Category Archives: National Campaign on Urban Issues

How smart is the Smart City Idea !! A Thought on World Town Planning Day

Indian Towns sans planning!

by Ananta Prasad

The main challenges of urbanization in India are shortage of housing which is 18.78 million according to the 2011 census which Mr Venkeya Naidu, also stressed at the Plenary Session of Asia Pacific Ministerial Conference of Housing and Urban Development (APMCHUD) in Seoul recently.

The official statement of Minister emphasized stating that though accommodating slightly less than one third of the total population, the urban centres in India contribute a substantial part of the Gross Domestic Product already with 63 per cent in 2007 and the same is expected to increase to 75 per cent in 2021. However, the new Modi govt has their vision of Houses for all by end of 2012.

It is expected that by 2050, almost 50 percent of Indian population will constitute the urban areas and the Government of India is charged up with comprehensive urban up-liftment through improving quality of public transport, providing drainage, sanitation, waste management, water recycling and wi-fi facilities for public and commercial areas, added in the official note.

It is noted that World Town Planning Day is being celebrated in 30 countries of four continents on 8th November. It is a special day to recognize and promote the role of planning in creating livable urban communities. For fast growing countries like India the scenario of Town Planning is a myth. Sadly the town planners are yet to bring inclusive city planning. It has been a major issue in Indian cities that the urban planners have continuously ignored urban slums and the children in specific. Children and adolescents living in slums have been ignored as active stakeholder of urban renewal policies and programmes.

 According to HUPA, in India, 70.6% of urban population is covered by individual water connections while in china this is 91%, in South Africa 86% and in Brazil 80%.  Duration of water supply in India cities is between one to six hours. According to 2011 census, 13% of urban population defecate in the open, 37% are connected by open drains and 18% are not connected at all. 7.6 million young children living in urban poverty in Indian sufferer due to improper town planning in the country.The air quality has also deteriorated sharply carrying with it concomitant health costs. It has impacted directly to the children causing several diseases.

 Strategy to integrate networking of slums to city infrastructure and developing investment plans for slum infrastructure should be given priority as facts shows that slums have 20-25% of population but use less than 3 percent of land. The poor especially the children do not have any formal stake over land and hence are not a part of the planning process indicates the gap between the planners and the reality. Time has come for the planners to visioning the world class cities with proper inclusion of urban poor and young children living in it.

  It is noted that the central government has two major policies such as JnNURM and RAY for urban development where there has been plans to redevelop slums and to make India free from slums. But civil society members across India are now advocating for an inclusive development for all where women and children have equal share in the planning process and ensure a safe living condition for all.

 Keeping in mind the above statistics and information, if we analyse the statement by Naidu at Seoul things are very much superficial. The government has plans to adopt modern scientific methods of town and country planning practices based on Geographical Information System (GIS) in urban development. It is worth mentioning here that many programmes such as RAY and BSUP is facing issues like ownership of land as many slums in India are in forest lands or having such dispute. Any such relocation of people from existing set up to a farer place is simply not solving the issue of achieving Slum free India.

Again plans of extension of metro services to important and major urban centres, development of twin cities and creating infrastructure in satellite cities are other priority areas where now the new government is focusing on which is in other way ignoring the middle class which constitutes more than 40 percent in any urban settlement.

While the last budget it was announced for 100 new smart cities, now many civil society organisations have been questioning on the smartness of this smart city idea. However, every single day poor living condition is forcing most inhabitants of urban India to a unhealthy and unsafe well-being. Despite strengthening the existing plans in terms of hassle free execution of Urban Developmental plans, the new idea of smart cities seems very unreal in terms of implementation as the budgetary allocation is not sufficient.

The existing issues  that every urban set up in India is facing is going to be doubled of these smart city plans execute because of the obvious reason of non inclusiveness of such an idea.

(The writer is a Bangalore based development journalist and researcher on Urban Planing and Slum Development in India)


LogoLink calls for making citizen participation substantive


LogoLink – Learning Network on Citizen Participation and Local Governance held the Partners’ Meeting on 22-25 September 2014 in New York City. In 2013, LogoLink undertook a review and analysis of policies and practices of citizen participation in local democratic governance as evolved in the past decade. This analysis suggested the need for a renewed discourse on citizen participation in different regions of the world in the changing context of democratic governance. Over the last year more than 500 organisations of civil society, academic institutions, local governments and their networks have been consulted in Asia, Africa and Latin America which resulted in the Global Charter on Right to Citizen Participation in Local Governance. A central message emerged from these consultations as the existing institutional spaces and mechanisms for citizen participation are inadequate to make participation meaningful and substantive. The decision making with regard to mobilisation and utilisation of public resources for common public good is still dominated by the elite groups in the society and polity across the world. The Global Charter, therefore, proposes a set of concrete actions for civil society, governments and donors. The Partners’ Meeting was an opportunity to deliberate on the emerging lessons on opportunities and challenges faced by civil society organisations across the world in promoting citizen participation in local governance institutions.The updates from various regions highlighted some common trends.

