Master Plan for Urban Areas

Context: India’s G20 Sherpa, stressed at a recent Urban-20 City Sherpas’ meet that a master plan is crucial for any city to manage urbanisation. 

Master Plan for Urban Areas

About Master Planning

  • It is an instrument of governance for urban local bodies (ULBs).
  • It is a statutory plan document, prepared for stream-lining the land use within the delineated planning area. 
  • It is a long-term plan that provides a conceptual layout for future urban growth and development.
  • It includes analysis, recommendations, and proposals for a site’s population, economy, housing, transportation, community facilities, and land use. 
  • It is based on public input, surveys, planning initiatives, existing development, physical characteristics, and social and economic conditions.
  • The validity of a Master Plan is for a specific period and after the expiry of the period it needs revision and modifications. 
  • During the 11th Five-Year Plan, it was proposed to prepare Master Plan for priority towns and growth centers.
  • Recently, most States/UTs have revised their respective bye-laws based on the Model Building Bye Laws 2016 (MoHUA, 2016). It is imperative that the city governments adapt the model regulations and as per their context and economic growth drivers.
  • The powers to prepare master plans remain with State governments.

Significance of Master Planning

  • Growth & development of the city: It helps ULBs in achieving integrated development by considering various aspects such as land use, transportation, infrastructure, housing, environment, and social amenities.
  • Efficient land utilisation: It enables efficient land utilisation by identifying suitable areas for different purposes, and preventing haphazard development.
  • Infrastructure planning: It assists ULBs in identifying the infrastructure requirements of the city or town, such as roads, water supply, sewage systems, etc. to support the growing needs of the population and economic activities.
  • Environmental Sustainability: It incorporates environmental considerations and sustainability principles into the development process to foster a greener and more resilient urban landscape.
  • Disaster Resilience: It helps ULBs in incorporating measures to enhance the resilience of cities and towns to natural disasters, such as floods, earthquakes, and cyclones by identifying vulnerable areas, designing appropriate infrastructure, and implementing disaster risk reduction strategies.
  • Social equity: It takes into account the social aspects of urban development for the economically disadvantaged, provision of basic services to marginalized communities, and accessibility for people with disabilities to create inclusive cities where all residents have access to essential services and opportunities.


  • Rapid Urbanisation: Many cities and towns are experiencing rapid population growth and urbanization, which can strain existing infrastructure and resources. Managing this rapid growth and ensuring that the master plan can accommodate future needs is a significant challenge.
  • Limited Resources: ULBs often face financial and resource constraints, making it challenging to implement comprehensive master plans.
  • Inconsistencies in decision-making: Frequent changes in political leadership, lack of continuity in governance, and bureaucratic challenges can hinder the execution of the master plan and result in inconsistencies in decision-making.
  • Data and Information Management: Limited capacity for data collection, data quality issues, and inadequate technology infrastructure can hinder the planning process.
  • Informal Settlements and Slums: Integrating these areas into the master plan and providing adequate housing, basic services, and infrastructure to these marginalized communities can be a complex and challenging task.
  • Environmental Concerns: Balancing urban development with environmental sustainability is a critical challenge.
  • Implementation and Monitoring: Monitoring progress, assessing the impact of implemented projects, and adapting the plan as needed are important but often challenging tasks due to limited capacity, coordination issues, and institutional barriers as per the NITI Aayog Report 2021.
  • No statutory backing: Some city governments lack much authority while some city administrations have developed mitigation plans without statutory backing. For example Bengaluru has not had a master plan to control its development and the Mumbai plan lacks any statutory backing and does not prescribe any regulatory controls.
  • Urban Planning: It is the State subject and as per the 12th schedule of the Constitution and the function of Urban Local Bodies / Urban Development Authorities but the state government has powers to prepare master plans.

Way forward

  • The Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs has recommended that master plans in cities should be revisited for the improved governance of cities. The National Mission for Clean Ganga has been advocating such a step to protect urban water bodies.
  • Many plans to improve sanitation, infrastructure, and social inclusion are dependent on particular programmes, but these are at best ephemeral and incremental as they are centrally funded. 
  • It is simply a spatial plan of land-use allocation supported by bye-laws and development control regulations. Thus, it essentially embodies a spatial vision for cities.
  • The era of planetary urbanisation brings spatial planning into sharp focus, and calls for reimaging the spatial planning framework in India.
  • Recent moves such as Gati Shakti and Model Rural Transformation Acts are a reflection of this growing demand. The Centre must work with the States to reconsider the spatial planning framework in India.

The Advisory Committee of Niti Aayog recommends a National Council of Town and Country Planners to be constituted as a statutory body of the Government of India.

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