Effective Decentralization for Sustainable Urban Development: International Governance Best Practices

This paper brings together key features of urban decentralisation in India with specific reference to key challenges and opportunities. It is noted that actions have been taken to empower elected representatives, devolution of fictions and fiscal autonomy. Yet, there is further scope to revisit the tenure and powers of Mayors for better coordination between elected and executive wing, and citizen centricity. It is in this context that future decentralisation needs to proceed taking into account good practices in India and elsewhere. Certain innovations such as core competencies and non-core competencies in Spain, Public Rating of Municipalities in Columbia, Fiscal decentralisation and empowerment in Canada, Participatory Planning in Brazil, approach to strengthen human resources in Chile and creation of equalisation fund in Kenya deserve due attention while looking into urban decentralisation in India.

Decentralised Urban Planning: A Pressing Priority

Decentralised urban planning, along with decentralised urban governance, are two key areas for delivering productivity, efficiency and quality of life to India’s cities. The first deals with the city as a product. The second is concerned with operationalising that product. Since, in the next two and a half decades, the majority of Indians would be living in urban settlements, the role of the national government and the states assume critical significance. Their role lies in prescribing policy frameworks, broad strategies and in finance and investments. Cities at their level need to employ decentralised planning processes, including wide citizen consultations. This will allow cities high levels of productivity, efficiency and liveability.

Beyond 74th Amendment – Alternative Models of Decentralisation and Participatory Governance at the Fourth-Tier

Decentralisation and civic engagement mechanisms suggested under the 74th Constitution Amendment Act had unfolded unevenly across the states. While national initiatives like the Ward Committee and Area Sabha have faced state-level implementation challenges, new models of participation have emerged through entities like Resident Welfare Associations and Self Help Groups, which do not require any changes in the formal political structure. This chapter provides a critique of 74CAA by discussing the model of participatory neighbourhood governance and gender empowerment being implemented through Slum Dwellers Associations under the Jaga Mission in Odisha. The chapter argues that state-level variations in socio-economic factors and urbanisation levels impact their approach towards decentralisation and participation. It is necessary to take into consideration such aspects while re-envisioning the 74 CAA.

Why it is a must to Revisit Urban Governance Structures in India

This paper traces the history of decentralisation as initiated since promulgation of 74 CAA and its impact at ground level. Although, institutional set up is created in the areas of planning and ward committees and political representation, the functional decentralisation is still not achieved as per vision of 74 CAA. There are specific gap of special significance such as: overlapping of roles and responsibilities and lack of accountability at grass root level. In this regard, there is a need to involve stakeholders in the urban governance to address diverse needs of people at large .The institutions of ward committees and alternative institutional arrangements (Kudumbshree) in Kerala provide a model for wider consideration among other states. At the same time,the current pattern of project based funding needs to be replaced by a system of outcome based approach which focalizes the ‘outcome’ to consolidate institutional decentralisation more effectively.


While moving towards Amritkal of Indian independence, we have to revisit basics of urbanisation to carryout comprehensive urban design and infrastructure and link it with implementation for excellence rather than implementation as usual. We have to understand urban role in non-farm sector production and its links in rurban context. At the same time, there is a need to revisit natural ecosystem of cities to effectively counteract climate hardships, remove inefficiencies in built spaces to optimise resources and transform urban communities from consumers to producers of water and energy.

Urban Transformation for India @ 2047

India is moving to become a developed country by 2047, It would be one of the World’s largest economy and urbanisation shall be its backbone. The Government of India has undertaken several missions of urban development, PM Gati Shakti Master Plan (2021), Waterways, Highways and Golden Quadrilateral, Railways and Metro Networks, Amrit Bharat Railway Stations, Urban Development Infrastructure Development Fund (2023) and National Monetisation Pipeline (2021). These initiatives are writing a new script of urban development and provide some key lessons for transforming the urban sector. 


This paper focusses on decentralization of plan preparation and approval process in the light of provisions of 74th Constitution Amendment Act (CAA), 1993 related to spatial planning and also under ‘Urban Development Plans Formulation and Implementation (UDPFI) Guidelines’, 1996 and ‘Urban and Regional Development Plans Formulation and Implementation (URDPFI) Guidelines’, 2014 of the Ministry Urban Development, Government of India and gave suggestions taking into consideration, the ground realities of the Development Plan preparation and approval process enunciated in of 74th CAA under which the powers and authority is bestowed on the local bodies, to function as institutions of self-government. 

Urban Decentralisation and Regional Planning in India: Negotiating State - Local Relations

This paper discusses urban decentralisation and regional planning in India and attempts to bring out the issues in negotiating state - local relations. It begins with a brief overview of urban decentralisation in India and delves into the case of the state of Karnataka. It makes reference to an assessment of the implementation in the state of Karnataka and highlights the huge gaps in implementation of the 74th Constitution Amendment Act and urban decentralisation in Karnataka. It then looks at the specific case of preparation of regional plans and brings out the fact that even in the case of regional planning, there is no decentralisation and it is the state machinery, as against the municipal elected bodies as mandated by the Constitution Amendment Act, which undertake the regional planning exercises. In conclusion, the paper brings to front the urgent need to renegotiate the inherent dichotomy of state - local relations and balance the power equation so that urban local bodies are able to chart out their civic destiny on their own.

