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Implementation challenges of urban planning and development- Part 1

Urbanization is a process where both land and people become urban. The rural landscape becomes urban and people change to a busy urban life due to the effect of “bright city light.” This change management needs to be planned for a reasonable time horizon by a group of planners that will create infrastructure and provide a working tool for governance. Such a change is inevitable and has to be managed by the local government or administrators by way of following a professionally prepared physical development plan, for which financial and human resources need to be mobilised. Actual implementation of the plan is facilitated by the development control regulations (DCR).

 

Planning Process

A futuristic plan is prepared by urban planners and designers by following an established procedure. The completed plan gives an impression that it can be prepared even by laymen. However, in order to produce such a plan, a series of data analysis is a pre-requisite. The main data required are availability of drinking water, topography of the area, geo-technical conditions, demographic data, land data, the micro-climatic conditions, the employment opportunities and finally the development potential of the settlement. Plans are also developed with a specific theme suitable for the area e.g. tourism based, cultural, educational, economic or industrial base e.g. Kanglung, Samtse and Dewathang are institution based whereas Gomtu is industrial based.

After the analysis of the data, a plan is drawn by a team of different professionals which will cover land use plan, infrastructure plan particularly the road, water supply, drainage, waste disposal system and social amenities required for people living within the planning area and the plot configuration. The plan covers other areas like the natural environment and open space system, the safety of people and the property, housing and employment avenue.

The plan preparation is done in a consultative approach involving all stakeholders particularly the land owners at local level and even the central agencies, where required. A plan is approved by the highest decision making body and released to the local government for implementation. It is mandatory that an approved plan is followed by all since such a plan is a product of all stakeholders’ contribution and covers cross sectoral issues. The city managers need to use the plan for resource mobilization so that the planned infrastructures are developed to facilitate the creation of social amenities and all private sector constructions.

 Implementation of plan

The local government uses such plans for mobilizing financial resources i.e. budget or submits such documents to the national resource mobilizing agencies e.g. GNHC, Finance Ministry and even the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as these documents are usually presented in the round table meetings. However, for the purpose of seeking budget there is a need to design the infrastructure particularly roads, water supply and sanitation schemes with the help of design engineers.  The planning, designing and estimation of infrastructure is feasible only if a physical development plan (structure and local area plans) are approved and released for implementation. Therefore, adequate time has to be allocated to the designers to carry out the prioritization and design, as these are highly specialized jobs. Many a time such schemes are designed by inexperienced engineers without much supervision from seniors. The administrators require the drawings, designs and the estimates on priority basis. Therefore, there is a rush to meet the deadlines.

Designers are also constrained by land issues. If the land is owned by a private person and the acquisition is not completed then affected owners will apply pressure both directly and indirectly. Under such circumstances, the quality of infrastructure is compromised e.g. the roads will be aligned in a skewed way and become accident-prone. Public criticism usually comes only after the construction is done.

Few case references are presented here as examples of deviation from approved plans, which have created inconveniences to road users and property owners as well as occupants.

There are also situations where some influential people have realigned the road to save their properties and to enhance the property shape, size and avoid fragmentation.  Public convenience is compromised and risks maximized to favour individuals particularly due to lack of professional ethics and the fact that being in a small place, where everybody knows everybody, loosing opportunities in the civil service is high if one is not flexible. With the advent of social media and right to expression such blatant actions are minimized. Being indifferent to public opinion is very damaging to the public convenience. It has happened in the past.

Roads are constructed to suit the convenience of adjacent property owners and designers are obliged to develop a skewed road ignoring public convenience.
Roads are constructed to suit the convenience of adjacent property owners and designers are obliged to develop a skewed road ignoring public convenience.
This house has cantilevered projection covering the side setback and almost covering the public drain
This house has cantilevered projection covering the side setback and almost covering the public drain

Case No. 1 

This building has been constructed by cantilevering towards the public drain. The size of the plot is small and a building plan was approved fully complying with the prevailing building rules. However, during the execution of the building works the owner chose to extend from the first floor by covering the setback space and even encroaching in the air space above the public drain. The monitoring of private constructions is very poor from the local government staff and even if the building inspectors issue the infringement notice it has hardly any value as the owners are influential and many a time even the administrators hold the inspectors responsible for issuing the notice very late. The person who is actually deviating from the approval is considered ignorant on rules despite the fact that agreement is signed with the local government stating that they will not deviate from the plan and shall be held accountable, in the event of any departure from the approved plan. But it remains in the paper as the issue remains as to who will bell the cat.

It has become common to sign agreements or undertakings indicating that in the event that there are objections from the management, the managers will have the prerogative to remove such structures. Such agreements should not be drawn if the prevailing rules do not permit such proposals. It should be either approved or rejected based on the prevailing rules. This is highly bureaucratic as it is done to please the proponent. The technocrats are not able to reject proposals and bypass the system. It is not the fault of the people who propose but that of the managers as they are pushing the problem to the future thereby making it inconvenient to all.

Contributed by 

 Meghraj Adhikari,

Former Urban Specialist.

DHS

The author has worked as an urban planner for the last 39 years

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