India, being the second-largest urban system globally, accommodates nearly 11% of the world’s urban population within its cities. The projected urban growth is expected to contribute to 73% of the overall population increase by 2036, leading to uncontrolled and imbalanced expansion of urban spaces. This unchecked growth poses significant challenges and necessitates crucial reforms in urban planning and capacity.

Reasons for Unplanned and Unbalanced Urban Growth:

  • Unacknowledged Urbanization: Approximately half of the so-called ‘urban’ settlements are categorized as census towns but continue to be governed as ‘rural’ entities.
  • Inadequate Planning: About 65% of urban settlements lack a proper master plan, leading to haphazard development.
  • Incomplete Devolution of Planning Functions: The intended transfer of urban planning functions from States/UTs to elected urban local governments, as envisioned by the 74th Amendment Act, 1992, has not been fully realized.
  • Under-developed Private Sector: The absence of a well-established private sector in urban planning exacerbates the challenges of unbalanced growth.
  • Complex Governance Framework: The existing urban planning and governance framework is intricate, often resulting in ambiguity and lack of accountability.
  • Lack of Human Resources and Coordination: Insufficient human resources and poor coordination within the state machinery responsible for urban planning hinder effective development.

Recommendations by NITI Aayog for Urban Capacity Reforms:

  • Planning Healthy Cities: The report proposes the ‘500 Healthy Cities Programme,’ a Central Sector Scheme for five years. States and local bodies would jointly select priority cities and towns to implement development control regulations based on scientific evidence, optimizing urban land efficiency.
  • Ramping up Human Resources: To address the shortage of urban planners in the public sector, the report suggests expediting the hiring of town planners through lateral entry positions for a minimum of 3 years and a maximum of 5 years.
  • Re-engineering Urban Governance: The report emphasizes institutional clarity and multi-disciplinary expertise in solving urban challenges. It proposes the formation of a high-powered committee to re-engineer the current urban planning governance structure.
  • Revision of Town and Country Planning Acts: States are encouraged to review and upgrade their existing Town and Country Planning Acts, with the establishment of an apex committee at the state level for regular legislative review.
  • Citizen Participation: To involve citizens in the planning process, a ‘Citizen Outreach Campaign’ should be conducted, facilitating their participation at relevant stages.
  • Enhancing Private Sector Role: Measures such as fair processes for procuring technical consultancy services, strengthening project structuring and management skills in the public sector, and empanelment of private sector consultancies are recommended.


With urbanization driving India’s economic growth, addressing the deficiencies in urban planning capacity becomes imperative. Implementing the recommended reforms offers an enormous opportunity for rapid, sustainable, and equitable urban development. Equitable and sustainable cities hold the key to balancing economic growth with the well-being of citizens and the environment. By embracing these reforms, India can pave the way for a prosperous future characterized by harmonious urban expansion.

Legacy Editor Changed status to publish March 1, 2024