The rapid growth of cities in recent decades has put urban planners in an unenviable position of ‘desperately trying to cope’, a position that has made for a tendency to place the problems of urban development in a perspective of quantity rather than quality, of provision rather than upkeep. A preoccupation with the design and development of new areas has come to be typical of planning agencies throughout the developing world. Whenever upgrading works are carried out, it is as one-time projects conceived as cheaper substitutes for providing new housing. This apart, maintenance and upkeep of existing, particularly old, areas has been relegated to the back seat.

This has at least something to do with the relative simplicity of tasks of planning new developments as compared to the intimidatingly complex nature of issues related to interventions for old areas. These include, in addition to the more comprehensible problems relating to structure and infrastructure and falling within the domain of ‘housing planning’, a number of lesser understood problems relating to market factors, redevelopment interests, rent control, etc., and falling out of this domain into the wider area of ‘urban planning’. Inner city renewal interventions currently in practice in countries such as India are, indeed, geared to the ‘housing planning’ rather than the ‘urban planning’ dimension of the inner city problem and are conceived not very differently from, say, upgrading strategies for squatter areas or substandard peripheral developments.

While conventional upgrading is undoubtedly an important part of inner city renewal, it is, nevertheless, only a part. Interventions in inner city areas need to include much more and, in paying due attention to this wider comprehension, to include conventional components in not so conventional ways. What such interventions could be like is the subject of this article which appraises India’s experience with inner city renewal through two case studies, analysing the basic factors constraining better performance, and delineating a framework for addressing the inner city problem.

An Appraisal of the Indian Experience

In 1981 there were, in old housing areas throughout India, as many as 1.2 million dwelling units1, representing nearly a twentieth of the total housing stock and accommodating, perhaps, nearly 10 million people. Over years of socio-cultural and political changes, these areas have experienced tremendous transformations and have come to demonstrate some typical characteristics. The ageing housing stock is often in structurally poor condition due to a combination of factors including age, inadequate maintenance and the pressures of overuse. On account of intense sub-divisions, the occupancy rates are high and overcrowding and small units are typical. There is usually a large amount of rental stock. Physical infrastructure does exist but, designed for few and used by many, it is usually stressed and the dense, sometimes organic, patterns of development may be unable to accommodate extensions. Intensive mixed land uses are characteristic and most inner city areas are major economic centres. The scale of commerce is usually large and turnover is high, but, paradoxically, the residents are generally low-income and often engaged in informal sector activities, usually home-based and having strong horizontal inter-linkages. On account of traffic congestion and pollution and of incompatible land uses there may be serious environmental problems. Also, inner city areas often have a bad track record with regard to communal politics, riots and high crime rates.

The earliest interventions affecting Indian inner cities, apart from the some­what inconsequential road widening and beautification schemes of the City Improvement Trusts, were, perhaps, Rent Control and Slum legislation. In most cities, the Rent Control Act is the greatest, if not the exclusive, instance of public sector intervention in inner city areas. There is no doubt that the measure, by maintaining rents at affordable levels, has helped stabilise low-income groups in residential neighbourhoods which they would have otherwise lost. However, several negative effects are generally accepted2 and, arguably, rent control has contributed to poor maintenance of old housing stock, seriously compounding the inner city problem. Slum legislation also occupies a central place in the urban renewal scenario of the country and a number of earlier Master Plan documents labeled their inner city areas ‘slums’ and proposed clearance and improvement programmes for them. These programmes, conceived no differently from other such programmes, inadequately addressed both the wider urban context and the special urban heritage of inner city areas. Though the 1960s saw a tremendous interest in conservation and a number of Master Plans started talking of the bypassing, by major city arteries, of old areas and even pedestrianising some areas around major focal points in them, the focus here was on physical conservation, somewhat narrowly confined to more important buildings. On paper, India’s experience in the domain of ‘urban renewal’ as such can, perhaps, be traced to the Master Plan for Delhi (1962) which spelt out an urban renewal programme for its walled city.3 A number of master plans have subsequently made recommendations on similar lines. A number of cities have designated their inner cities as special areas and stipulated for them special development controls or urban renewal measures. In some cases, special authorities have been created. But nowhere has a comprehensive renewal programme been implemented.

Discussed here are two of India’s earliest renewal programmes: the building repair and reconstruction programme in Bombay, which takes a building-by­-building approach to address the problems of obsolescence and dilapidation in the island city; and the proposals for the renewal of the walled city of Delhi, which, by and large, take an area-based approach, attempting to address inner city problems on a broader footing.

The Bombay case

The area currently known as Greater Bombay, delineated as such in 1951, consists of the island city of Bombay and the suburban areas, extending over 438 km2 with an estimated population of 10 million.4 A large section of the city's poor live in chawls, which largely constitute dilapidated housing in Bombay, and which are referred to here as its inner city housing, though strictly speaking, they are to be found as often outside the core city as well. Chawls date back to the turn of the century when large numbers of single migrant labourers were accommodated, in the absence of a planned housing strategy, largely by the private sector, in small single or two-roomed tenements with common facilities. Though each unit paid a small rent, the aggregate of these rents was sufficiently high to make such housing supply attractive to the private sector. After the turn of the century, the Port Trust also started constructing similar housing for renting to its employees. Per capita space was low and density high to start with, but shortage resulted in further overcrowding. Also, most migrants brought their families. Thus structure and facilities, designed for a few and used by many, began to deteriorate much faster than would have been the case normally and dilapidation has come to be a pervasive phenomenon and every year over 100 buildings collapse.5

In 1969, the state government enacted the Bombay Building Repairs and Reconstruction Board (BBRRB) Act whereby the BBRRB was set up, with representation of the Bombay Municipal Corporation (BMC) and the State Housing Board, as a means for preserving, through ensuring timely repairs or reconstruction, the existing housing stock in the areas covered by the Act and cessed under its provisions.6 The Board's scope of intervention extends to three areas: (1) repairs of cessed buildings provided the cost of repairs is within the ceiling limit prescribed by the Act; (2) reconstruction of cessed buildings deemed beyond economic repair; and (3) provision of transit accommodation to occupiers of cessed buildings that collapse or are under repair/reconstruction.