  • Societies and economies across the globe are experiencing profound economic and demographic dynamics, characterised by increasing inequalities and concentration of wealth and power with handful people and corporations; the developing world is experiencing an increased urbanisation, often in an unplanned and unsustainable manner coupled with a tremendous bulge of young people with different aspirations.
  • Despite decades of existence, the decentralisation of governance has remained uneven and incompletein many countries of the global south. Many observed that there is in fact a deeper tendency for recentralisationof governance and increased influence of corporate power over public policies.
  • Despite significant progress in the past century, democratic models under stress. There is increased concentration of power and control in the state and political parties, undermining the practice of participatory citizenship; there seems to be a deeper crisis of representation, as citizens are losing trust in the political system.
  • These trends of increasing centralisation, concentration of power, wealth and control and increasing inequalities are also being contested by citizens from the below as evidenced througheruptions of mass protests across developed and developing societies.
  • Emergence of digital technology is impacting the society in a profound way. Societies and people are getting connected with common interests and issues. There are opportunities to relate to the state directly, but often these engagements are individualised and isolated which undermine the values and strengths of collective engagement. On the other hand state is also exerting a new form of control over the citizens through technology.
  • The ‘deep-democracy’discourse is now equated with transparency and accountability. A major focus is on anti-corruption and making governments open. Many a times the global efforts (e.g. Open Government Partnership) are disconnected from the local civil society networks.

What do all these mean for citizen participation? The Partners’ Meeting explored this question vis-à-vis each major trend.

Uneven and incomplete decentralisation: In the last decade there have been proliferation of institutionalised spaces for citizen participation, however the question is how substantive are these spaces for substantive and meaningful changes, particularly that for the most marginalised and poor. As more often these spaces do not satisfy citizens’ needs and aspirations there is disillusion and disengagement from a large number of citizens. A new set of strategies must be in place to make these spaces inclusive and substantive and to transform the local governance institutions as schools for practicing participatory citizenship.

Stressed democratic models: The role of political parties and the nature of political system shape the nature of citizen participation and therefore cannot be ignored. In many contexts the local patronage networks determine the outcome of citizen participation. As the representative democratic institutions often fail to nurture citizen aspirations there have been a surge of mass protests by the citizens some of which also embrace violent expressions. However, such display of discontents also provides opportunities for harnessing greater assertion of rights and political expression by the citizens.

Digital technology: Technology holds great potential for re-engaging citizens and activating state response by linking locality and interest as basis for collective action. In recent times a lot of online civic engagement initiatives are enthusiastically being practiced; however there is also a hype associated with this technology at this moment. It must be acknowledged that apart from the uneven access to technology, the civic technology initiatives are also disconnected from one another. In addition, there is also limitation to enable ‘thick’ and collective engagement beyond ‘thin’ and individualized participation. However, with a thoughtful strategy, technology can create opportunities for linking these apparently unconnected initiatives for learning citizenship.

From democracy to transparency and accountability: In recent years there have been dramatic expansion and growth of social accountability practices. It offers useful tools for citizen engagement and institutionalises rights to information and participation to a great extent. However, many social accountability initiatives also promote a narrow focus on the use tools and not on politics which transforms power relationships. Its focus on monitoring of state performance to a large extent undermines the co-construction of development solutions by the state and citizens. Strategies must be in place to complement social accountability practices with other methods and practices of citizen participation.

The Partners’ Meeting calls for a renewed collective global action for promoting substantive citizen participation and identified three thematic areas, namely institutionalising spaces for citizen participation, urban governance and planning, and participatory development.

In the next phase of LogoLink, PRIA will assume the Global Coordination role with the help of an Executive Committee. LogoLink aspires to develop a new programme involving new actors and regions and invites like-minded civil society organisations, academic, local government officials, elected representatives and policy makers in this endeavour as partners and supporters.

