NCAER released a new book covering critical issues pertaining to land prices and other challenges facing the land sector in urban India at an event held in its new Conference Centre. These issues assume added significance in view of the fact that India is one of the most land-scarce countries in the world. This scarcity has been increasing at a rapid pace in urban India. On current population trends, land per capita in India by 2050 will have declined four fold relative to 1960. The resulting rise in urban land prices has led to the growth of unauthorised settlements, inadequate infrastructure, squalor, and homeless populations. Land regulation is hampered by the absence of systematic data collection and analysis, and by poorly drafted laws and the limited management capacities of urban development agencies. Despite these concerns, urban economics in India has remained a neglected field of policymaking and policy assessment.
This conference volume edited by Shashanka Bhide and Devendra B Gupta contains invited papers from NCAER’s Round Table in New Delhi on Land Economics–Issues and Challenges. The Editors also commissioned several additional papers that the Round Table did not cover. The ten papers cover the full array of problems that confront India’s urban areas. It is a testimony both to the quality of these papers and to the persistence of the problems that the papers remain fully relevant and have much to offer four years after the NCAER Round Table.
In his presentation on the key themes in the book, Shashanka Bhide who recently retired as the Director of the Madras Institute of Development Studies, Chennai and was earlier the Senior Research Counsellor at NCAER pointed out that, “there is a need for an integrated and flexible approach on the use of natural resources for urban development. The rural-urban links need to be recognized, changing ways of transport and commerce need to be recognized and more importantly equity and sustainability of expanding urban spaces should guide policies.”
The inadequate availability of serviced land and built-up space for growing city populations acts as a serious constraint on rational, productive, and environmentally sustainable urban growth. NCAER’s work on land issues suggests that land regulation and related legal frameworks in India are crying out for more systematic data collection and analysis. In addition, apart from the high costs of land acquisition and development, numerous clearances relating to the environment, urban arts, fire, local area zonal restrictions, and aviation require almost 7 to 10 years according to experienced developers. This is both because of poorly drafted laws and regulations and the growing but still limited management capacity of many urban development agencies. These agencies are often unable to enforce compliance on regulations to do with planning, zoning, FAR, density, and setbacks, driving a big wedge between intention and actuality. This acts as serious bottlenecks to the cost effective and orderly use of urban land. This book is part of the growing body of ongoing robust research programme work at NCAER on cities and urban areas.
The launch of the book was followed by a panel discussion on ‘Why this Chaos in India’s Urban Land Markets’ moderated by Shekhar Shah on the fundamental questions raised in the book as they apply to India. The panellists included Amitabh Kundu, Distinguished Fellow, RIS; Deepak Sanan, Senior Adviser, NCAER; E. Jayashree Kurup, Head of Content & Advisory, Magic Bricks; and A. K. Jain, Former Commissioner, Delhi Development Authority.
Bringing the afternoon to a close, Devendra B. Gupta, co-Editor of the book and Senior Adviser at NCAER, said, “This book represents NCAER’s effort to promote economic analysis relating to urban land, which requires far more attention than is being currently accorded to it. We hope that the discourse in the book will inform greater discussion on urban land issues, leading to vital policies for urban development.”
NCAER collaborated with Omidyar Network for this event and for the NCAER Land Policy Initiative, and the Think Tank Initiative for the original Round Tale