For carrying out structural repairs to cessed buildings, an area-wise priority list is prepared based on a routine appraisal of dilapidated buildings by the BMC, besides suggestions from residents, their associations and elected representatives. If the estimated cost of repairs is within the limit prescribed in the Act, or if the occupiers come forward to bear the excess cost, the Board undertakes repairs. Only affected parts of buildings are repaired and parts of buildings are only replaced if strictly necessary. Moreover, as occupiers are generally not willing to move to transit accommodation as this entails disruption of routine activities, and also because transit accommodation is limited, every effort is made to carry out the works without significantly displacing the occupiers. Generally about 700 buildings are repaired each year.7 The Act also provides for repairs to be undertaken by the occupiers (landlords or tenants or both in partnership). While the majority of buildings have been repaired by the Board, the number of buildings repaired by occupants is by no means insignificant.8

Reconstruction schemes are prepared for buildings deemed beyond economic repair and have to provide for a floor area occupied by the tenants subject to a maximum limit of 68 m2 and a minimum of 15.86 m2 in units with common WCs and 16.70 m2 in self-contained units. Relaxations to the development control rules have been introduced, permitting higher tenement densities, additional building height and greater FSI. In cases where the plot is small in area or narrow in width so that a building cannot be planned, a combined reconstruction scheme may be prepared by including adjoining plots.9 Once a reconstruction scheme is administratively approved and land acquisition proceedings are completed, the reconstruction work is started. Reconstructed buildings are usually conventional RCC frame structures with brick panel walls. The units are allotted to the old occupiers on a rental basis. The Act also provides for granting 'No-objection certificates' (NOC)10 to owners for reconstruction (subject to a number of conditions, mainly that all existing tenants be accommodated in the proposed reconstructed building), or to a cooperative society formed by at least 70% of the occupiers, which is expected to raise 40% of the estimated cost and the Board arranges the rest as a loan from the Housing and Urban Development Corporation (HUDCO), a national level housing finance institution.11

Several procedural problems are encountered in the implementation of the BBRRP. In the repair programme, it is, to begin with, very difficult to have a 'priority list' based upon sound structural analysis as it is practically impossible to thoroughly survey, in the entire inner city, structural members that are often hidden in the thickness of the walls, and there is, besides, the 'non-technical' problem that every ward must have a 'fair' share of the buildings on the priority list. Another problem is whether to remove tenants to transit accommodation (thereby disrupting their socio-economic linkages) or to let them stay (thereby slowing down the pace of the work). Perhaps the most serious problems pertain to post-programme maintenance. The assumption that repairs add 15 years to the life of a building presupposes a fair level of maintenance which seldom comes about and, in many cases, buildings have come for second or third rounds of repairs much earlier, and sometimes even collapsed.

Reconstruction schemes are often faced with inordinate delays and bottle­necks: land acquisition (and litigation), technical approvals for plans, refusal of tenants to vacate, etc. Besides, they entail problems relating to public sector landlordism. Non-payment of rents is common and a survey in the mid-1980s revealed that a majority of families had rent arrears.12 Again, maintenance is generally neglected and reconstructed buildings start looking like dilapidated ones in a few years. In fact, while it is often argued that repairs are temporary solutions which just postpone reconstruction, experience has shown that reconstruction is also far from a permanent solution inasmuch as many reconstructed buildings are soon due for repairs.

In many cases the Board's transit tenements are also in need of repairs. Also, since transit accommodation is mostly in suburban locations, people are generally unwilling to move to it, more so since the size of accommodation is on a reduced scale. In any case, the 22,477 transit tenements that the Board has represent about a fifth of the estimated requirement for transit accommodation and the financial and land resources needed to improve this state of affairs are hard to come by.13

Besides these procedural problems there are certain broader limitations of the BBRRP. To begin with, the programme is somewhat narrowly limited in scope, not only in the sense of taking a limited perspective of the inner city problem (to which I shall return in the next part of this article) but of further confining scope within the limited perspective. For instance, the programme is confined to the island city while the massive suburban areas also contain tenanted buildings requiring repairs. It does not cover buildings belonging to public agencies, although these are in no better condition than others. It is restricted to residential buildings and purely commercial buildings are exempted from cess. In fact, many buildings that were cessed earlier have been de­cessed on grounds of change in use. Their need for repairs is not likely to have mitigated though. Again, in specifying a target of about 20,000 buildings to be repaired in 10 years, the programme takes a static view of a problem which, in fact, is not likely to disappear ever. For instance, some buildings constructed in the 1970s are already in need of repairs and others repaired by the Board have been through, or are ready for, a second or even third round of repairs. A major problem pertains to serious constraints of finance. As per the provisions of the Act, the Board receives a grant from the BMC and one from the State Government, besides contributions by way of ad hoc grants and loans.14 Other sources of the Board's finances are the repair cess that it recovers from buildings covered by the Act and the rent that it recovers from tenements in reconstructed buildings. The cess, calculated on a differential scale based upon the age of the building and its rateable value (as assessed for purposes of property tax) and liable for increase after repairs, is not very efficiently recovered and arrears are high.15 The rent, though heavily subsidised, is often much higher than what the tenants paid to the private landlords, and rent recovery is very poor, falling short of even maintenance expenses, let alone recovering capital costs.16 Presently the funds generated from municipal and state contributions and cess recoveries are of the order of one-tenth of the funds required.17

It may be pertinent to mention here that the problems and limitations noted above have, indeed, received the attention of the programme agencies and the BBRRP had been modified time and again to make it more effective. To improve the financial situation, both the statutory contributions of the municipal and state agencies and the amounts of cess recoverable have been enhanced periodically. The provision for repairs/reconstruction by beneficiaries under the NOC arrangement was also incorporated in an attempt to reduce the burden on the Board. The provision for transfer of reconstructed tenements to occupants on a cooperative ownership basis has also been recently introduced with a view to divest the Board of maintenance responsibilities and other problems of public sector landlordism. In a different direction, an attempt at an area approach in terms of renewal of a group of dilapidated buildings along with infrastructural upgradation has also been forthcoming. These modifications have, however, yet to make a substantial impact on the scheme of things and their efficacy remains constrained by a number of other issues that continue to await addressal. For instance, in view of poor recovery, enhanced cess has served to increase arrears more than resources, the lack of any substantial incentives has constrained the involvement of owners/occupants in, especially, reconstruction activity, the absence of reasonable terms of allotment on owner­ship basis, together with the low rents and de-facto ownership of publicly rented tenements, has resulted in very few takers for the ownership provision, and the area approach, though sound in principle, has not taken off because of several institutional constraints. The last mentioned is also demonstrated by the Delhi case, which is discussed next.

