Metropolitan Development Authorities

With an aim to promote and regulate planned growth and development of New Srinagar city and New Jammu City, the State Administrative Council (SAC) headed by Governor Satya Pal Malik has approved Jammu and Kashmir Metropolitan Regional Development Authorities Bill-2018. It is a welcome development in that, the need has been felt to take on the unplanned and haphazard expansion of the two capital cities of the State. Not only is the process of expansion of the cities an issue to be adequately addressed, but how to create matching infrastructure is the real challenge. Besides this, as how to mobilise the resources in a State which has ,more or less remained in a State of inertia in respect of augmenting its revenue base to this extent that the revenues earned conventionally even are not realised when falling due, shall put any planning of the sort to real test. For instance, realisation of power tariff in full and in time remains still confined to office files. Private investment in main projects is imperative but the same is subservient to overall law and order situation which should be conducive as also how State Government incentivised and facilitated rapid investment from the private sector.
The question, again, is as to whether planning for building infrastructure should follow the expansion of cities as a result of population growth or it should precede it which depends upon thinking of tomorrow right today or employing meticulous planning strategies to be in preparedness to face rapid urbanization. However, it is a matter of satisfaction that under Governor’s rule, this sensitive but multi dimensional issue got finally its turn to be attended to and accordingly, State Administrative Council, at least recognised the problem that both the capital cities have progressively been experiencing expansion, mostly unplanned. You first recognise the problem, solutions would follow in due process. New townships needed to be developed, causes of road congestions needed to be ascertained and reversed, rapid transport system that was eco – friendly needed to be introduced like metros etc, waste management on scientific lines needed to be given top priority, multi storied buildings housing under one roof many occupants as against in conventional manner to save space, parking slots, setting up joint ventures, etc needed to be incorporated in the urban development strategies and planning.
Are Metropolitan Regional Development Authorities, to a larger extent, an answer to emerging urbanisation related issues, is the moot question. The conventional institutional framework is in dire need to be relooked into and attuned to the problems and the related issues. Going by the experience, in this regard, of a few States in the country like Pune , Mumbai, Gurugram, Hyderabad etc;, we can assuredly deduce that the MRDAs could play significant role in Jammu and Kashmir State too. To achieve the end, legislative support is necessary and accordingly SAC has approved the legislation which is aimed at setting up an integrated institutional framework in the form of the MRDAs for the twin capital cities of the State. The premise rightly is that infrastructure planning must precede population growth and not follow it in desperation. The proposed Bill is seeking to establish a system of coordinating and supervising the proper, orderly and rapid development of areas in these regions and for executing plans, projects and schemes for such development and enter into public private partnership. Among other areas the MRDAs shall be attending to, include preparing infrastructure development plans on notified Master Plan, comprehensive mobility plan for movement of traffic flow, public transport, regulatory measures, urban environment etc. However, the MRDAs will not be overlapping with Municipal and local authorities as both will operate in different functional domains in terms of scale.
Theory part of the entire gamut of issues surrounding the fast but unplanned urbanisation of the twin capital cities and their proposed resolution should be sincerely followed by fleshing the strategies likely to be drafted. We should know that mere legislative pieces in themselves were no substitutes to practical action on the ground. Let us see and watch developments taking place on the subject under reference.