The Process

By Dinesh Lodha, IFMR Finance Foundation

Planning and developing a city’s future is an exercise in understanding what the city wants for its future growth. A city in this case is not just roads, houses and concrete – it is the people, it is the entire ecosystem that gives the city a life of its own. Urban planning that pays heed to this fundamental notion would go a long way in planning and building infrastructure that caters to a city’s future as envisioned by its residents. Considering the scale and scope of problems in our larger cities and the need to develop smaller cities, there is a tremendous opportunity for urban planners when it comes to planning for the long-term future of small and medium cities.

Our initiative in Srirangapatna is an effort to start from scratch and build a ground-level engagement with the residents of the city to help them plan their city’s future. As part of this endeavor we have devised a five-step process that aims to address the following questions:

  • What are the long-term infrastructure investments that a small city like Srirangapatna will need to make today in order to be prepared for increasing urbanisation and the corresponding pressures of public services, and how can these investments be sustainably financed?
  • How can citizens be made an integral part of the financing processes so that they see themselves as partners, with rights in and responsibilities for the city’s future growth? What are the incentives that can be built into financing mechanisms that create increased accountability from the local government and greater responsibility from citizens?

The process involves the following phases:

  1. Current state diagnostic: The first phase of the project will therefore be focused on local data generation. The data required as input to the citizen engagement process – will be collected through a mix of existing city-level public data and our own data generation processes on the ground.
  2. Community visioning exercise: The data collected in the first phase and our analysis of the data will form the basis for a series of discussions with citizens on the future of their city. The consultation or visioning process will involve the local government, citizens, businesses and other stakeholders.
  3. Infrastructure gap analysis: The output of the visioning exercise with local stakeholders will be used to draw out the long-term public infrastructures required to translate the vision into reality. We will develop an analytical framework that can translate the broad long-term vision for the city into individual infrastructure projects.
  4. Infrastructure financing plan: The next step will be to develop sustainable financing models for the identified infrastructure investments – with an appropriate mix of private finance, citizen taxes and fees and government grants. It will be critical to get citizen buy-in for these projects because sustainability of many of these projects will hinge on the willingness and ability of citizens to pay for these services. We will therefore focus on building the right incentives into the financing mechanisms so that all parties – the local government, private parties and citizens – are incentivised to behave in ways that ensure the long-term viability and maintenance of the infrastructure created.
  5. Monitoring and implementation: Finally, we will work with the local government in realising the identified investments.

To have deep meaningful conversations with the residents about the future of their city, we first felt the need to know about its current infrastructure state. Our Current State Diagnostic step, the process of which we would be detailing in subsequent posts, was an effort to get a pulse of the city’s current infrastructure through a combination of intensive physical mapping and surveys of households.

The diagnostic step that took us 2 weeks to complete and involved mapping 23 wards of the city and conducting 256 personal interviews along with 13 business surveys was an exercise in observing and listening to where Srirangapatna stands today. With this basic understanding and a sense of humility about the tasks ahead till the completion of the Five-Step Process, we are excited to be creating a model that we hope would be replicable across small and medium cities in India.