The Delhi case

With a population of 5.7 million in the 1981 census, Delhi is the third largest metropolis in India and the capital of the country. Its walled city (Shahjahanabad) was built in the seventeenth century as the Mughal capital and continues to be a major housing sub-system to date. Originally planned for a population of about 60,000 people in a residential area of about 600 ha, Shahjahanabad bustles with all kinds of 'unintended' activities, its exclusive residential area reduced to about 180 ha and its population increased manifold, and plays a significant economic role as a major distribution centre for North India.18 Though the population of the walled city has declined in recent decades, the invasion of built space by commercial activity has been faster than the depopulation and there are serious overcrowding problems. About half the households live in one-roomed and a third in two-roomed houses.19 Also, though the walled city employs some 350,000 persons and has an annual turnover in billions20 and is, as such, quite a money spinner, it is primarily a city of the poor and nearly two-thirds of the workers are engaged in tertiary occupations, largely in the informal sector.21

The Master Plan For Delhi (MPD-1962) spelled out a comprehensive renewal strategy for the walled city, quantifying, through multiple indexing, the degree of deterioration and obsolescence, to identify areas for conservation, for rehabilitation, and for redevelopment.22 Careful and judicious relocation was seen as 'an important link between these three major components of urban renewal'.23 Obnoxious and village-like industries were proposed to be relocated in urban villages, other industries in flatted factories, and the population rendered surplus by the urban renewal operations in housing which was proposed in the vicinity of the walled city. The land that would become available as a result of these relocation measures was to be used for provision of essential community facilities. The Slum Wing24 was charged with implementing the urban renewal programme described in the MPD. The Ministry for Rehabilitation25 transferred to it about 2600 evacuee properties in the walled city for use for provision of community facilities. The Wing has undertaken improvements in about 650 katras,26 a few redevelopment schemes, construction of 716 resettlement tenements, some transit accommodation, some night shelters, shifting of a cycle market and a dozen or more industries.27 Proposals for shifting activities have met with very limited success and on the whole, progress has been slow to the point of negligible impact.28 While concern for the walled city continued to be voiced in several 'unofficial' quarters, it was not until 1981, when the MPD became due for revision, that the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) took an initiative at reviewing the problem. In the last few years, proposals have come from two quarters, viz, the Perspective Planning Wing of the DDA and the Slum Wing of the DDA.

In September 1984, the Perspective Planning Wing (PPW) of the DDA, acknowledging that extreme approaches like restoration, reconstruction or relocation are not likely to work, outlined a basic policy frame and action plan covering five aspects: (i) commercial de-congestion, (ii) upgrading of physical and social infrastructure, (iii) traffic and transport regulation and management, (iv) conservation and restoration of historical buildings, and (v) revitalisation of residential area. Some prerequisites for action were summarised, and a development code, a list of activities to be removed and a phased estimate were annexed.29 In a seminar in January 1986, the recommendations and the action plan were reiterated.30 Subsequently some of the proposals were spelt out in greater detail.31

It can be argued that any discussion of problems and limitations of a proposed action plan is at best conjectural. But, to the extent that the action plan does not significantly depart from what was proposed more than a quarter-century ago in the MPD, it is possible to make some remarks about the implementability of the various proposals. Regarding commercial decongestion, it is proposed to shift noxious, hazardous and bulk-handling trades and industries from the walled city (which, besides being an unqualified repetition of what was proposed in the MPD-1962, contradicts one of the premises of the current proposal, viz, 'extreme approaches like. . . relocation of trade are not likely to work'), to stop further expansion of the wholesale activity (which could be a reasonable starting point, but which, unfortunately, does not even feature in the proposed time frame), to develop modern wholesale markets in four peripheral locations (which, being potentially remunerative ventures, are, sooner or later, likely to come through, but which are as likely to accommodate activities displaced from the walled city as to end up with unintended beneficiaries, as has often happened in the works of the DDA), and to shift the offices of the Municipal Corporation of Delhi and to use the building for 'museum, library, etc.' (which, arguably, would not significantly contribute to resolving the main problems faced by the walled city).

Regarding upgrading of infrastructure, it is proposed to make water supply and sewage connections mandatory in the walled city (which, given an enforcement machinery that cannot even deter unlicensed rickshaws, vendors and encroachers, seems far too ambitious), and to redevelop dilapidated katras to provide space for multi-facility buildings, social infrastructure and open spaces (which was also proposed in the MPD-1962 and which, if anything, is less implementable today inasmuch as currently most of the dilapidated katras are extensively squatted upon, there is not enough land in the vicinity of the walled city to rehabilitate all these families, and the 'social dynamics of this type of katra exhibit an indifferent approach and negative attitude, with little interest in participating in government programmes or responding to institutions involved in such intervention'.32

Regarding traffic and transport, a number of actions have been suggested including restricting entry to heavy vehicles, development of peripheral parking lots for cars, development of pedestrian paths, restricting animal-driven and manual-driven vehicles, etc. (which have been recommended time and again by traffic and related departments but resisted by strong pressure groups).

Regarding conservation of historical buildings, it is proposed to list all historical monuments and buildings of architectural interest and to develop a tourist pedestrian path connecting them (a proposal that is, quite clearly, implementable without much problem, but which, equally clearly, is likely to have minimal impact on the main problems of the inner city).

Regarding revitalisation of residential areas, it is proposed to 'rebuild the walled city in the same form and architectural style as existing' (a proposal that reflects the authors' preoccupation with design aspects which, however desirable they may be considered, hardly qualify to be treated as singular issues of residential revitalisation).

On the whole, although many of the actions proposed by the Perspective Planning Wing of the DDA are undoubtedly necessary, the proposal is not substantially different from that of the MPD-1962 and does not seem to have progressed any further in the matter of operational guidelines and may well suffer the same fate.

