Episode 18: Should cities abandon Masterplans?

Anjali Karol Mohan / Talking Heads / 10 June 2023 / 01:05:39


The Flaws of Top-Down Urban Planning: A Conversation with Dr. Anjali Karol Mohan

Urban planning is essential to the development and growth of a city. The master plan, a long-term planning document that provides a conceptual layout for the future growth and development of a city or region, is a key element of urban planning. However, the implementation rates for master plans are often low, leading to questions about the usefulness of this concept.

In a recent episode of the OoruLabs podcast, Dr. Anjali Karol Mohan, a partner at Integrated Design, discussed the flaws of top-down urban planning and the need for a more bottom-up approach. According to Dr. Mohan, the current process of master plan development is flawed because it is primarily a top-down process that is too far removed from the ground reality of the city.

One of the issues with the current process is that it is largely driven by the Bangalore Development Authority (BDA) and focuses primarily on land use planning. However, the city is much more than just land use. It also involves physical infrastructure, such as water provision and sanitation, as well as social infrastructure, such as schools and hospitals. These aspects are largely missing from the current master plan.

Another issue is the lack of involvement of various arms of the state, such as the BBMP, PWD, and BWSSB, in the development of the master plan. This creates a horizontal gap between the arms of the state and prevents a comprehensive understanding of the city.

To address these issues, Dr. Mohan argues for a more bottom-up approach to urban planning. This approach involves devolving urban and regional planning as a function to municipalities, which can then prepare their own plans for their jurisdiction through ward committees. These ward-level plans can then be consolidated by the BBMP, which can iron out the differences and create a city plan.

The advantage of this approach is that it allows for a more comprehensive understanding of the city, with input from various stakeholders and a focus on the ground reality. It also ensures that the planning process is more inclusive and democratic, with greater participation from citizens and local communities.

In conclusion, while master plans are still essential to urban planning, the current process is flawed and needs to be re-evaluated. A more bottom-up approach that involves greater participation from citizens and local communities is essential to creating a comprehensive and effective city plan that can guide the future growth and development of the city.