Capacity building in urban planning major issue, to be part of HLC report

Setting up institutes to create programmes to train urban planners, revising cadre rules in cities to employ urban planners, setting up of a separate public service commission for urban planners — these are some of the recommendations part of the report to be prepared and submitted by the High Level Committee (HLC) of urban planners set up by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs.

In the first national conclave on urban planning by the HLC held last week in Ahmedabad, capacity building in urban planning emerged as one of the most pressing issues to be addressed at the earliest.

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“Out of 8,000 cities, there is no planning in 50 per cent of these. All cities should get the benefit of urban planners for which the HLC is stressing on capacity building as one of the major issues to be incorporated in its report,” HLC chairman Keshav Varma told The Indian Express.

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During discussions on capacity building at the national conclave, it was revealed that at present there are 49 institutions with 1,300 postgraduate and 550 undergraduate seats. So, suggestions were made to increase the capacity.

In the conclave, suggestions were made to establish department of planning and public policy for post graduate degrees as well as demand driven short term programmes on rural area planning in central universities.

According to Varma, hiring professionals is the first basic step in capacity building as hiring candidates qualified in other fields for undertaking planning projects can lead to inefficiencies for which institutes are required to train professionals.

“Cadre rules are required to be changed in cities so as to employ urban planners. Urban planning does not have to be the domain of government planners. Also, other professionals should be equally roped in like foresters, hydrologists, irrigation experts and urban economists,” he said.

He had suggested during the conclave that brainstorming should be on to set up a public service commission like UPSC for urban planners.

While strengthening academia in order to prepare more urban planners in the future is one of the thrust areas of HLC, existing vacancies is also flagged.

Out of 4,000 sanctioned seats in the government sector, 42 per cent are vacant as on 2021 and 50 per cent posts at Shyama Prasad Mukherji Rurban Mission (SPMRM) too are vacant, Kundan Kumar advisor Niti Aayog pointed out who had also suggested direct or lateral recruitment and revising recruitment rules.

The report expected to be submitted after the second national conclave being planned in the month of October in Srinagar will also stress on how to implement green town planning schemes.

“Water channel routes, creation of flood control reservoir and none of the TP schemes to cut mature trees unlike what is so much prevalent at the moment are other issues to be kept in mind. While green spaces are our priority, these cannot be fragmented or in patches but a composite green cover. We need green cities for which world class planners from Japan, South Korea and Singapore should be consulted,” Varma said.

Further, Varma added that the HLC is going to recommend a co-ordination between civic bodies and traffic police which at the present are “working in isolation”.

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