Indian cities must go vertical, says the 12th plan draft approach paper, among the several proposals for improving efficiency of land-usage.
India has one of the lowest floor area ratio (FAR) and floor space index (FSI) in the world (less than four), compared to 10 in the rest of the world.
The FAR or FSI is the ratio of the total floor area of buildings on a certain location to the size of the land of that location, or the limit imposed on such a ratio. Increasing agriculture productivity of land is another thrust area for the next plan, given the high pressure on farmland causing political turbulence in parts of the country.
The suggestions from the Planning Commission come at a time when rapid urbanisation around towns and cities (added to industrialisation) is eating into agricultural lands.
The Greater Noida episode, where villagers protested against real estate projects on their farmlands, is an example.
"Since total supply of land is limited, land must be used most efficiently for whatever purpose it is allocated," states the paper - a blueprint to government planning for the next five years.
The paper observed that urban land is used inefficiently by not permitting sufficient substitution of capital for land in line with international practice.
"This is the result of very low FAR and FSI permitted in India. There is a lingering bias against vertical cities and a preference for horizontal spread, using more land than vertical cities," it said.
As a solution, the Commission advocated vertical cities, where urban utilities could be provided efficiently. "Land-usage planning in urban areas must be done considering larger areas together," it said.
Addressing concerns of diversion of farmland to non-agriculture purposes affecting food security, the paper asks for more food production through higher land productivity.
"Agricultural productivity is currently half of what it is in many countries. The solution for food productivity lies not in stopping diversion of agriculture land in all circumstances, but in increasing production through higher land productivity," it says.
The draft will be finalised by the National Development Council.