In 1987-1988, the Slum Wing (SW) of the DDA sponsored a study on the renewal of katras.33 The study identified three types of katras34 and, based on detailed socio-economic surveys in three of one type ('typical katras') and an intensive physical survey in one of these, concluded first, that it is both desirable and feasible to improve living conditions of katra residents while retaining existing buildings and the urban fabric of the walled city, and second, that this should be achieved through physical and institutional innovations, in combination with tenure change and collective responsibility, thus securing not only short-term rehabilitation but long-term maintenance and continued upgrading with minimum demand on public resources. For the katra studied in detail, it proposed to retain and improve the buildings, to build a container structure to support an additional floor and to include some upgrading of existing infrastructure. Regarding implementation, it proposed that a Katra Project Unit (KPU) be established in the SW and an appropriate and capable non-governmental organisation (NGO) be identified and mobilised to organise a Housing Society (HS) to be the principal intermediary in the rehabilitation process and to continue afterwards as a residents' association. The HS, the NGO and the KPU would finalise the physical/economic feasibility of the project by refining the katra project proposals; the KPU would proceed with contracting, secure HUDCO loan, finalise with the HS the buyers' costs and arrangements regarding down payments and subsequent repayments, and hand over the finished work to the HS; the HS would be responsible for routine repairs/maintenance of the collective fabric; and, as the HS develops, the NGO would withdraw and, hopefully, proceed to the next katra.

The proposals of the SW, DDA cover two areas - physical proposal and 'institutional innovation'. The physical proposal may well be technically sound. But it is a proposal for one out of 7000 katras. Of course it is intended as a 'demonstration project', but it seems to have been designed more as a one-time 'project' than as a replicable 'demonstration'. There appears to be no attempt at looking at or planning for conditions that will facilitate this demonstration effect, even in the most general terms. Nor is there any discussion of the fact that the problem is 'diverse' rather than 'general', beyond a brief mention that there exist, in a fair proportion, katra types other than the one whose section the project represents. The 'institutional innovation' intended is 'a collaborative relationship between three development actors' - the KPU, the HS (to be mobilised) and the NGO (to be identified), but just how earnest the authors are about this 'collaborative relationship' is clear from the fact that such a detailed physical proposal has been made even when two of the actors have yet to be identified. Even assuming that this collaboration will come together, the 'innovation' is located in a very narrow area of overall institutional arrangements required by the problem and although it is an essential part, it is nevertheless only a small part. To begin with, the very fact that two wings of the same agency have put out two concurrent proposals which have no reference to each other illustrates the implementation problems that may be expected.

An Analysis of Constraints

The intention here is not to exhaustively summarise all procedural problems or to analyse specific factors constraining better performance of renewal programmes, but rather to pursue two basic pre-requisites for their procedural streamlining: (i) unambiguous procedural definition, and (ii) adequate consideration of wider issues over and above manifest problems of inner city decay.

The problem of ambiguous solutions to a complex problem

Ambiguous procedural definition is, typically, not so much a characteristic of building-oriented approaches as of area-oriented approaches. In the case of Bombay, for instance, procedural definition is, perhaps, unambiguous in a technical sense inasmuch as procedural requirements of building repairs and reconstruction are, indeed, understood. Furthermore, unlike many other cases, building regulations have been suitably relaxed. In the case of Delhi, on the other hand, the sequence of interventions in terms of what happens first, what follows what, what must necessarily be accompanied by what and so on, is far from clear. The PPW, DDA, for example, specifies the absolute time frame for each action recommended, but a sequential phasing of actions is conspicuously absent.35

Ambiguity becomes a serious limitation in the face of institutional arrangements that are typically not geared towards implementing anything but simply and unambiguously designed projects. In Delhi, for instance, the renewal programme has been under the auspices of the Slum Wing which, irrespective of its capabilities or otherwise for undertaking minor upgrading works, quite simply does not have the expertise to handle the programme in its entirety. The institutional dimension of the problem of katra renewal is, perhaps, "'the absence of a development agent', which implies an entity with sufficient resources, skills and motivation to maintain and transform katras".36

A salient effect of the absence of clearly defined planning procedures is that renewal interventions are vulnerable to interference by various interest groups which find it easy to influence details of implementation to their advantage. In Delhi, proposals in respect of redevelopment and relocation have hardly been implemented on account, largely, of political interference. and 'urban renewal' has been restricted to politically less sensitive areas such as minor upgrading works. Of course political interference is not unique to inner city areas nor to ambiguously defined planning procedures and what is suggested here is certainly not a cause-effect relationship between ambiguous procedural definition on the one hand and political interference on the other. Rather the simple point is made that ambiguity makes for greater vulnerability to politically manifest interference by various interest groups and that this can become a serious problem in inner city areas where often conflicting interest groups are juxtaposed.

Das (1983) enumerates five such conflict areas which hamper inner city renewal interventions.37 First, there is a conflict between property owners and property users located in the interest of the former in putting the property back into the open market for redevelopment and of the latter in struggling for survival in the inner city. Second, there is a conflict between residential and commercial interests which surfaces when the 'naturally evolved balance' between various uses, established in inner cities in the initial stages of their organic evolution, comes to be disrupted. Third, there is a conflict between 'housing objectives' and 'overall urban planning objectives' arising from the fact that while "housing agencies, 'authorities' or 'boards' look for alternatives such as 'cheap' residential redevelopments, building repairs and upgrading. . . over­all urban objectives inescapably fall into setting alternatives based on 'optimal' use of high-value land". Fourth, there exists, within both the public and the private sector, a conflict between objectives on the one hand and capacity on the other. Fifth, there is a conflict between planning intention and political will which manifests itself in a lack of political will to undertake major reforms that planners perceive as necessary.

As long as such conflicts exist, clearly defined procedures are necessary. More than this, and in a sense detracting from it, these conflicts have to be adequately addressed since even the most precisely defined procedures cannot make up for inadequate responses. No amount of procedural precision of solutions is likely to have any substantive impact on the inner city problem as long as solutions are sought within inner cities (since many conflicts are embedded in factors transcending inner city boundaries) and as long as inner city renewal is viewed as a purely retrospective planning area (without integrating the inner city problem perspective into prospective city-wide planning).

Problems in inner cities and problems of inner cities

Let us look, for instance, at the interests of users and of owners of properties. Of course, solutions in respect of compromising the interests of property users and owners can be, and indeed are, found within inner city areas (such as through land sharing). However, these possibilities are limited, particularly in cases of extreme concentration and it could be useful to seek solutions in a wider city framework. For instance, residential relocation could be linked to job relocation or to a policy for allowing home-based enterprises. Likewise, it could be tried to compromise the redevelopment interests of property owners by buying them out with compensation in terms of real estate elsewhere, say, in case of Bombay, in the New Bombay project area or, in the case of Delhi, in one of the district or sub-district centres being developed by the DDA.

