Urban Planning in India – Challenges and Solutions l


As per Global Liveability Index rankings released in 2019, by Economic Intelligence Unit, two major cities of India Delhi and Mumbai, found itself slipping in the rankings. It measures the living conditions in 140 cities. It is the direct result of Urban Planning and Development. This topic would be of importance in the IAS Exam from the perspective of Prelims and Mains.

Table of contents:

  1. Major policies Impacting Urban Development in India
  2. Key Urban Development Missions in India
  3. Industrial Corridors
  4. Technology in Urban Planning and Development
  5. Main Challenges in Urban Planning and Development
  6. Recommendations for Urban Planning in India

What is urban planning?

Urban Planning is a professional way of developing urban areas by making physical plans and development regulations.

What is the need for urban planning?

Urban Planning is a combination of social, economic, environmental, and constructive efforts to make an urban dwelling a good, healthy place to live, work, and to move around.

Why did the need for urban planning arise?

It was done to ease the negative physical and social effects on people that arose with the industrial revolution, particularly in urban areas.

Who implements Urban Planning in India?

Urban local bodies or local governments implement urban development strategies. Urban Local Bodies are elected by the people. Planning and development for major cities and urban regions are done by urban/metropolitan/regional development authorities. These authorities are functionaries institutions under the state government.

Read the Difference between Metropolitan Cities and Urban Agglomeration on the given link.

On the state government level, urban planning and development administration is administered by the State Town Planning Act and other relevant legal frameworks of each state. Currently, all states have ministries responsible for urban planning, urban development, housing, and governance.

What is the need for Spatial Plans?

Spatial plans need to be accounted for to address issues on integrated land connectivity, landfills, urban drainage networks, land requirements, and a range of related urban complexities.

Without spatial plans, it is extremely difficult to completely address the issues plaguing infrastructure in Indian cities.

Major policies Impacting Urban Development in India

74th Amendment to the Constitution

This 1992 amendment requires state governments to modify their municipal bylaws to empower Urban Local Bodies to function as institutions of self-governance. However, most Urban Local Bodies suffer from poor institutional frameworks and talent shortages. Moreover, the degree to which decision-making powers have been devolved in practice varies widely from state to state.

Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act 2013.

This legislation, commenced in 2014, establishes new rules for compensation, resettlement, and rehabilitation to facilitate the smooth functioning of the property market. However, the compensation mechanism for public land acquisition has been criticized as being unfair and unclear, while increasing the incubation time and increasing the overall costs of the project by as much as 5% in some cases. Since enactment, the majority of states have been unable to complete the land acquisition, and the act is currently under review.

Key Urban Development Missions in India

Recent Past Urban Development Mission

Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) was the recently concluded long-running Urban Development Mission of the Government of India. When it came to its closing stages, the Government of India launched 6 new missions.

The 6 new missions launched by the Government of India are

  1. Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT)
  2. Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (PMAY) – Housing for all (Urban)
  3. Smart Cities Mission (SCM)
  4. Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM)
  5. Heritage City Development and Augmentation Yojana (HRIDAY)
  6. Deen Dayal Antyodaya Yojana – National Urban Livelihood Mission (DAY-NULM)

Other Urban Development Projects

  1. Industrial Corridors
  2. Country-Specific Tie-ups

Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM)

The below table gives the details of the JNNURM Mission

Launched 2005
Implementing Agencies Central, State, and City Governments
Focus Areas Transport, Solid Waste Management, Stormwater drains, encroachments.
Closed 2014

The below table gives an overview of the AMRUT mission

Focus areas 1. Basic services to households – water supply, sewerage, and urban transport

2. Develop greenery, well-maintained open spaces in cities, reduce pollution by increasing usage of public transport.

3. Stormwater drains, parking spaces, recreation centers

Duration 5 years (From 2015-16 to 2019-20)
Number of cities covered under this programme 500
Target Supply 139 Lakh water tap connections
Funding 1. Rs 77,640 crore. Rs 39,011 crore (50%) has been allocated to water supply

2. Rs 32,456 crore (42%) has been allocated to sewerage and septage management

Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (PMAY) – Housing for all (Urban)

The below table gives details on PMAY – Housing for all (Urban) Scheme

Launched 2015
Focus Area Constructing more than 2 crore houses
The target group of the PMAY scheme Women, Economically Weaker Section (EWS), ST, SC.
Mode of implementation 1. Rehabilitation of slum dwellers

2. Credit linked subsidy

3. Affordable housing through public or private partnership

4. Subsidy for beneficiary led individual house construction or enhancement

Subsidy Amount Rs 1 Lakh to Rs 2.30 Lakh per beneficiary
Cities covered 1.Initial focus on 500 Tier I cities in 3 phases.

