Planning Problems of Cities: Some Lessons

   Human settlements in general and urban centers, in particular, have changed in growth and developmental processes.  There emerges a gap between what is visualized and what actually comes up i.e. between vision and reality because city growth and development is largely guided by the economic forces and these critical forces are highly unpredictable and dynamic in nature. Moreover, there is a distinct time gap between planning and development, and this gap invariably leads to new realities emerging in the city scenario. Human behavior and their needs are very complex which makes the planning process highly vulnerable. Fast-changing technologies and means of transport and communication have added more uncertainties have made city planning very complex.

      The emergence of a large number of contradictions on the city horizon poses new challenges to city planners in evolving appropriate plans, which minimize these contradictions and frictions. The planning philosophy is dynamic. It changes continuously. Search for appropriate solutions has assumed importance because the city is in crisis and in danger of fast losing its special identity.


Recent years have seen a development in the use of design and planning. Planning has come to mean more than shaping and aesthetics; it has increasingly become a strategic element in business innovation processes as well as in a number of societal development processes. A planner’s ability to combine, for instance, designing with user understanding and overall solutions is increasingly becoming a competitive parameter when companies develop new products and services. 


Isolated Planning

    The root cause of problems of any city has been that planning and development have been seen in isolation compared to the development of its periphery and region. 

   Traffic problems within any city area have to be viewed in the context of city planning and city design. The city plan conceives zoning the city into distinct areas earmarked for living, working, and leisure, and accordingly one would have to travel for going to the place of residence or to go for leisure, etc. Thus travel is inherent in the city plan. Unfortunately, this travel component assumes complex proportions with the growth of the city, and accordingly, people are subjected to long and unnecessary travel. This leads to congestion and pollution besides making the city highly energy inefficient. In order to minimize travel in the city area, it would be desirable to decentralize work centers and provide basic amenities at the local level of an appropriate order. Mixed zoning needs to be adopted to reduce distances between different components of human activities if the city is to be saved from the traffic chaos of the future.

       If the city is threatened by residential slums, the growth of commercial slums has also gone unabated. Uncontrolled growth of Rehri Markets in each sector has eaten away vital green spaces provided at the sector level and created numerous problems. Factors like land disposal policy of auction adopted for commercial sites, lack of commercial space at the local level, the concentration of shopping in the shopping street, and lack of small shops are some reasons for the growth of these commercial slums. In order to tackle this menace, it would be desirable to earmark larger areas under commercial use, create a larger number of commercial sites, increase the proportion of booths considerably, disperse commercial area in different corners of the sector, provide space for day markets at the sector level and review the land disposal policy of commercial sites.

    Another ever-growing problem that should cause considerable anxiety and concern to the custodians of the city is the uncontrolled, unchecked, unhindered, and unregulated development and growth of 4 villages that fall within the planned sectors of the city. These four villages have a combined population of 27,025 (1991) with Burail alone recording a population of 16,000. It is unfortunate that a decision was taken to retain these villages and allow their unplanned growth. A look at these villages shows the quality of life available and how mushroom growth is taking place there. In the absence of appropriate and basic amenities, these villages have become a source of nuisance to the adjoining planned area. It is high time that development within these villages and conversion of land use in them is effectively managed and regulated otherwise these villages would ultimately become hot beds of speculation and would have commercial development of substandard nature which may adversely affect the safety of the area. These villages need to be properly planned and developed and provided with basic amenities for effective integration with nearby residential areas. The decision to retain/acquire other villages falling in future sectors should be taken in the light of experience gained in other cities.

    The provision of green spaces in the sector was basically meant to provide lungs to the area and for developing areas of leisure. But as it stands today green spaces have become largely eye-sores. In fact maintenance and upkeep of green spaces are very expensive and needs constant care and upkeep. In the initial planning, sectors were provided with large green spaces, which were subsequently reduced considerably. However, no norms and standards for open spaces have been evolved for sector planning so far. In order to effectively manage and protect the open spaces, it would be desirable to involve the community who should be made custodians of such open spaces, to protect and safeguard it against any possible misuse, conversion and encroachment. Carving out Institutional sites out of green spaces needs to be avoided and its conversion for residential or commercial use should be prohibited. However, proper norms and standards for green spaces, their size, shape and location in the residential area keeping in view their optimum utilization should be worked out and incorporated in the future planning.