Likewise, procedural problems related to commercial decongestion, delimiting non-residential uses, and such like interventions should be seen against the fact that the unabated concentration of non-residential activities in inner city areas is linked, in a self-perpetuating cycle, to making them commercially attractive locations. This is an inevitable outcome of the typical city-wide mixed land-use dynamics in which needs arising out of the inadequate development of non-residential use zones are met by their differential emergence in different types of residential areas.38 Inner city areas are, typically, ones to become most intensively and extensively mixed. This has implications for both retrospective and prospective planning for inner city areas. First, solutions to procedural problems regarding decongestion and relocation have to be sought through adequately linking commercial relocation and residential resettlement. Second, city-wide zoning practices need to be more responsive.

The matter of resource constraints, in the typical Third World context, is not a problem unique to interventions in inner city areas. However, in the face of inadequate resources, it becomes all too easy for renewal to be reduced not only in coverage (which is the usual result of resource constraints) but also, and more important, in scope. Cheaper solutions come to be preferred repairs vs reconstruction, up gradation vs redevelopment - even when they are not appropriate or not adequate. Of course, resource constraints are not the sole criterion for such choices which are largely the result of wider policy perspective of the problem. However, with inadequate resources, these choices can be, and indeed are, easily made, not least of all because cheaper solutions are often politically less sensitive. Itis important to note that such choices are different from a choice between, say, sites-and-services and built housing because prospective interventions can be viewed in terms of singular options whereas retrospective interventions generally need to be by way of more complex combinations.

An important point regarding resource constraints for inner city renewal is that there appears to be a singular lack of effort at resource mobilisation. On the one hand, issues of cost recovery and tenure (which is closely related to cost recovery and post programme maintenance) have received notably less attention than in other interventions. This has at least something to do with the different perceptions of retrospective and prospective interventions, a notion that the former should be largely government responsibility. On the other hand, there is a persistent paradox pertaining to the resource potential that inner cities afford. They are 'money spinners', yet their turnover does not contribute towards their improvement. Interventions in them have possibilities of cross subsidy, but these are seldom adequately exploited. Ina sense it appears that where inner city interventions should be viewed the same as other interventions, they are viewed differently (cost recovery and tenure issues) and where they should be viewed as different they are viewed similarly (resource potential).

A question that is vital to this discussion of resource constraints is to what extent should renewal be a purely public sector intervention? This, indeed, is a basic question related to the resource constraints of the public sector in general. Inthe case of inner cities, the role of the private sector – users, owners, entrepreneurs - assumes even greater significance as covering their interest is closely linked to procedural streamlining.

It should be clear from the foregoing discussion that many of the things that hamper inner city interventions are located in city-wide factors. Their resolution, so essential to resolving the inner city crisis, has, accordingly, to be addressed in a city-wide perspective. Some of the factors, such as the interests of users and owners of property and the matter of resource constraints within the public sector have direct implications for procedural definition and for resource mobilisation for retrospective interventions for inner city renewal. Others, such as aspects related to the concentration of non-residential activities in inner city areas and to reconciling inner city and city planning have, in addition, implications for wider prospective planning. The important point here is that to the extent that even procedural streamlining is not adequately possible within a narrow perspective, a wider view is not only desirable but necessary, and approaches to inner city renewal need to be substantially broader based.

Three Levels for Addressing Inner City Decay and Renewal

In the literature, the terms 'housing renewal' and 'urban renewal' are used interchangeably. Area approaches to housing renewal, in particular, are usually referred to as urban renewal approaches. This article has favoured the term 'inner city renewal' because, in a sense, the terms 'housing' and 'urban' connote different levels of viewing the problem, while the term 'inner city' represents more closely the problem per se. 'Urban renewal' ought, perhaps, to address inner city problems in a wider city-level framework and, inasmuch, the Bombay and Delhi cases respectively illustrate, essentially, a building-oriented and an area-oriented approach to housing renewal. Besides addressing, as these approaches do, issues pertaining to housing, or housing and related infrastructure, inner city renewal should aim at securing a balanced mixed land use pattern to ensure sufficient economic opportunity to residents while not unduly hindering the residential function. The specific nature of interventions would vary. For instance, in areas with declining traditional occupations and/or stagnating economies, economic revitalisation would become an important goal. If, on the other hand, there is acute commercial congestion the goal would be economic de-vitalisation or, at least delimitation. Such an approach which considers, besides housing and related (infrastructure) problems, other urban functions of inner cities could be considered an area approach to urban renewal. Retrospective interventions in respect of housing or urban renewal would be considerably expedited by prospective planning interventions to control or slow down inner city decay. This prospective renewal, so to speak, could be a third level for addressing the inner city problem.

Retrospective interventions: housing and related problems

Interventions directed at upgrading structural and environmental conditions, falling in the domain of an area based approach to housing renewal, have received reasonable attention in literature and are discussed only briefly here, in terms not of choices and details of techniques (repairs vs reconstruction, conservation vs rehabilitation or redevelopment, etc.), but of some generalisable issues pertaining to implementation: some aspects of community involvement and tenurial and financial matters. The potential of users' initiative in making inner city renewal strategies successful is being widely acknowledged. This is largely on the 'rebound' as a result of problems, in the absence of community participation, with implementation (scarce resources and elusive 'neighbourhood impacts') and post-implementation aspects (maintenance and cost recovery). Neighbourhood organisations have come to be viewed as a way out of difficulties involved in granting tenure or channeling funds to the inner city poor while avoiding mechanisms of their de-stabilisation. Thus collective tenurial arrangements and subsidies or other forms of financial assistance to residents' organisations rather than to individual households are being increasingly advocated.39 In Bombay, there is a shift, after nearly two decades of programme implementation, in this direction. In Delhi, the katra project proposals envisage this at the out-start.