2. 4,041 statutory towns

Smart Cities Mission (SCM)

On September 7, 2019, Aurangabad Industrial City (AURIC), in Aurangabad, Maharashtra was inaugurated as the 1st greenfield industrial smart city of India. It covers an area of 10,000 acres.

The below table gives details on Smart Cities Mission (SCM)

Launched 2015
Funding Rs 98,000 crore
Number of cities 100
Objective Provide smart solutions to improve city infrastructure and services
Focus areas
  1. Mobility and Energy efficiency
  2. Electricity
  3. Information and Communication Technology
  4. Water Supply
  5. Sanitation
  6. Solid Waste Management

The following are the City identification criteria for the Smart Cities Mission (SCM)

  1. One satellite city for cities with a population of 4 million or more (9 cities)
  2. Most of the cities with a population of 1 Million – 4 Million (approx 35 out of 44 cities)
  3. All states/UT capitals even if they have a population of less than 1 Million (17 cities)
  4. Other cities that are important for tourism or religious or economic reasons (10 cities)
  5. Cities with a population of 0.2 – 1.0 Million (25 cities)

Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM)

Contamination of drinking water, bathing water, and open defecation have been a perpetual sanitary problem in India. In the year 2014, India had the highest number of people practicing open defecation.

The below table gives details on Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM)

Launched 2014
Objective of mission 1. Open Defecation Free by 2nd October 2019.

2. Contribute to India reaching Sustainable Development Goal (SDG 6), established by the UN in 2015

Funding 1. Rs 90 Billion allocated for the mission in the 2016 Union Budget.

2. World Bank provided the US $ 1.5 Billion loans and

$ 25 Million in technical assistance

Some of the features of the Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM)

  1. Provision of public, household, and community toilets.
  2. The central incentive of 4,000 INR per household for construction of household toilets, 40% grant/VGF for each community toilet block.
  3. Eradication of manual scavenging.

Heritage City Development and Augmentation Yojana (HRIDAY)

This mission has been launched to provide better amenities in Heritage cities.

The below table gives details of the HRIDAY Mission

Launched 2015
Funding Rs 500 ( 100% funding by the Government of India)
Implementing Ministry Ministry of Urban Development
Number of cities covered This mission is being implemented in 13 cities
Objectives 1. Better infrastructure and services in Heritage cities like water, roads, street lights, increase security with CCTV, toilets

2. Preserve, conserve, and revitalize Heritage cities.

The below table gives the list of 13 cities where the Hriday Scheme is implemented

Ajmer Badami Kanchipuram Varanasi
Amaravati Dwaraka Mathura Velankanni
Amritsar Gaya Puri Vellore

Deen Dayal Antyodaya Yojana – National Urban Livelihood Mission (DAY-NULM)

This scheme is aimed at addressing the livelihood concerns of the urban poor.

The below table gives details on DAY-NULM Mission

Preceded by Swarna Jayanti Shahari Rozgar Yojana (SJSRJ)
Launched 2013
Implementation Ministry Ministry of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation
Funding 1.Centre (75%) and State (25%);

2. North East and Special Category States: Centre (90%), State (10%)

Target Group Urban Street Vendors
Objectives 1. Helping the urban poor in self-employment by providing skill development and easy access to credit.

2. Provide shelter to the urban poor.

Aspirants can check out various other schemes of Government for overall development –

Candidates can find more articles related to the various schemes launched by the Government of India by visiting the Government Schemes page.

Industrial Corridors

The Government of India is developing 5 major industrial corridors in various states. Many different agencies are involved in funding the Industrial corridor projects.

The below table gives an overview of Industrial Corridors

Corridor States Key Players
Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor 1. Haryana

2. Gujarat

3. Madhya Pradesh

4. Uttar Pradesh

5. Rajasthan


Equity Holdings: Government of India 49%, Japan Bank for International Cooperation 26%, Housing and Urban Development Corporation 19.9%, India Infrastructure Finance Company 4.1%, Life Insurance Corporation of India 1%.

Concept: Government of Japan.

Chennai – Bangalore Industrial Corridor 1. Karnataka

2. Andhra Pradesh

3. Tamil Nadu

Developers: Government of India with support from the Japan International Cooperation Agency
Mumbai – Bangalore Economic Corridor 1. Karnataka


Developers: Government of India, Indian State Governments, Government of UK.
Amritsar – Delhi – Kolkata Industrial Corridor 1. Punjab

2. Haryana

3. Uttar Pradesh


5. Bihar

6. Jharkhand

7. West Bengal

Equity Holdings: Government of India 49%, balance equity by State Governments and Housing and Urban Development Corporation (HUDCO)
Vizag – Chennai Industrial Corridor 1. Tamil Nadu

2. Andhra Pradesh

Developers: Government of India with Asian Development Bank

City Projects

Several new cities have been developed in recent year, some of the prominent examples are