Terraurban – monthly digest : July 2014

Below is a quick look at all the action on Terraurban in the month of July. You may also like to download the digest by clicking at: Terraurban- July monthly digest

Terraurban- July digest 20141 copy Terraurban- July digest 20142 copy Terraurban- July digest 20143 copy

Health for urban poor and the community voices.

by Abhishek Jha, PRIA

Very recently Government of Bihar, approved the implementation of centrally sponsored Health for Urban Poor program in the State.

Abhishek in the article below is sharing a ‘conversation’ with the urban poor community representative organisation – Settlement Improvement Committee (SIC) regarding the same scheme. PRIA has facilitated constitution of these SICs in various urban poor settlements across the country since 2012.


PRIA Facilitator: So finally you all should be congratulated as you have something to cheer for since the government of Bihar has finally approved the implementation of centrally sponsored health for urban poor scheme.

SIC member- Thank you sir, it is really good news for us that government is concerned about the health of urban poor now.

SICmember (2):It is not so good news, it is a complete hogwash by the government.

Facilitator: What makes you think so?

SIC member :I personally feel it is actually an effort by the government and its agencies to dissolve the burning issue of housing for the urban poor since they have failed to address it predominantly.

Everyone in chorus: Yes it’s true, even we think so; government is trying to fool us by doing so and launching programs like health for urban poor.

The chorus generates a bit of aggression among the people present in the meeting and they say “ if need be we can show  it to the government how healthy are we by protesting and fighting against the government, which has failed straightaway to implement housing programs even after completing surveys several times.”

Taking the discussion further, people felt strongly that, even though they often use their hard earned money for addressing health issues,  they have always have the options of visiting government hospitals as they live in a city and what the government is overlooking is  addressing the root causes which work as catalysts  for health issues among the urban poor.

If we diagnose the community discussion further, it is hard to term them wrong. The status of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene which are also termed as core basic services remains pathetic in these urban poverty pockets and undoubtedly these are the major factors which ultimately decides the health of urban poor. Defecating in open, or in unhygienic community toilets, drinking untreatedwater makes people vulnerable to a large extent towards diseases, which obviously needs to be addressed first instead of constructing Primary Health Centres (PHCs) in these settlements.

Apart from this, a sneak-peek in to previous centrally sponsored schemes (specifically addressing urban poverty) in the state will add more metal to the collective reasoning made by the community. Nationally sponsored schemes like BSUP, IHSPDP (under JnNURM) didn’t show very encouraging results in the state and very recent Rajiv AwasYojna (RAY) has failed to take off in the state till date.  Unavailability of hindrance free land in the urban areas has been cited as one of the major reasons behind infectivity in implementation of these housing schemes. At the same time this forces us to rethink how government is planning to implement the construction of PHCs (for every 50,000 population in the city) when they see land as unavailable entity.     




Nepal initiates a move towards child-friendly governance: Can India follow the footsteps of its neighbouring country?

By-Raksha Sharda, Humara Bachpan Campaign

Children living in urban poverty are not only deprived of affordable housing but also basic services such as electricity, safe water, paved roads, public space and poor infrastructure in terms of schools and health care facilities. Children are exposed to multiple risks in cities: polluted air, dirty water, traffic accidents, lack of sanitation, inadequate nutritional intake, garbage dumps surrounding their living areas which also turn out to be their playgrounds.

There is a need to turn focus and attention to children in urban areas than has not been done so far. To address the issues of children and mainstreaming their needs in the urban agenda UNICEF and the UN Habitat launched the Child Friendly Cities Initiative in 1996. The initiative has now evolved into a worldwide movement with municipalities in different countries promoting and implementing initiatives to realize the rights of a child. In all of these countries, authorities are working to ensure that children’s rights are reflected in policies, laws, programmes and budgets at the local level.

The phrase “child-friendly” is multi-dimensional and comprehensive. Firstly, it is about the attitudes and sensitization of child friendly issues, secondly, it is related to child friendly behaviors, and thirdly it is concerned with child friendly planning and infrastructures as well as publications. A tripartite bond can only help to create a child friendly environment. It is a city, or more generally a system of local governance, committed to fulfilling children’s rights, which includes: influencing the decision about their city, express their opinion, participate in family, community and social life, receive basic services, walk and play safely, live in an unpolluted environment be an equal citizen of their city and a well-planned indicators of quality of life. In a child-friendly city, children are active agents, their voices and opinions are considered and influence the decision making process.