The issue of community participation, in principle, can hardly be argued against. But it may be remarked here that, all too often 'enlisting' community participation is tantamount more to 'using' the community than to 'involving' the community. This is substantively exemplified by the case of Delhi where, after detailed technical proposals have been drawn out, an NGO has yet to be identified to mobilise a residents' association, and there seems, besides, a conspicuous lack of attention to how this community participation is to be operationalised in that while the proposal regarding implementation exhaustively lists various procedural stages subsequent to 'identifying a suitable NGO' to 'mobilise a housing society', there is no mention of who is to take responsibility for this and how it is to be carried out. Infact, the proposal has not taken off largely because of this very reason.

Retrospective interventions: other urban functions

Interventions falling in the domain of an area approach to urban renewal need to include, besides those relating to structural and infrastructural upgradation, those pertaining to other typical problems such as removal of incompatible uses, decongestion through residential relocation and, related to these, the countering of redevelopment interests of property owners.

Some amount of relocation is indeed vital to resolving problems of inner city areas which are invariably characterised by some form of congestion or other. The main problem in this regard is that inner city activities are inextricably inter-linked in ways that are little understood. There are, for instance, linkages between enterprises that are typical to the small firm type of economy and that require physical propinquity. There are also linkages between work and residence which low-income households in general, and those engaged in home-­based or traditional occupations in particular, find crucial for their economic survival. Then, of course, there are linkages with consumers/customers forged over long periods of time. All these linkages influence, in great measure, popular perception of 'incompatible' uses which, in general, has formed the basis of planning decisions regarding non-residential relocation. The removal of incompatible uses is, undoubtedly, essential to securing a better quality of residential life. But an important issue in this regard pertains to what constitutes 'noxious' and 'objectionable'. Decisions by city authorities in this regard are based on predetermined criteria which do not make allowances for popular sanctions. "The result could be stifling in terms of people's aspirations and unrealistic in terms of their requirements. . . obnoxious industries and activities ought to be redefined in terms of residents' preferences".40 But again, popular preferences and vested interests are not often easily distinguishable. This has implications for some form of community participation which affords an adequate forum for public hearings in which vested interest groups are not overly represented, which of course is easier said than done.

Again, it simply may not be possible to decentralise certain activities. One example relates to efforts at relocating wholesale activities in the cases of Delhi and Bombay. InDelhi, attempts at de-centralising wholesale markets in different zones of the city have not succeeded whereas in Bombay, where a new wholesale centre is simply replacing an existing one, there are some signs of success.41 This is not to suggest that complete relocation is the only way but rather to demonstrate the complexity of the problem.

At this level, a wider framework of addressing the inner city problem in its wider urban context becomes important. One possibility regarding relocation, explicitly or implicitly advocated very often, is to relocate to proximate locations. Besides the constrained availability of land in central locations, efforts in this regard usually suffer from some other typical problems. One problem area relates to design and management aspects. The design of relocation projects, more often than not, does not respond well to the behavioural tendencies of users. Inthe case of Delhi, for instance, the housing provided by the Slum Wing to house families relocated from redevelopment projects in the walled city was largely unacceptable to users as it failed to adequately accommodate their (residential and other) activities. Also, development of new areas and shifting of activities are often not sufficiently coordinated and the new developments, on account of their central location, become prone to 'turnover'. Another problem pertains to what could be considered an artificial unavailability of land. In Hyderabad, for instance, nearly a sixth of the land in the inner city is vacant, and therefore available in physical terms. However, on account of inadequate/ineffective legislative devices, it is not available in real terms. Divest of these problems, which are management issues that can and ought to be resolved, this possibility, although limited, is indeed useful.

Another, perhaps less limited, possibility is to combine delimitation with measures to secure voluntary relocation by entrepreneurs and residents. In the case of Delhi, for instance, the idea of delimiting non-residential activity to its present level has been proposed.42 It has, however, not been pursued in detail. The approach is in a sense politically less sensitive, and therefore more viable in terms of implementability, than forced relocation. But, perhaps, it has yet to 'be got used to' by planners, implementors and inner city communities. The same applies to voluntary relocation. An awareness and willingness has to be stimulated. At the same time, real options need to be created. In this regard incentives, rather than dis-incentives should be thought about. This is not only because dis-incentives are more in the spirit of 'forced' rather than 'voluntary' but also because, in the absence of adequate political will and administrative machinery to ensure their enforcement, they are really a non-issue. Incentives could take the form of linking residential and non-residential relocation (to sustain work residence relationships) and offering priority arrangements, in allotment of residential, commercial and industrial developments in other parts of the city, to inner city residents.

Such a city-wide framework would also allow room for accommodating redevelopment interests of property owners in inner cities which can be a major problem in cases like Bombay where a large proportion of property is privately owned. In the Delhi case, this problem has not been made explicit in any of the proposals as about half the properties are government owned. But it is too easily forgotten that the other half are not. It was observed earlier that one way of compromising redevelopment interests could be through compensation in real estate terms elsewhere. For most development authorities, which use real estate development as a source of capitalisation, this might appear somewhat unacceptable. But it is important to appreciate that inner city problems, particularly those pertaining to non-residential functions and to market factors, are located in city wide considerations and their resolution has to be sought in the same framework.

Prospective interventions for inner city planning

Policy issues for prospective planning that have a direct bearing on retrospective interventions in inner city areas, in a sense, complete the framework for viewing the inner city problem. A number of physical and fiscal planning issues would fall in the purview of this area of policy issues. The following discussion, however, is confined to two areas of physical planning: zoning practice and general spatial planning.

In the last four decades of India's town planning history, master plans of nearly all small and large towns have adopted a system of zoning in preference to the traditional system of mixed land use. Yet, mixing of non-residential uses - unauthorised and often incompatible - persists in nearly all kinds of housing areas. A serious problem pertaining to these unintended mixed land use patterns is the city-wide disbalance in the extent and nature of mixing. Whereas certain, usually high-income, housing areas have low levels of mixed land use, others, especially low income and 'informal' ones, have extensively mixed land uses often at the cost of the quality of their residential functioning. This is particularly true for inner city areas where pre-existing non-residential uses, locational advantages, slack enforcement of regulations, etc., have made for self perpetuating mixed land use patterns. It is important to mention in this regard that city-wide mixed land use patterns are in response to city-wide user compulsions. In low-income, non-formal housing areas, these compulsions are easily satisfied. In other areas they may meet with direct or indirect resistance. As a consequence, the former type of area comes to satisfy these compulsions to an extent that is greater than their due share. Again, this is particularly so for inner city areas.43 The important point in this regard is that as long as city-wide household compulsions to engage in home/housing based economic activities are not duly addressed in a city-wide framework, areas such as inner city areas will continue to come under undue pressures of prolific mixed land use patterns. It is beyond the scope of this article, and would be a digression from its main theme, to go into a discussion of how viable integration of non-residential uses in housing areas could come about. Suffice to say here that it would require a change from specifying standards for provision to describing criteria for permissibility based, not upon absolute performance/nuisance characteristics of uses (as is done in conventional performance standard zoning practice) but, upon such characteristics vis a vis the performance suitability/nuisance acceptability of various locations within a layout and preferences of various communities.44 City-wide integrated land use systems in place of conventional zoning practice are crucial to alleviating the dis-balanced existing mixed land use patterns which are a major part of the inner city problem.

