Urban transport governance reform in India

Urban transport governance reform in India

Dr. Mayarani Praharaj, College of Engineering and Technology, Bhubaneswar, India
Urban transportation is the single most important component in shaping urban development and urban living. Since transport is one of the prime determinants of quality of life, it is for governments to articulate the need for mobility and facilitate it through appropriate mechanisms. In fact, efficiency of cities greatly depends on the development of transport systems, as urban transport is a catalyst for overall development.
About 377 million Indians, comprising of about 31 per cent of the country’s population, live in urban areas according to the 2011 Census. Projections are that by 2031, about 600 million Indians will reside in urban areas, an increase of over 200 million in just 20 years. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), less than 50 per cent of two-wheeler drivers in India wear helmets, while only 27 per cent of drivers wear seatbelts. The report says that while 88 countries have reduced the number of road fatalities between 2008 and 2011, Indian roads, on the contrary, have become more deadly. Not only that, but India also tops the list of total number of deaths recorded on the road in 2011 at 143,000. The report says that only 28 countries, have adequate laws that address all five risk factors — speed, driving under the influence, helmets, seatbelts and child restraints, and India has poor record on all five risk factors.
Most of the cities in India have been facing urban transport problems for many years, affecting the mobility of people and the economic growth of urban areas. These problems are due to a prevailing imbalance in modal split, inadequate transport infrastructure and no integration between land use and transport planning.Congestion is another serious problem in Indian cities. Besides roads congestion, traffic accidents, public health incidence and air pollution, sharp increases in road transport also have a huge impact on fuel consumption and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
Yet India is already starting to make strides toward sustainable transport.  The Government of India approved the National Urban Transport Policy (NUTP) in 2006. The Policy primarily focuses on the mobility of people, not the mobility of vehicles.  This will require the public transportation system being more attractive to use. 
Cities in India vary considerably in terms of their population, area, urban form, topography, economic activities, income levels, growth constraints, etc. Accordingly, the design of transport systems will have to take into account these city specific features. Further, transport planning is intrinsically linked to land use planning and both need to be developed together in a manner that serves the entire population but also minimises the need to travel. In developing such plans, attention should also be paid to channelling the future growth of a city around a pre-planned transport network rather than develop a transport system after an uncontrolled sprawl has taken place. This calls for a renewed thrust towards improvement in governance structures, especially at the level of urban local bodies, and a major improvement in delivery of urban services in cities.
Government policies are difficult to implement. For that there needs to be proper governance structures to monitor policies. Good governance can help to improve the resiliency and adaptive capacity of cities in the case of urban mobility. Participation of citizens in urban governance should be part of every comprehensive traffic planning and management authority in cities.
About the author
Dr. Mayarani Praharaj works at the Department of Architecture at the College of Engineering and Technology, Bhubaneswar, India



