The Union Budget presented on Tuesday envisages half of India living in urban centres by 2047 and lays out a roadmap to prepare for this. Reforms in mega city governance and facilitating tier 2 and 3 cities is a focus area.
Urban planner Anjali K. Mohan said Karnataka suffers from an inequitable spatial distribution of urban centres of economic activity and developing tier 2 and 3 cities was key. While the population of Bengaluru is 1.34 crore, Mysuru, Mangaluru, Hubballi-Dharwad and Belagavi are 10 lakh cities.
However, urbanist Ashwin Mahesh argued that while it was true that we need to develop tier 2 and 3 cities, the Union or the State cannot drive this. “Seeking investments is a competitive process. These city administrations must be empowered to chart their own destinies, which neither the Union nor the State Governments are ready to do. Unless that is done, we cannot drive the growth of these cities,” he said, adding in the very first place, the Union Government talking of urban planning itself was part of the problem.
Urban planners are happy that the budget says to achieve sustainable living in the cities. Urban planning cannot continue with a business as usual approach. A high-level committee of urban planners and experts has been announced.
“This was long overdue. This elevates the conversation on urban planning. However, we need to be careful that it doesn’t become a one size fits all exercise. Context is very important in urban planning,” Ms. Mohan cautioned.
The budget speech lays stress on urban capacity building to implement reforms in building byelaws, Town Planning Schemes (TPS) and a major push towards Transit Oriented Development (TOD) model. “This will facilitate reforms for people to live and work closer to mass transit systems. The Union Government’s financial support for mass transit projects and the AMRUT scheme will be leveraged for formulation of action plans and their implementation for facilitating TOD and TPS by the States,” the budget speech says.
The State capital has already moved towards TOD. The Comprehensive Mobility Plan published by BMRCL envisaged TOD along Namma Metro routes. An earlier draft of RMP-2031 was scrapped to include TOD. A new draft of RMP-2041 is under way which will include the TOD approach. V. Ravichandar, former member of BBMP Restructuring Committee, said while he welcomes the TOD approach, he had his reservations that it would lead to social gentrification of these dense corridors with higher FARs and hence shoot up property prices. “The TOD policy must include a component of housing for the poor. Otherwise it will be unfair to them,” he said.