Following these guidelines Nepal along with the support from UNICEF took a key initiative of Child-Friendly Local Governance (CFLG) which seeks to put children at the core of the development agenda of local bodies, line agencies and civil societies. CFLG provides a framework or an overall guidance to the government in realizing and mainstreaming the rights of children which includes survival, development, protection and participation into the local government system, structure, policies and process. It facilities and coordinates the realization of child-rights at and between the national and sub-national level. UNICEF has been working closely with the Ministry of Federal Affairs and Local Development (MoFALD), to develop the CFLG strategy that promotes all stakeholders at the local level to plan together to achieve the results for children as outlined in the strategy. The strategy is also being supported by various NGOs to adopt a bottom up approach for promoting planning for children and ensuring the participation of children in these processes. A child-friendly governance system is a stepping stone to ensure that the cities also become child-friendly.

Another key initiative taken by GoN is the establishment of Center Child Welfare Board (CCWB) and District Child Welfare Boards (DCWBs) in 75 districts of Nepal which carries out massive programs to aware and sensitizes children and community on child rights; protect children from abuses and violations and legal support. Other initiatives made by the Government of Nepal (GoN) include: development and implementation of 10 year child development plan (2004-2014), declaring the National Child Policy (2012).
At the policy level, the MoFALD convinced the GoN to officially endorse CFLG as an integral part of its Local Governance and Community Development Program (LGCDP) which is a multi-stakeholder governance programme between Government of Nepal and thirteen development partners. Secondly, CFLG also got reflected in the GoN’s Three Year Interim Plan. In terms of budgetary provision, MoFALD ensure a mandatory provision of 10% for women, 10% for children and 15% for CFLG initiatives specified in the Village Development Committee (VDC) and District Development Committee (DDC) block grant guidelines endorsed by the Cabinet. CFLG national framework also includes provision for 15% of the overall local body resources to be allocated for CFLG initiatives. Further, Municipal authorities have committed NRs 23 million (US$ 3.1 million) for CFLG initiatives over the next five years. These efforts are commendable and should act as an eye opener for other countries including India. Though, monetary provisions alone to do not guarantee progress, but GoN have made tremendous efforts to ensure effective implementation of CFLG.

At the local level, CFLG has been rolled out in 39 districts, 15 municipalities and 300 VDCs. Children are making their voices heard through 13,291 active Child Clubs in over 52 districts, and as members of the 40,000 Ward Citizens Forums, in the VDC, DDC and Municipal planning committees as well. With 27 sectoral and 12 institutional indicators centred on child’s right, municipalities and VDCs implementing CFLG are taking steps to ensure that their cities/towns are child-friendly.

Municipalities have started looking at the process of development through the lens of a child wherein children voices and their participation in decision-making bodies is encouraged. In Dang district, for example, the municipality has made arrangements to allocate open spaces for parks. Child clubs in Biratnagar, which is the second largest city after Kathmandu have helped the municipality identify children missing out on education and immunization. These child club members also helped increase the enrolment of Muslim girls who had not been attending school due to the schools’ restriction on school uniforms. As soon as the children managed to convince Biratnagar and the District Education Office to allow those girls to wear salwar kameez instead of skirts, the girls started going to school. Biratnagar Municipality in partnership with Biratnagar child-clubs ensured that their voices were reflected in key local level policy documents and program interventions.

Real ‘child-friendliness’ can only be achieved through a long-term commitment of child friendly policies and the commitment levels of all concerned duty bearers and political will to the implementation of child rights. Unplanned urban sprawl, inaccessible housing, non-existence of basic services and loss of open green spaces has not only decreased the living standards of the people but it also increased its vulnerability to disasters. Despite these developmental challenges, Nepal is encouraging CFLG making it a national strategy and laying the foundation for building child-friendly cities. While our neighbouring country is taking strong initiatives to look the world through children’s eyes, encourage children participation, listen to their voices and respect children as human beings with their rights and responsibilities, this should act as an eye opener to the policy makers, bureaucrats, municipalities, civil society organizations in India to initiate towards a child-friendly local governance and ensure coordination and collaboration among various agencies leading the way toward a child-friendly governance and cities.

Urban dialogue on poverty issues at Bodh Gaya

Dalit Vikas Abhiyan Samiti (DVAS) and Participatory Research in Asia (PRIA) are jointly working on the issues of urban poverty in state of Bihar and in specific in the city of Gaya. DVAS and PRIA, on 16 July 2014 organised a unique forum to bring forth an exchange dialogue between community, civil society, service providers and academicians.

