FEATURE: Providing land access for climate-resilient infrastructure – India’s experience
The scarcity of land for development, and resulting high cost of land, is a challenge for developing new, climate-resilient infrastructure in India. Several local government bodies have trialled innovative schemes to work around this, but their successes are – as yet – insufficiently known and replicated. Souhardhya Chakraborty of ICLEI South Asia reports.
Land availability for climate resilience
At the turn of the millennium, India’s urban local bodies saw their roles and responsibilities expand. One of their new responsibilities was ‘climate resilience’. In the two decades since then, the resilient cities movement has also gained momentum rapidly, worldwide.
Unfortunately, land availability is scarce in cities and yet land is one of the basic underpinnings for developing climate resilient infrastructure, particularly new infrastructure. Most urban local bodies in India operate to provide basic services to their citizens in scenarios where land is scarce and extremely expensive.
State enactments to provide access to land
While the demand for land to develop climate-resilient infrastructures is increasing, the supply remains constrained.
Fallout of development on scarce land includes: involuntary displacement of residents, loss of livelihoods, inadequate compensation and lack of distributed benefits from land value improvements following development. To address these issues and related discontent, various mechanisms for accessing land have been enacted over the years by different State governments in India.
Prominent among such enactments is Gujarat’s Town Planning Scheme, by which land owners need to surrender their land in its entirety to the authorities, in lieu of which they are entitled to reconstituted land.
The Accommodation Reservation and Transfer Development Rights of Mumbai follows a similar approach, except that instead of a reconstituted land, the land owner receives an area calculated under the equivalent Floor Space Index (FSI).
The Cluster Redevelopment Scheme is rather unique in the sense that although the mechanism is the same as the previously-mentioned Mumbai laws; in this case, instead of a single owner, there are multiple tenants and a single owner who form part of the beneficiary list. This becomes especially important for redevelopment of urban cores and city centres, where single buildings typically have multiple tenants and occupants.
In order to access land for climate-resilient infrastructure, the best example among the various innovative land access models would be the Town Planning Schemes implemented by Ahmedabad Urban Development Authority. These have developed an urban area spanning 1,866 sqkm and covering a population of almost 9 million, as per the city’s Revised Draft Development Plan 2021 proposals.
Some of the prominent environment infrastructure projects implemented by the Ahmedabad Urban Development Authority through the various Town Planning Schemes include:
- City-level water supply, sewerage, stormwater drainage and recreational projects (includes parks, open spaces, theme based parks, organised green and water bodies) and
- Neighbourhood-level water supply network, sewerage network, stormwater drainage network, recreational, and lighting and street lighting projects.
In addition, 250,000 units of social housing with improved amenities of water supply, sewerage, electricity connection etc were constructed for 1.2 million slum dwellers and economically weaker families. These provisions encompassed 135 Town Planning Schemes spanning an area of 225.91 sqkm, of which only about 33% was used by the city government to implement the provisions and the remaining 67% of reconstituted land was returned to the land owners. Apart from this, a 270 million litres per day water treatment plant, a 240 million litres per day sewage treatment plant, solid waste management facility, tree plantation etc were implemented.
Accessing land for climate infrastructure
These innovative, State-led mechanisms have the potential of being replicated elsewhere in India to provide land for developing climate-resilient infrastructure.
In this regard, it is important to note that in India, it is seldom stated outright that land is being accessed for climate-resilient infrastructure. More often than not, climate-resilient infrastructure is masked: it falls under the guise of the usual service provisions or developments that are earmarked in the Master Plan or the Development Plan.
Nonetheless, such simple mechanisms will ensure that the government can access land for its needs and at the same time the land owners can enjoy the benefits of land value gains which accrue after the development of the climate-resilient infrastructure.
It is however advised that Town Planning Schemes are more suitable for both greenfield and brownfield contexts, while the Accommodation Reservation, Transfer Development Rights and Cluster Redevelopment Schemes are suitable for a brownfield context. As State-led mechanisms are specific to the type of land they access – such as for brownfield redevelopment, retrofitting, urban periphery and greenfield sites – a hybrid land policy that employs different mechanisms based on contextual needs could be the answer to the search by several States in India for land for climate-resilient urban infrastructure.
However, there ought to be a unified approach to addressing the issue of land access. Such a unified approach is sorely lacking in the Indian context.
Currently, the information pertaining to these innovative mechanisms remains localised, with little spread to other parts of India. As a consequence, the true potential of these innovative State-led mechanisms has not been exploited. Accessing land for the development of climate-resilient infrastructure continues to be a challenge across the country.
Occasionally, CDKN invites guest bloggers to contribute their views to www.cdkn.org These views are not necessarily those of CDKN or its alliance partner organisations.
For more information:
AUDA. 2014. Land Pooling and Land Management through Development Plan & Town Planning Scheme. Retrieved February 28, 2020, from
Mathews, R., Pai, M., Sebastian, T., & Chakraborty, S. (2016). State led Innovative Mechanisms to Access Serviced Land in India. Scaling Up Responsible Land Governance: 2016 Annual World Bank Conference on Land and Poverty. Washington DC: The World Bank.
Government of Gujarat. 1976. Gujarat Town Planning and Urban Development Act.
Government of India. 2007. Constitution of India, 1949 (Amended).
Government of Maharashtra. 1966. Maharashtra Regional Town and Country Planning Act.
Government of Maharashtra. 1966. Maharashtra Regional Town and Country Planning Act – “Sanctioned Modifications to Regulation 33(9) of Development Control Regulations for Greater Mumbai, 1991 under Section 37(1AAC)(c) of the Act”.
 Adapted from – Mathews, R., Pai, M., Sebastian, T., & Chakraborty, S. (2016). State led Innovative Mechanisms to Access Serviced Land in India. Scaling Up Responsible Land Governance: 2016 Annual World Bank Conference on Land and Poverty. Washington DC: The World Bank.
 Reconstituted land can either be planned and/or serviced land. Planned land is often the reshaping of irregular land parcels into more regular or rectangular shapes along with a statutory change in its use from agriculture to other urban uses; and Serviced land indicates the availability of physical infrastructure such as roads, water supply, drainage, sewerage, electricity etc. Although the reconstituted land might be lesser in area compared to what was surrendered, however, the valuation of the same would be much higher owing to the fact that the reconstituted land is returned post development
Image: Ahmedabad, courtesy jonbrew, flickr