Choosing Srirangapatna

By Anand Sahasranaman, IFMR Finance Foundation

While there is growing acknowledgement of the importance of small and medium cities for sustainable urbanisation, we also need to develop a deeper understanding of the processes through which such cities can meaningfully plan for economic growth and sustainably finance public infrastructure & services.

At IFMR Finance Foundation, we felt that the best way to understand the process of developing a long-term vision for a small city and designing appropriate infrastructure financing solutions would be through a deep, ground-level engagement with a real Indian city.

We approached the Karnataka Urban Infrastructure Development Finance Corporation (KUIDFC) with our proposal to work with a city on sustainably financing its long-term vision for infrastructure development. They were particularly interested in our focus on small and medium cities and helped us set up visits to meet the Deputy Commissioners of Mandya and Mysore districts. The DCs recommended possible candidate cities to situate our initiative in, and we visited five such cities in the Bangalore – Mysore belt: Ramanagara, Krishna Raja Nagara, Nanjanguda, Srirangapatna and Mandya. After our visits, we zeroed in on Srirangapatna as our city of choice.

A number of factors such as population, infrastructure issues, accessibility and interest evinced by city officials went into the choice of city for this initiative. An additional factor that helped swing our choice was the historicity of Srirangapatna, with the challenges of heritage conservation adding a whole new dimension to the nature of infrastructure challenges confronting the city as it prepares for increasing urbanisation.

We are currently in the process of drawing out a long-term vision for the city in partnership with citizens and the local government – specifically focusing on issues of land, water and housing. Our engagement with the city will be a deeply participatory process, with involvement of local citizens, community groups, businesses, slum residents, students and others. At the conclusion of this phase of local engagement, we expect to be able to draw out a unified vision for the future of Srirangapatna – as articulated by local stakeholders. While this vision for Srirangapatna will be the major output from the first phase, we also hope that our work will provide some insights into the nature of processes that can drive ground-level participatory data and information collection.

The objective of the second phase of this initiative will be to design and sustainably finance public infrastructure projects (in the areas of land, water and housing) that are derived from this unified long-term vision. These projects are envisioned to be in the nature of ‘minimal’ investments that the city will need to make today, in order to be reasonably prepared for the coming urbanisation. This will enable a planned approach to urbanisation in Srirangapatna, so that the city does not have to constantly play catch-up – as is the case of our larger cities today.