A second area of prospective physical planning that merits discussion here is one of general spatial planning of cities. Even as master plans throughout the country advocate 'poly-nodal' spatial planning, most cities continue to demonstrate mono-nuclear growth with all the problems for inner city areas attendant to such growth patterns. There could be a number of reasons for this gap between plan proposals and plan implementation and these could possibly be categorised into inadequate planning and inadequate implementation. Problems regarding inadequate implementation of sub-city centres are rooted largely in resource constraints. This is indeed typical to Third World planning interventions in general and an inevitable outcome of a situation in which the earnestness of authorities to 'provide' rather than 'facilitate' and their under­capitalisation are juxtaposed. One aspect of inadequate planning is that it does not take into account this inevitability. Nearly all plans purporting poly-nodal growth come up with static conceptual diagrams with city centres/sub-centres neatly disposed in the city space. Such static conceptualisation makes for a tendency to look upon each new centre as an independent entity on a 'clean slate' so to speak. It is all too easily forgotten that various centres are also spaced out in time and that one of the essential objectives of poly-nodal configurations is to decongest from existing centres. This objective is seldom, if ever, made explicit. It could be worthwhile, for instance, to link inner-city decongestion with the development of new sub-city centres by, say, reserving a percentage of floor space in the latter for the former. Together with allowing for city-wide mixed land use patterns, this could substantially alleviate the inner city problem.

The foregoing is by no means an exhaustive discussion of prospective planning issue for inner city renewal. It is intended primarily to demonstrate the need for incorporating a temporal dimension in the wider framework for addressing the inner city problem. This, in fact, should be the case for retrospective interventions in general.

Concluding Remark

The precipitation and perpetuation of the problems of inner city areas are due largely to the urban and economic growth in their wider city contexts. Their persistence owes largely to the failure to view them from this perspective. Their solutions, unless sought from this broader view, are likely to continue to remain elusive. With this basic premise, the few explicit and implicit suggestions made in this article, though they could afford some starting points, are intended primarily to illustrate the range and scope of the framework required to address the inner city problem. While the substantial problems attendant on rapid urbanisation requiring urgent attention have long justified an approach of 'something is better than nothing', India's experience with inner city renewal equally clearly demonstrates that the whole is, indeed, not quite the sum of the parts, and a wider view of the inner city problem is long overdue. In this context, this article may be seen as an attempt to delineate not so much the right answers as the complete question.