  In recent times, encroachment, conversion of land use and unauthorized construction has gained considerable momentum. The areas ripe for such misuse are largely the houses developed by Chandigarh Housing Board. This needs to be checked. Construction and development by Housing Board must be brought under effective control so as to ensure their effective merger with other surrounding areas. Housing Boards must not exercise any control on the development of the area, which should vest with the Estate Office. The designs and layout plans evolved by Housing Board also need closer scrutiny so as to minimize the elements of misuse. Housing Board should not be allotted land abutting the sector roads or along shopping streets or major arteries so as to minimize their misuse. Allowing resumption of houses where misuse occurs should be only after corrective measures are taken or punishing the owners of such houses should be effectively resorted to, to minimize misuse.



    Cities despite numerous problems and adversities convey number of messages and offers lessons to the planner, architect, engineers and administrators in the context of planning, development and management of urban settlements so as to enable such settlements to achieve the goal of optimum human welfare besides providing a certain quality of life to its residents. These messages could be summed up as under: –

           No city is finite, therefore, it would be wrong on the part of planners to assume and plan for a Finite City. A city must be planned to cater to any unforeseen growth and development and must be able to absorb any shock caused by developmental forces. It must be planned on a module, which leads to an inbuilt system of flexibility in the planning process without adversely affecting the basic fabric of the city.

         It is easy to think of a small city with a population of 5 lacs with a ten miles periphery of green belt for keeping the city supplied with essential nutrients. But in practice it does not work. The real challenge is to evolve a city system which can expand and yet maintain a green edge which keeps the city supplied with food and keeps the nature close by.

      The compartmentalization of human activities should invariably be avoided. This leads to increased travel needs resulting in wastage of time and resources besides causing enormous travel stress on human beings. Planning for the entire gamut of human activities considering them as an ‘integrated whole’ would be very vital for creating cities which are highly energy efficient by considerably reducing the travel needs of the people. Mechanism of mixed zoning instead of rigid zoning needs study and application in the siting and location of different uses and functions in the city to minimize traffic requirements.

     Inter and intra-city traffic must be planned on different footings. The two must not be allowed to mix in order to avoid chaos in traffic in the city area.

No Isolated planning

      Planning, development and management of a city cannot be viewed in isolation. It has to be viewed in the larger i.e. regional context. Planning of city and region must be done in an integrated manner. A common authority for city and region would be a pre-requisite to ensure optimum growth of city and its region.

       Research and Development must be made an integral part of all planning, development and management processes. Permanent R & D machinery must be set up to ensure orderly planning and development of any city. This would help in eliminating many pitfalls, which are caused due to decisions based on subjectivity and lack of information.

Control Monitoring        

   Rigid developmental controls always lead to stagnation and violations. Controls must be reviewed periodically and updated to keep pace with changing needs and aspirations of the people and society so as to achieve the desired objective of orderly growth and development.

        Short-term city development plans should be prepared for proper growth. Long-term perspective plans have led to stagnation of planning and developmental efforts in the face of rapidly changing needs and technologies.

       Unified Planning

  Unified planning, development and management machinery/ agency always helps in promoting orderly growth of the city and to ensuring the provision of basic amenities and services.

Service Sector

      The city must make provision for the service sector of the city, which is vital for the maintenance and upkeep of the city services. Ignoring this sector invariably leads to unauthorized construction, encroachment, and growth of slums, etc.

No Finite Plan

      No city has one finite plan. It is the product of a series of plans which are evolved over a period of time to take care of changing realities and dynamism of urban settlements. Any stagnation of planning effort or rigidity in approach leads invariably to lopsided development of new cities.

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About Rashid Faridi

I am Rashid Aziz Faridi ,Writer, Teacher and a Voracious Reader.
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