Opinion

Road ahead for urban renewal

Dr M. Ramachandran | Updated on March 12, 2018 Published on November 06, 2011

Still a long way to go in providing basic amenities…

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The JNNURM needs a 10-year second phase to improve urban infrastructure and civic amenities.



The Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission will complete its first phase of seven years in March 2012. What next? Though there is no indication yet as to whether there will be a second phase, there is a distinct possibility that JNNURM will be continued, and that this will be reflected in the Five-Year shape and form it will take, the changes made on the basis of the experience so far, and the size of the mission — all these are unknown factors.

But considering the enthusiasm it generated and the dire need for improving the basics of our 7,985 cities and towns, with almost 32 per cent of India's population living in these areas, it is very likely that another phase of the mission will be taken up.

The time available from now till the launch of the next phase should be utilised to prepare for proper implementation of such a massive programme.

PRECONDITIONS TO BE MET

The time, up to say, December 2012, by when the new mission should get launched, should be the preparatory phase for states and cities. The following should be the preliminaries which the states and cities should complete by or before December 2012: ensure completion of pending reforms under the present phase of the mission; complete action on transfer of funds, functions and functionaries to the urban local bodies; have properly prepared city sanitation plans; complete implementation of the 13th Finance Commission recommendations so that all states become fully eligible to draw the incentive grant part; state governments should take decisions on municipal cadre strengthening; implement the basics of the national urban transport policy, including preparation of city mobility plans which will give the road map for an organised, integrated transport strategy and constitution of a unified metropolitan transport authorities for at least all million-plus cities; city development plans prepared in active consultation with the stakeholders should be in the public domain; and take stock of land available and prepare a time-bound plan of action for slum rehabilitation.

There should be an agreement between each state and the Centre on the timelines and completion of these basic steps.

If states lag behind in completing this new agenda, it may be made clear that they will have to wait till it gets completed to benefit from the new phase.

SHAPE OF PHASE II

Considering the need to focus on a big agenda of basic urban requirements — such as providing access to water to all, providing dwelling units to a large section of the urban population, keeping the cities clean by removing all the garbage on a daily basis, providing latrine facilities to all and sewage connectivity to the best possible extent, and having an organised city transport, thereby increasing the share of public transport — it would be appropriate to announce upfront that the next phase of the mission will be for 10 years, divided into two stages corresponding to the two Plan periods, with specific targets for this period.

What should these be? It will include essentials, such as 100 per cent access to drinking water, increased hours of supply, reduction of water wastage from the present average level of 50 per cent to an acceptable level of 15 per cent, slum-free cities, housing for all, doing away with open defecation in cities and towns and garbage-free cities.

Another point to be addressed is whether the maximum carrying capacity of a city can be identified, after reaching which further expansion should move to the immediately adjoining satellite area. Frequent monitoring and reporting to the public of the progress made by states may be entrusted to a group of independent persons of eminence.

A new, comprehensive reform agenda will have to be drawn up for the five-year period, and a call has to be taken at the start as to whether a funds flow in the form of grant will continue even if cities and states lag behind in keeping pace with the agreed reform agenda. The NDC sub-group of chief ministers should finalise recommendations, which in the normal course would be acceptable to all states.

RESOURCES AND PPP

While the availability of Plan funds would become clear once the Five-Year plan is finalised, the next step would be to see what other sources can be availed.In addition to state funds, resource generation by the city itself, loans from multilateral agencies, infrastructure funds, bond issues, PPP and other possible financing mechanisms will have to be lined up.

Since at the macro level, the Five Year Plan is aiming at 50 per cent of the funds required for infrastructure to be raised by the private sector, methods will have to be evolved, whereby such funds are available for deployment in the cities as well.

CITIZEN PARTICIPATION

A hallmark of the new phase will have to be formalising arrangements for active citizen participation both in identifying and prioritising projects. Another clear lesson that has emerged on the basis of implementation so far is that if the municipal commissioners are given a reasonable tenure, that becomes a major factor in ensuring effective implementation.

Considering the increasing importance of our cities in the national scheme of development, it is also necessary that the state governments carefully choose the commissioners for mission cities and they are given a definite tenure of three years.

In order to infuse confidence among the states, it would be necessary that the Centre also make certain clear commitments at the beginning of the exercise.

Apart from committing on the funds front, an enabling mechanism to raise funds through a bond issue, positioning a huge network of professionally-competent national institutions for the required support to states and local bodies and positioning a time-bound mechanism for release of funds would all be required at the outset.

Some basic enabling programmes, such as implementing e-governance, will also have to be supported right from the beginning of the Plan.

(The author is a former Secretary, Ministry of Urban Development, Government of India. The views expressed are personal. [email protected])

Published on November 06, 2011
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