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The Challenge of Implementing GIS-Based Master Plans

Published: 2nd Feb, 2024

The Challenge of Implementing GIS-Based Master Plans

Context

Over 200 Class-I cities in India, including Shimla and Imphal, have recently notified Geographic Information System (GIS)-based master plans as part of the Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT) mission.

Background

  • The Supreme Court's approval of the Shimla Development Plan, after 44 years, and Manipur's notification of a flood-prone capital city plan marked significant milestones.
  • These initiatives are part of the larger AMRUT mission, initially launched in 2015 and relaunched in 2021, aiming to have over 1,000 cities with GIS-based master plans.

Significance of GIS-Based Master Plans:

  • GIS-based master plans involve mapping the entire existing infrastructure, providing a comprehensive vision for a city's development over the next two decades.
  • It includes regulations for land use, building construction, transport, green spaces, and economic development.

Challenges in Master Plan Implementation:

  • Urban development experts argue that master plans, despite being critical, often remain unimplemented, leading to unauthorized development in cities.
  • The rapid urbanization and poor enforcement of these plans have contributed to issues like unregulated construction and environmental concerns.

Unregulated Development and Climate Impact:

  • The absence of master plans in 65% of urban settlements, as highlighted by NITI Aayog, leads to piecemeal interventions, haphazard constructions, and environmental pollution.
  • This is particularly significant in hill states like Himachal, prone to flash floods and landslides.

AMRUT's Role in Addressing Challenges:

  • AMRUT's sub-scheme focuses on using technology to prepare master plans, utilizing GIS data to address challenges arising from urbanization and climate change.
  • The baseline maps, created using satellite imagery or drones, form the foundation for future plans related to transportation, economic activities, and social infrastructure.

The Implementation Challenge:

  • While the emphasis is on planning for the next two decades, experts stress that the real challenge lies in implementation and having an enforceable legal framework.
  • The lack of strict enforcement and accountability has hindered the success of master plans in many cities.

Incentives and Recruitment Drive:

  • Approximately 1500 Class-I towns have only around 10% with valid master plans.
  • However, with the central government providing incentives and focusing on recruiting urban planners, there is a positive shift.
  • Cities are now receiving funds as incentives for preparing master plans, marking progress on the ground.

While GIS-based master plans represent a crucial step toward planned urban development, the success hinges on effective implementation and a robust legal framework. The current momentum, driven by incentives and recruitment initiatives, offers hope for more cities to adopt and enforce comprehensive master plans.

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