  1. Dholera SIR (Gujarat)
  2. Gujarat International Finance Tec-City (Gujarat)
  3. Palava (Maharashtra)
  4. Lavasa (Maharashtra)
  5. Gurgaon (Haryana)
  6. Smart City Kochi (Kerala)
  7. Haldia (West Bengal)
  8. Navi Mumbai Airport influence Notified Area (Maharashtra)
  9. Wave City (National Capital Region)

Examples of Public driven Urban Development Projects

  1. Dholera (SIR)
  2. Gujarat International Finance Tec-City (GIFT)

Examples of Privately driven Urban Development Projects

  1. Lavasa
  2. Palava

Country-Specific tie-ups for Urban planning and Development

  1. Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed between India and Japan to convert Varanasi into Smart City with the help of the city of Kyoto.
  2. The USA has expressed interest in turning 3 cities into smart cities – Allahabad, Ajmer, and Visakhapatnam.
  3. India and China have also signed 3 Gujarat specific pacts.

Technology in Urban Planning and Development

Role of ISRO in Urban Development in India

Planning Urban development of cities faces a perennial challenge i.e rate of population increase, urban sprawl, etc. Hence the policymakers have to plan the city accordingly. This planning requires updated data. This updated data is provided by ISRO using high-resolution satellite data. The data provided by this tool helps the planners in managing and planning a broad expansion of the urban environment. The fundamental data required by urban planners and policymakers is accurate information on current land-use practices in a city or town, satellite-based remote sensing has certain advantages in monitoring the dynamics of urban land use because of large spatial coverage for mapping applications, more frequent revisit periods, and wide availability.

Use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles in Urban Development

UAV technology is being used to improve things like

  1. Energy efficiency
  2. Monitor progress of the project
  3. Sewage design
  4. Utility establishment
  5. Detect illegal constructions
  6. Detect encroachments

The need for data-driven decision making is very important to meet the growing challenges of urban planning.

The below states have already conducted trials on UAV for Urban planning, management, and change detection for revenue collection from industrial and residential areas.

  1. Maharashtra
  2. Gujarat
  3. Andhra Pradesh
  4. Odisha

Results of UAV trials

  1. 30% improvement in illegal construction detection
  2. 20% increase in revenue collection

How is the Geographical Information System (GIS) helpful in Urban Planning in India?

In the developed world, the city administration is increasingly using Geographical Information Systems (GIS) for Urban planning and development.

For any planning, data is the most important part and GIS helps in storing, managing, analyzing, manipulating data. GIS helps in the display of spatially linked data thereby resulting in the creation of smart maps.

Main Challenges in Urban Planning and Development

The HPEC (High Powered Expert Committee), the World Bank, and the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) have provided analysis on the challenges affecting urban development in India.

  1. Planning for land use and zoning
  2. The functioning of the property market and property governance
  3. Access to serviced land and affordable housing
  4. Access to mass transit systems and road networks
  5. Creating a favorable environment for starting, operating, and growing a business.

As per the World Bank, the following reasons gave rise to the above challenges

  1. Empowerment Deficit: Limited, overlapping, and fragmented functional assignments resulting in unclear accountability at the city level.
  2. Resource Deficit: Limited revenue-generation powers and inappropriately targeted intergovernmental transfers resulting in inadequate local government financial resources.
  3. Accountability Deficit: Despite elections and the right to information, transparency structures, roles, and mandates are unclear.
  4. Delivery Deficit: Insufficient provision and maintenance of municipal services and networks.

Recommendations for Urban Planning in India

  1. Integrate Spatial Planning at all Government levels: National, State, and City
  2. Create a stable policy framework for private investment in urban infrastructure.
  3. Create institutions to stimulate capacity building and attract talent to grow businesses.

General Studies Paper – I, Year – 2014


To what extent has the urban planning and culture of the Indus Valley Civilization provided inputs to the present day urbanization? Discuss.

Marks – 10

Word Limit – 150 words


Urban Planning as a concept, dates back to 5000 BC in India. Excavations carried out by Archaeologists in the Indus Valley have revealed that urban planning was implemented extensively.

Archaeologists were unable to unearth that streets and roads divided the city into rectangular blocks, the streets were straight and cut each other at right angles. There was an excellent closed drainage system. Every house had its drainage which was connected to the public drainage system. There were manholes at regular intervals for cleaning and clearing purposes. We can find such a system in the cities of the present day. There were granaries to store grains, present-day urban areas have storage buildings for storing food grains. It was also found that there were excellent stormwater and wastewater management.

All the above examples have provided inputs in planning the present-day urban cities.

The above details would be of help to candidates preparing for the UPSC 2022 exams from the perspective of the mains examination.


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