  • 1. Government of India, Report of the National Commission on Urbanisation (New Delhi, India, 1988).
  • 2. Some of these negative effects are: (a) often relatively affluent tenants find themselves in the privileged position of paying rents far below their capacity, (b) rent control acts as a subsidy to business and commercial establishments which manage to penetrate residential premises, (c) controls generate extra-rental mechanisms, such as key-money, which are seldom directed towards increased investment in the building, and (d) stabilisation of low-income groups in the inner city may be offset by a condition of management stalemate in which the government, house-owners and residents all decline responsibility for the housing stock (op. cit. 12, pp. 13-14).
  • 3. The Master Plan for Delhi (1962) visualised the concept of urban renewal as: ". . . to shape urban structures so that all human activities may take place in an environment conducive to their proper functioning and in harmony with other activities". The urban renewal proposal spelt out is discussed in the Delhi case.
  • 4. UNCHS, Report of the Ad hoc, Expert Group Meeting on Human Settlements Management with Special Reference to Rehabilitation of Existing Housing Stock (New Delhi, February 1--8), [UNCHS (Habitat), Nairobi, 1982], p. 3.
  • 5. Structural deterioration of housing stock, which in many cases has led to tragic house collapses, is provoked by a combination of factors ranging from action of external agents, original construction faults and inappropriate utilisation (op. cit. 4, p. 10). In the damp climate of Bombay, structural collapse often results when structural timber members absorb moisture and warp, or when the webs in rolled steel joists corrode or when the reinforcement in RCC work rusts. Also those sections of walls often give way which carry storm water or drainage pipes that have become corroded and susceptible to leakage. Ageing causes failure of flat arches and loss of strength in mortar besides which several construction defects, especially inadequate reinforcement, may also exist. Most serious damage, however seems to be man made, the underlying reason being the high occupancy and consequent overloading of common parts. In particular, wet areas do not get a chance to dry and are prone to structural cracks, party walls are often added with no regard to bearing capacity of the structure, and there is practically no maintenance or routine repairs.
  • 6. A total of 19,661 buildings in seven municipal wards of the island city were covered by the act and cessed under its provisions, including all buildings erected prior to 1 September, 1940, and a little over 3000 buildings erected later (op. cit., 13, p. 7). The act was subsequently replaced by the Maharashtra Housing and Area Development (MHAD) Act and the functions and personnel of the Bombay Repair and Reconstruction Board were inherited by the Building Repair and Reconstruction Wing of the Bombay Housing and Area Development Board set up under the provisions of the MHAD Act.
  • 7. Bombay Housing and Area Development Board (BHADB), "Repair and reconstruction of old and dilapidated buildings in the island city of Bombay", undated internal document.
  • 8. Some 12,009 buildings had been repaired up to 31 March, 1989, including 9043 cases of repairs by the Board and 2966 cases of repairs under NOC (op. cit. 13, p. 10).
  • 9. Op. cit. 7.
  • 10. Some 252 buildings had been reconstructed up to 31 March, 1989. The statutory provision for reconstruction by the beneficiaries under NOC seems to have few takers and final NOC had been issued in only three cases (op. cit. 13, pp. 11,29).
  • 11. Op. cit. 7.
  • 12. UNCHS, Rehabilitation of Inner City Areas: Feasible Strategies [UNCHS (Habitat), Nairobi, 1984].
  • 13. A. Dua, Management of Bombay's Housing Renewal Programme: a Critique, IHSP Report no. 27 (Human Settlements Management Institute, New Delhi, India, 1991).
  • 14. The statutory annual contribution by the BMC and the state government was, to start with, Rs 16 million each, and is presently Rs 36 million each, and the latter has also, of late, been making over an ad hoc annual grant of Rs 50 million towards the programme (op. cit. 13, p. 7).
  • 15. Up to August 1983, the cess recoverable from buildings constructed prior to September, 1940 before and after repairs was, respectively, 25% and 40% of the rateable value. The corresponding figures for buildings constructed later and up to December, 1950, were 20% and 30%, and for those constructed after December. 1950. 15% and 20%. These rates were revised upwards in August 19R3 and then again in January, 1987. Ten percent of the rateable value-is the landlord's and the rest the occupier's liability. The BMC collects the cess, keeps ,5% to cover its expenses and makes the rest over to the Board. At present around Rs 38 millions are recovered annually by way of cess (op. cit. 13, p. 7). Cess arrears are high and by March 1989 amounted to Rs 258.4 million (ibid., p. 24).
  • 16. The rent (inclusive of capital cost recovery over a period of 80 years without any interest, municipal taxes and repair and maintenance expenses) comes to Rs 116 for a 180 ft2 unit with an independent toilet, Rs 98 for a 180 ft2 unit with a shared toilet and Rs 64 for a 160 ft2 unit with common toilets. By the end of March, 1989 the rent outstanding to the Board was Rs 28.2 million (op. cit. 13, p. 25).
  • 17. For example, there are 16,000 buildings that were constructed before 1940., Assuming an average life of 50-60 years for the timber frame structure that typifies them, most of these buildings are, or will soon be, due for reconstruction. Further assuming 50 units per building, 16.72 m2 per unit and Rs 1200 per m2 construction cost, an investment of more than Rs 16,000 million would be needed for the reconstruction programme alone [J.B.D. d'Souza, "Obsolescence in Bombay's Housing Stock", paper for the ad-hoc expert group meeting (op. cit. 4), 1982]. in the next 10 years, i.e., a required investment of about Rs 1600 million per year. Against this, available funds (notes 14, 15) are about Rs 160 million.
  • 18. The walled city of Delhi accommodates a number of wholesale, retail. manufacturing, handicraft and cottage industrial activities, besides major informal markets of the city. To give a rough idea of the scale at which non-residential activities are proliferating, there are some 150,000 commercial establishments (as against 22,000 in 1961 and 55,600 in 1971) and about 7000 industrial units. There are nearly 88 ha of land under trade and commerce and 9.59 ha under industry, against 181.01 ha under residential use (op. cit. 20, p. 44).
  • 19. Delhi Development Authority (Perspective Planning Wing), "Walled City of Shahjehanabad: Planning Issues and Policy Frame", report for limited circulation (DDA, 1984).
  • 20. Delhi Development Authority (Perspective Planning Wing), Proceedings of the Workshop on Some Critical Issues: Delhi-20OJ (DDA, 1986a), p. 44.
  • 21. Op. cit. 19.
  • 22. Town and Country Planning Organisation, Redevelopment of Shahjehanabad, the Walled city of Delhi: a Resume of the Seminar held on January 31st and February 1st, 1975, at New Delhi (Ministry of Works and Housing, Government of India, New Delhi, 1975), p. 18.
  • 23. Ibid., p. 19.
  • 24. The Slum Clearance and Re-housing Department (better known as the Slum Wing) was created as a department in the Delhi Development (Provisional) Authority set up to replace the Delhi Improvement Trust. In 1960 it was transferred to the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) and has, since, shifted a few times between the MCD and the DDA, being at present with the latter.
  • 25. The Ministry for Rehabilitation was set up after the country's independence and its partition into India and Pakistan to rehabilitate the refugees that came from Pakistan, and was made custodian of properties left by those who fled to Pakistan.
  • 26. One of the basic building blocks of the traditional urban form of the walled city of Delhi is the katra, a one or two storeyed, multiple family dwelling around a central courtyard. It is estimated that there are some 7000 katra-type dwellings in Old Delhi, about half of them owned by the Slum Department, DDA (op. cit. 32).
  • 27. Op. cit. 20, pp. 45-46.
  • 28. Op. cit. 22, p. 22.
  • 29. Op. cit. 19.
  • 30. Op. cit. 20.
  • 31. Delhi Development Authority (Perspective Planning Wing), "Plan for the Redevelopment of the Walled City of Shahjehanabad", report for limited circulation (DDA, 1986b).
  • 32. M. Raj, P. Baross, E. Martinez and A.N. Krishnamurthy, Renewal of Historical Housing Stock in Old Delhi: Action-Oriented Research Project for the Renewal of Katras, (IHSP-HSMI studies no. 1 HSMI, New Delhi, 1988), p. 4.
  • 33. Op. cit. 32.
  • 34. The three types are: (i) typical katras in which the original physical structure and layout of units is largely intact and where "a positive attitude towards collective involvement in a renewal programme was observed"; (ii) fragmented katras in which individual constructions and appropriation of common spaces have drastically changed the original building configuration and where "social dynamics do not aim beyond achieving individual tenure rights", and (iii) dilapidated katras comprising partially collapsed buildings in which squatter households and sometimes shops and workshops have located themselves and where occupiers show little interest in the renewal intentions of the government.
  • 35. Op. cit. 19.
  • 36. Op. cit. 32, p. 43.
  • 37. S.K. Das, "Revitalisation of inner city slums in Asian cities", a draft working paper prepared for the UNCHS group meeting on inner city slums (Bangkok, 1983).
  • 38. G.D. Verma, "Integrated land use systems for housing areas", an unpublished thesis (Department of Housing, School of Planning and Architecture, New Delhi, India, 1987).
  • 39. Op. cit. 4.
  • 40. Op. cit. 37, p. 65.
  • 41. Op. cit. 37.
  • 42. Op. cit. 19.
  • 43. Op. cit. 38.
  • 44. G.D. Verma, 'Shops in housing areas in Delhi', in Architecture+Design, Vol. VIII (1991), No.1.