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.
- 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.