The World Town Planning Day (WTPD) is an event held every year on November 8 in 30 countries, including India, to recognise and promote the role of planning in creating livable communities. An international organisation for the WTPD was founded in 1949 by late Prof Carlos Maria della Paolera of the University of Buenos Aires.
The main motivations to plan the WTPD event are to educate all members of the community about town planning’s positive impacts on community livability. Major cities have been coming up with hundreds of thousands of new residents each year and transforming in form, design, economies, social relations, governance and ways of living. Approaches to planning for cities are changing as well. Ideas that were leading planning just a few decades ago are being replaced by innovative approaches that focus on the livability of cities in an age of global interdependence and participatory governance.
On the WTPD, planners share lessons, experiences and opportunities for innovations in engaging people and their communities in making cities resilient and livable in a global age. Land use planning, zoning and the laws that dictate development of cities need to be revised to reflect the changing socioeconomic need of the people. The infrastructure and service development plans need to be made with broad framework and achievable goals.
Bhubaneswar is Odisha’s capital established as a modernised city by German architect and town planner Otto Koenigsberger. It was visualised as a planned city along the lines of New Delhi (by Edwin Lutyens) and Chandigarh (by Le Corbusier). Koenigsberger (October 13, 1908-January 3, 1999) prepared the new Bhubaneswar Master Plan in 1948. The WTPD presents an excellent opportunity to look at planning from a global perspective and encourages architects and planners in Odisha to consider city planning challenges and solutions in today’s context.
Koenigsberger enjoyed a long, remarkable career that began with work as a Government architect in Berlin in the 1930s. It took him eventually to most continents as a teacher, adviser and consultant on many aspects of physical planning, architecture, design and technology. In 1939, he had two choices: teaching at the University of Michigan and becoming the Chief Architect of the Mysore State in India. He chose India and arrived in Mysore as an émigré architect at the invitation of Sir Mirza Ismail, Dewan (Prime Minister) of Mysore, which was under indirect British rule that meant that the Maharajah of Mysore paid a subsidy to the British for military protection. He carried out hospital and housing projects as well as the design of Victory Hall, Bangalore and Jayachamarenda Institute of Technology.
Koenigsberger served the Public Works Department (PWD) in Mysore from 1939 to 1948. He also served as a planner to corporate houses like the Tatas and to the Government of India. In 1945, he prepared the third-phase plans for the industrial town of Jamshedpur. In Mysore, the most important change that occurred in his buildings was the adaptation of climate-responsive design through outdoor living spaces, indigenous construction technologies, passive conditioning and renewable sources of energy. Mysore and Bangalore enjoy mild climates, and, therefore, one might argue that designing climate-responsive buildings would be easy in these two cities.
In 1948, Koenigsberger moved to Delhi and became the Federal Director of Housing (1948-51) for the Ministry of Health in Nehru’s Government. His first active involvement with development work began to solve the massive housing demand problem posed by Partition refugees by proposing a prefabricated housing module for resettling the refugees. His work involved both planning and architecture projects to resettle partition refugees. During this period, he also served as planning advisor for the new towns of Faridabad, Rajpura, Gandhidham and Sindri, which were developed to resettle refugees.
He was the member of Greater Delhi Development Committee and Technical Committee for revision of byelaws for Delhi in 1951.
In 1953, he moved to London and became head of the Department of Development and Tropical Studies at the Architectural Association, which later became the Development Planning Unit of the University College, London, where he worked as a professor until his retirement in 1978. He received many honours during his lifetime, including an emeritus professorship from the University College, London. However, it was the award of the first “Habitat Scroll of Honour” in 1989 from the United Nations (Centre for Human Settlements, UNCHS) that brought him the greatest satisfaction.
Koenigsberger did not use the term “renewable energy” but made the use of renewable as natural sources of energy like the use of wind in cooling buildings and sunlight for indoor lighting. These techniques are widely used in passive design in Green Architecture. He theorised and quantified these design variables correlated with climatic data in the form of knowledge easily accessible and usable by architects and planners.
In 1939, he travelled to several parts of India to study the pre-colonial and colonial architectures. He began documenting these buildings for their technological competency, use of materials and spatial configuration in the context of local materials, climate responsiveness, and overall efficiency. He noticed how Mughal monuments used features such as the Jalis (stone screens) to control light and temperature.
Even 65 years after he planned the city of Bhubaneswar, with no memory of his in public space, Dr Koenigsberger remains unknown for the residents of Bhubaneswar. The Bhubaneswar designed by him is a special urban heritage site with outstanding planning features and has a public value. To retain its planned character, the area should be declared as urban heritage having groups of buildings, neighbourhoods and public spaces including landscapes and natural features which provide character and distinctive identity to the city. The listed urban heritage should be emphasised in the CDP (Comprehensive Development Plan) and, if understood and managed properly, it could effectively contribute to the overall quality of urban areas and serve as a vital asset and example for future urban development. This would identify the visual, spatial and cultural character of the city.
Observance of an Odisha Town Planning Day on the memory of Koenigsberger at the State-level may give insight to the new generation about the visionary works of the great planner. We can celebrate the day on his birth anniversary as the memory of the first planner of new Bhubaneswar, which is one of India’s first planned towns.