of Urban Research, Centre for Environmental Planning and Technology, and UN-Habitat (India).
Officials said that the aim is to outline the plan in keeping with the commitments made by all nations at Habitat III, the bi-decennial United Nations (UN) conference on housing and sustainable urban development held in Quito, Ecuador, in October 2016. The policy will look at urban legislation, urban economy, and urban planning. The panel is expected to revisit the New Urban Agenda, released at Habitat III, which defines what nations are expected to do towards the cause of sustainable urban development in the period 2016-30.
“With the New Urban Agenda, India is looking internally and trying to see how we can align with it and come up with a National Urban Policy. We have our vision, we need to integrate the two and look at which existing policies need to be change. For instance, if our current policy on housing fails to look at inclusivity or gender, those can be addressed,” said a panel member.
The National Urban Policy will focus on 10 main areas. These include cooperative federalism, agglomeration economies, harnessing rural-urban continuum, inclusive growth, sustainability, empowering local-level institutions, sound housing and urban infrastructure finance system, social justice and gender equity, and robust urban information system.
Goal No. 11 of UN’s Sustainable Development Goals requires world leaders to “make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable”. As per UN estimates, urban India will have 583 mn people by 2030, with an addition of 65 mn to the current urban population base. India will account for 18-19 per cent of the global increase in urban population and therefore its urban development indicators such as water supply, sanitation, garbage management etc will affect global averages. Also, Indian cities currently contribute 63 per cent of the country’s GDP which is lower than the share of cities in most countries.
National level polices have, until now, dealt with only certain aspects of urbanisation with a start being made only post 2000 with UPA’s JNNURM and Rajiv Awas Yojana, followed by the NDA government’s urban missions.
“At the time of Habitat III, only the Ministry of Housing was dealing with it and not Urban Development. Last year, the two ministries were combined as one. We now need to come up with a well-rounded policy that also looks at promoting non-motorised and other innovative mobility solutions, how to utilise human capital infrastructure, safety, inclusion for gender or persons with disabilities. Once this is ready, there would be a consultation process and states are free to adopt whole of part of it in their own policies,” said an official.
THE PARADIGM SHIFT
According to a draft note by UN-Habitat, India has moved from a ‘business-as-usual approach’ to paying systematic attention to urbanisation and its challenges. The paradigm changes it has brought while addressing the challenges of urbanisation are:
Taking urbanisation as an opportunity rather than a challenge
Citizen-centric approach to align the development agenda of the cities with people’s priorities and needs
Cooperative federalism: Freedom and resources to states/urban local bodies (ULBs) to design and implement
Focus on infrastructure that leads to delivery of services to citizens
Renewed focus on integrated planning through convergence and qualitative improvements
Commitment to environment sustainability
Focus on inclusive growth
Technology to enhance efficiency of services delivery
Shift from project-based approach to outcome-based approach Based on these principles, India has developed its vision of urbanisation which reinforces the planned approach for addressing urban issues. It lays down 10 broad levers to make cities work towards greater efficiency, inclusion, sustainability and safety. These
Putting in place integrated urban policies consistent with principle of co-operative federalism
Harmonise agglomeration economies
Harnessing the rural-urban continuum
Promoting inclusive urban development
Recognise and actively promote the centrality of sustainability
Empowering municipalities and other local level institutions
Strengthening housing finance system
Provision and financing of urban infrastructure and basic services
Access to social justice and gender equity
Robust urban information system