Urban Planning at Core of Smart Cities: Prof Chetan Vaidya

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Prof Chetan Vaidya, Director, School of Planning and Architecture New Delhi, and an Architect-Planner

Prof Chetan Vaidya, Director, School of Planning and Architecture New Delhi, and an Architect- Planner with over 30-year experience, emphasises that Urban Planning forms the foundation of any urban mission programme

Overall goals for urban development in India should be creation of sustainable, inclusive and smart urban centres. The Government has launched four urban mission programmes: AMRUT, Smart City, Housing for All and Heritage Cities (HRIDAY). Urban Planning is an important part of and the common thread in the proposed programmes.

Problems of Urban Planning in India are identified as master plans with no relation to real estate markets, low Floor Space Index (FSI) and density, and segregated land use, apart from no linkage of land use with public transport. Fortunately, some of these issues were part of JnNURM reforms.

In this context, Ahmedabad Master Plan 2021 is a good example. It focuses on compact city, enhanced accessibility, land use linked to transport, incentivising affordable housing, conserving heritage and transit-oriented developments (TODs). There is 50 per cent increase in FSI through payment (for infrastructure). Increase in FSI on BRTS/Metro corridor is from 1.8 to 3.6 to 4.0 on chargeable FSI and concessions for affordable housing, and affordable housing zone with FSI 2.7 all around the city (76 sq km with 15 lakh additional units). All this enable the provision for local and special area plans.

Similarly, reforms in Development Control rules, like ground coverage restriction removed, minimum floor height specified, height restriction removed, etc., have also been introduced. Heritage building owners in old city have been allowed to transfer development rights to other parts of city as well. The credit goes to the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation and the Ahmedabad Urban Development Authority, which have communicated very well with the press and citizens.

This mission of building 100 Smart Cities will be implemented through ‘area based’ approach consisting of retrofitting, redevelopment, pan-city initiatives and development of new cities. Under retrofitting, deficiencies in an identified area will be addressed through necessary interventions as in the case of Local Area Plan for the City Centre in Ahmedabad. Redevelopment enables reconstruction of already built-up area that is not amenable for any interventions, to make it smart, as in the case of Bhendi Bazar of Mumbai and West Kidwai Nagar in New Delhi.

Area-based projects should be part of an overall city plan that has land use linked to public transport, higher and variable FSI, marketable FSI, land reserved for affordable housing and mixed land use. These should not be an isolated project-based approach. Private sector can play an important role in affordable housing and needs to be encouraged. Moreover, human dimension with culture and heritage is more important than just housing and infrastructure.

The School of Planning and Architecture, New Delhi, has close linkages with the Ministry of Urban Development. We intend to support cities in preparing City Development Plan and Detailed Project Reports, plan and implement reforms, monitor progress of works and especially provide guidance for design of public parks for children. Moreover, our student studio and thesis projects will be developed within the framework of the four urban programmes. Thus, we shall help cities augment their technical capacities as well augment capacities of future architects and planners to meet the growing demand for human resources in this sector.

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