Executive from the ULB, Vice- Chairperson ULB, City Manager, Dy. Director Directorate of social security, Chairperson Bihar Economic Council Gaya, President Social Sciences Department, Magadh University, and Elected Representatives from ULB, Members of SICs and representatives from media houses actively participated in the consultation.

Objective of the urban poverty and governance consultation at Gaya

The city of Bodh Gaya is well known for its rich heritage and culture which draws thousands of tourists from all over the world. Over the period of time the city has given way to unplanned urbanization resulting in development of slums and slum like structures. If we refer the 2001 census data it says, there are 4672 HHs living in the slums of Bodh Gaya Nagar Panchayat , further according to Census 2011 data 249HHs are homeless , who are living in Bodh Gaya Nagar Panchayat. However, as per 2006 report of Nagar Panchayat Bodh Gaya number of households living in slums is 3500. As per the survey conducted under SPUR in December 2010, the town had 18 slum pockets housing 3109 households and a population of 20875.

With a new government at the centre which has a strong urban focus and an agenda of making 100 smart cities, issues of urban poverty need to be urgently addressed in the city of Gaya. However the government has shared no such plans as of now. Instead the talk is about large scale and green field developments in the country which the space and provisions for the urban poor in these larger schemes have not been articulated yet.

PRIA had recently done a research study to evaluate in ‘economic terms’ the contribution of the urban poor to the cities they belong to. The major finding of the study was that the urban poor actively contribute about 7-8% to the city economy, however are still neglected by the city in respect to provisions, services and infrastructure. In State of Bihar the state of affairs is no different. Centrally sponsored schemes of Rajiv Awas Yojana (RAY) and Swarna Jayanati Shahri Rozgar Yojana (SJSRY) for the urban poor have not been successful.

DVAS in collaboration with PRIA has been working in the slums of Bodh Gaya since past two and half years, for the collectivization and mobilisation of the urban poor community in Bodh Gaya. Exercise of slum listing and profiling, formation of settlement/slum improvement committees (SICs) in various urban poor pockets of Gaya have been the two major interventions by PRIA and DVAS. These interventions have helped in bringing forth various specific issues related to the urban poor in the city, has helped in generating a much needed database, understand the gaps in access to rights and entitlements of the urban poor in Gaya. SICs have been vital in the community to raise their voice on these issues and also to act as a bridge and mediator between the service providers and the community at large.

In the light of the above, the objective of this consultation at Gaya was twofold:
• To bring multiple stakeholders (CSO, State, Urban Poor, ULB, Academia, Media etc.) on a common platform to deliberate and discuss issues, challenges and way forward on urban poverty issues of Bodh Gaya and urban poor in general.
• To build alliances and explore collaborations in seeking solutions to urban poverty issues in Bodh Gaya

The consultation was successful in bringing forth various issues and perspectives of all stakeholders associated. Some of the key aspects discussed in the consultation were:

Community members elaborated upon various immediate issues and problems they are facing. Women in specific spoke about lack of sanitation, services, adequate health infrastructure and social evils. The community leaders recognised that all community members need to collectivise and raise their voice against such issues. Knowledge and participation is the need of the day for the urban poor to avail their rights.
It was bought forth into notice that failure of many schemes has often been due to lack of awareness and knowledge dissemination. The service providers (government) and the beneficiaries both should take onus for the same.
The service provider – Nagar Panchayat of Bodh Gaya, also elaborated upon the various governance challenges it faces and requested for a better coordination with the community. Nagar Panchayat’s representative also highlighted various on-going and forthcoming development activities in the city such as infrastructural development in 4 urban poor settlements, installation of solar lights, provision of social infrastructure, provision of urinals etc. in urban poor settlements. However, the issue of providing adequate housing to poor, as elaborated upon by the representative is dictated by the lack of available land in the city.
• Representative from Directorate of social security, Gaya shared several important information with the community dwellers that would facilitate them to avail various schemes and benefits under various schemes as applicable in the State and the city.
• The consultation as a whole was a successful step to bring forth all stakeholders on a common platform and to work in unison on urban poverty issues. This interaction however has to be continuous one to facilitate learning, appropriate service delivery, accountability and participation towards an equal and just development of Gaya.

Terra Urban Monthly Digest – June 2014

Terra Urban is your daily urban blog. Here are the snapshots of dialogues on Terra Urban in month of June