Linking City Financing Needs with Domestic Capital: Indian Experience

Increasing demands for infrastructure investment in Indian cities require both public resources and private financing. Since the 1990s, India has implemented municipal finance reforms to facilitate the financing of infrastructure, including reforms to attract private finance. The old financing mechanism before the 74th Constitutional Amendment was unsustainable and inappropriate, and modern financing with half-hearted attempts at promoting sustainable debt coupled with an attachment to PPPs have not improved systemic access for cities to finance.

Municipal Finance: A Case for a Statutory share in State GST to the Municipalities

Financial health of municipalities needs due cognizance on urban decentralisation to be pursued in India@2047. The state of municipal finance in India showswide gap as compared to its normative base vis-a-vis inter-country data The paper examinesthe municipal finance in Maharashtra in the contextof abolition of octroi and associated compensation which appearsto be fairly low as compared to proceeds from GST.As the share of Goods and services Tax (GST) particularly state GST in India has shown rapid increasein its proceeds it need to be shared with local bodies directly .It is suggested that ten percent of proceeds from state GST should be considered for sharing with cities directly. This will improve the  delivery of municipal functions in line with Schedule XII.

Public Private Partnerships; A catalyst for Urban Decentralization in India@2047: A Case for Leveraging Urban Agriculture using Social Equity-based PPP

The institutions of finance and infrastructural development based on PPP have played an important role in financing Urban Infrastructure in India. PPP and decentralisation have a symbiotic relationship in the context of urban projects. The process of decentralisation in urban sector in India or elsewhere is aimed to identify areas to make Urban Local Bodies (ULBs) a vibrant unit of self-governance and facilitator for economic growth for the next twenty-five years. The potential acts to strengthen the process of decentralisation include inter-city experience in India and elsewhere on governance structure, fiscal autonomy, municipal finance, service delivery, infrastructure development, city economy, poverty alleviation, inclusive planning, sustainable and affordable housing, river friendly cities, inter-agency coordination, climate smart delivery of services/climate finance and application of Industry 4.0 standards in urban governance. 

Localizing Land Asset Management as a key to inclusive growth in India

Urban areas are the epicentres of growth and development but struggle with the availability of service land.  Authorities tasked to provide service land deliver a small percentage of the requirement. Community participation to access land for development in the form of Town Planning Schemes or Land Pooling is a key tool. However, there is a need for inclusive participation of low-income communities, especially in hill states like the North-eastern states, which possess a peculiar land ownership regime.

Sustainable and Affordable Housing: Opportunities and Challenges

In the context of rapidly urbanising globe, where the world urban population is projected to reach sixty-eight percent from the current fifty-five percent by 2050 and when global community is pushing for net zero carbon emission by 2050, the need for sustainable and affordable housing assumes critical importance. While housing is fundamental to the socio-economic well-being of the people, the sector is also responsible for between seventeen to twenty-one percent of global carbon emissions. Defining what constitutes sustainable and affordable housing, this paper details out India’s approach on making houses sustainable and affordable. The paper also analyses key challenges and the way forward for promoting sustainable housing.

Role of Small and Medium Towns: New Drivers of Development in the Context of Metropolitan Planning.

Small and Medium Towns(S&MTs) play a very important role in country’s economic development as they constitute 40% of the total urban population as per Census 2011. Small and medium urban centres have long been seen as potentially offering opportunities for regional development encompassing urban and rural areas, people and enterprises. Census 2021 figures are not published yet; however, it is expected that more than half of the urban population shall reside in S&MTs. These towns especially in post pandemic times have assumed much significance. With work from anywhere concept gathering momentum, these towns are bound to grow and prosper. The paper broadly highlights the role of S&MTs as new drivers of development and how with planned development they can redistribute the urban population in a metropolitan regional planning perspective.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) in Sustainable Urban Governance

Artificial intelligence (AI) is revolutionizing technology, prompting government agencies, private entities, and academics to seek guidance. Artificial intelligence is rapidly used to manage urban services, enhance economic growth, improve quality of life, and aid the government. By utilizing sensors, IoT devices, data analytics, and digital platforms for citizen participation and service delivery, integrating AI in urban sectors might considerably boost municipal administration. This chapter focuses on AI legislation and urban applications. It analyzes several AI frameworks for sustainable urban governance, emphasizing the importance of effective transition for cities worldwide. The project aims to provide insights to urban policymakers, professionals, and researchers to improve governance in urban centres and improve quality of life and economic growth.