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The key to regulate urban growth

V. Geetanath
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Policymakers feel the time has come to revive the Detailed Town Planning Schemes, writes V. Geetanath

Vital factor:Advanced planning with the participation of land owners can pave way for a more orderly development of urban areas.
Vital factor:Advanced planning with the participation of land owners can pave way for a more orderly development of urban areas.

Everyone accepts that only better planning can tackle the ongoing rapid urbanisation in the State. About 33.49 per cent of the population or 2.9 crore live in urban areas according to the latest census with the growth rate being 36.36 per cent. Yet, considering the manner in which Master Plans (MPs) are treated — either there is a delay in notifying them or they are brazenly violated, policymakers feel the time has come to revive the Detailed Town Planning Schemes (DTPS). If the MPs also known as General Town Planning Schemes (GTPS) are meant to regulate the city’s growth in a systematic manner, the DTPS are more about micro-level planning in an urban body through pooling of land resources. Apparently, several DTPS were very much in vogue till a couple of decades of ago.

Cities/towns like Visakhapatnam, Guntur, Vijayawada, Rajahmundry, Kakinada and others had such schemes prepared under the A.P. Town Planning Act 1920. Gradually, interest in the schemes waned because of ambiguities in the procedures laid down in the Act and rules.

Official apathy and inadequate staff in the urban local bodies are also the causes, say senior municipal officials.But, with MPs just taking a holistic view or getting inordinately delayed before final notification is made, it has led to unorganised development of urban areas lacking proper road network, public spaces, illegal layouts and slums, they point out. What happens after a MP is notified is that development regulations are enforced when permissions are given as and when the land owners come forward.

But, providing the mandatory 40 per cent open spaces are routinely violated with many resorting to unauthorised layouts and constructions. Hence, proactive and advanced planning with the participation of land owners is the way out for a more orderly development of urban areas. It will involve common pooling of the land for earmarking public spaces and equitable distribution based on the land owned, says Director of Town and Country Planning (DTCP) B. Purushothama Reddy. This will be possible by revamping the DTPS by studying the success stories elsewhere in the country, he observes.

Among the changes being proposed are to make the town planner concerned the arbitrator because he will be well versed with the ground level situation and interact with the land owners instead of the revenue official, as is being done now.DTPS in Maharashtra and Gujarat have become successful because of this change leading to planned development of urban areas besides securing sufficient land for basic/social infrastructure, avers Mr. Reddy. A proper land valuation method and transparent negotiations with the land owners in readjusting land parcels surrendered for pooling, are other issues under consideration. A two-member panel of retired senior town planning officials is scheduled to visit both the above mentioned States to examine the existing legal framework, best practices related to tools for implementing the MP and submit a report in two months.

The project is to be taken up under the World Bank funded A.P. Municipal Development Project and report of the two-member panel will be further vetted by a five-member review committee consisting officials from the Commissioner & Director of Municipal Administration, DTCP, APMDP, Mission for Elimination of Poverty in Municipal Areas (MEPMA) and urban local bodies.

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