Urban Land and Infrastructure- IIHS


This thematic area of the IUC will focus on a central issue in urbanizing India: the management and development of land as a core opportunity for increasing the growth, equity and sustainability of our cities and surrounding regions. Land policy, politics, and markets are intertwined with infrastructure development incentives and possibilities; the combination of land and infrastructure shapes employment, mobility, environmental sustainability and other key aspects of development. 

The challenges are increasingly obvious. Cities have witnessed a wide economic expansion, but at the same time are facing environmental challenges and straining under the weight of providing services and housing to the expanding workforce upon which economic growth depends. These pressures have added to and sharpened existing conflicts around land: within cities as usage evolves, at the peri-urban interface of expanding city regions as rural/agricultural land is transformed for urban use, and in intra-city over exploitation of resources and the use of land, to name a few examples. The participants – a range of public and private actors, formal and informal, powerful and marginalized, operate and interact in overlapping but fragmented market and political arenas. The competition is often unequal and important dimensions of value such as sustainability and cultural importance are often distorted in the transactions that do occur.

Similarly (and in part consequentially), infrastructure development has been uneven and service provision varies across and within cities. Decision-making about infrastructure – and land development more generally - in urbanizing regions is fragmented across three levels of government and often multiple local or even state governments. Infrastructure providers are one of the many parties in the contests over land use, and not always the most powerful. As organizations, they are often the locus of conflict over land use – their decisions and actions shape the rewards for all involved.The responses are less clear. A number of existing central government programs - JNNURM, IDSMT and the RAY - attempt to tackle infrastructure deficits and strengthen land management institutions in various ways. A few state governments have launched significant reviews of and some reforms in urban and peri-urban land management policies. Urban governance – the interlocking relationships between elected and appointed officials, citizens and public sector, local bodies and state leadership – is also evolving. The portfolio is encouraging, but far from complete.

This thematic area attempts to unravel some of the roots of the current bottlenecks in land development and explore ways in which we can begin to respond effectively and democratically to the challenges outlined above.

The first focus of this thematic area is to understand the genesis and consequences of stubborn conflicts over land, focusing particularly on processes and practices of land consolidation, acquisition, planning and use as well as locating these conflicts within the politics and political economy of land in contemporary India. The second focus of the theme area explores ways to expand the opportunities within existing political, policy, and market arenas to resolve some of these contests over land and land development. The third focus area explores the connections between land, on the one hand, and mobility, employment and infrastructure, on the other and starts to explore these as the basis of the response to the challenges described above.

The thematic area is structured around two plenary panels that explore the meta-questions of land, density and layout its interconnections with mobility, employment and infrastructure. The questions raised by these plenary panels will then be addressed in detail in three workshop sessions on infrastructure and land finance; regulatory and policy responses to evolving usage of land; and the politics of land and housing. Within these sessions, particular emphasis will be given to outlining appropriate scales, sectors and geographies of intervention by market, state and community actors.


Plenary 1: Integrated Infrastructure Policies (household/ individual)

Plenary 2: Integrated Infrastructure Policies (Macro Economy)

The plenary, composed of academics, finance and infrastructure professionals, and representatives of key urban constituencies will focus on ways in which political, bureaucratic, and market underpinnings for better integrating infrastructure, housing, and land decisions could emerge. The panels will explore the prospects for integration from two perspectives: that of the household/individual and that of the macro-­-economy.


Deep Dive 1: Land Acquisition: Regulation and Practice

This workshop will look at the law, key issues and challenges, the political economy and practices around land acquisition, relief and resettlement, especially in the context of the new Bill(s) on land acquisition, relief and rehabilitation.


Deep Dive 2: Infrastructure and Spatial Prioritization

This workshop will examine the current systems In place for spatial integration of infrastructure development, focusing in particular on identifying ways in which planning could be improved through politically and technically feasible changes in urban management. It will explore some of the institutional, political, cultural incentives underlying the current fragmentation of responsibility, and examine some of the potential technology, political, and economic drivers for change.


Deep Dive 3: Infrastructure & Sustainability

Land is one of the key natural and the most contested resources in urban areas, but it often involves far more than simply the observable territory; land is an important part of the urban ecological fabric – as a “green lung”, a wetland, a habitat. The workshop will examine various issues of environmental sustainability with regard to land, land use and land cover, paying particular attention to the causes and consequences of land use changes and evidence of the impacts of this process.


Deep Dive 4: Low Income Housing: re-examining Upgradation

This workshop will critically examine the assumptions and diverse frames behind “low income housing” – from definitional debates on conceptions, measure and entitlement paradigms to contemporary efforts including public, market-based and policy programs seeking to fill the growing housing shortfalls in Indian cities. The panel will look particularly at the Rajiv Awaas Yojana as a strong contemporary housing response by the State, asking what it would take for the RAY to be a successful intervention that integrates housing with other aspects of economic and social infrastructure to create liveable, dynamic, and inclusive cities.