A book called City Room by Arthur Gelb, a vivid narrative on how town planning can make a city socially and economically viable, that he picked up just for a lark back in Class 12 changed Bimal Kachroo’s life. “The book impressed me tremendously and till today is my bible and occupies a prominent place on my work table,” says the 40-year-old CEO of Holistics Urban Innovation Pvt Ltd, a town planning firm.
Town planning encompasses architecture, engineering, legal aspects, economics, urban morphology and geographical information systems. After taking up science in school, Kachroo pursued architecture from the School of Planning and Architecture (SPA), Delhi. He initially worked as chief architect and planner at the Steel Authority of India (SAIL) at the Durgapur steel plant and subsequently started his own outfit five years ago.
Kachroo’s work involves designing SEZs, sustainable townships and sustainable land sub-regions. His firm has recently designed the first ice skating rink of international standards in Dehradun. A government of Uttaranchal project, it is part of a R70-crore, 8.33-acre sports township. The first-ever South Asian Federation (SAF) Winter Games are scheduled to be held in Auli and Dehradun in January 2011. His other work includes a sustainable township based on zero discharge, development of SEZs, 25-acre IT parks etc. The firm is developing nano cities in West Bengal and in Dehradun.
A town planner needs to have excellent domain knowledge, good grounding in engineering and economics, good sense of construction and space, a futuristic outlook, and should keep abreast with the latest technologies, such as carbon-free and plastic-free cities where one uses recycled and reused materials for construction. “My most challenging assignment has been the green township I’m working on in Dehradun, the one where the ice skating rink is coming up. This township has a sports college –an in-house residential complex for students,” Kachroo says. His firm has recently submitted a bid to create the master plan for Srinagar city.
Town planning activities have till now been controlled by the government. The government started inviting private town planners to design cities since the last two years. “This will lead to an increased need for town planners in the years to come. With cities getting more congested and non-energy efficient and a pressing need for carbon-free, intelligent cities, the role of a town planner is going to become important. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said recently that the next 10 years will be the development decade. If there are currently 10,000 town planners in the country, almost 50,000 will be required in the next five years. Hence, there is tremendous scope in this field,” Kachroo adds.
Vibha Upadhyaya, another town planner, got her bachelors degree in architecture. “Planners help shape the way towns and cities develop by balancing the competing demands for residential, commercial, public-semi public, recreational and other infrastructure activities, to meet the economic and social needs of the community. Land can be developed and can be made worth living by developing not only the particular area but entire surrounding of that area,” she adds.
What's it about?
Town planning involves conducting feasibility studies, planning and designing for a range of projects including development plans of cities, master plans of Special Economic Zones, industrial estates, commercial and residential projects, formulation of projects, financial analysis, consulting with various stakeholders, research and design for planning policies to guide development, designing layouts and drafting design statements, infrastructure planning, coordination, client interaction, report writing and presentation etc
10 am: Reach office
10.30 am: Hold a coordination meeting
10.30 am-12.30 pm: Hold brainstorming session on design
12.30 pm-1.30 pm: Discussion on drafts made in the studio
1.30 pm-2.30 pm: Lunch
2.30 pm-4 pm: Meet clients, discuss problems, find solutions
5 pm-7 pm: Deliberate with senior team on issues of planning/ discuss reports
7 pm: Leave for home
*One day in a week is usually reserved for field visits
An architecture graduate can start as an associate town planner at a salary of Rs25,000-Rs30,000 per month. He/she then graduates to become a senior town planner and earn Rs75,000 per month. A joint director planner can earn around Rs1 lakh-1.5 lakh per month. A director is usually a shareholder of a town planning firm and his earnings depend on projects he gets in. His monthly earnings can be anything above Rs2 lakh per month and go as high as Rs10 lakh per month
. Professional skill requirements: excellent communication, negotiating and presentation skills
. Thorough knowledge of local planning bylaws and guidelines, knowledge of related softwares
. Ability to research and evaluate data, good organisational and time management skills, good report writing and presentation skills
. Ability to work as part of a team and with a wide variety of people
. Possess a good degree in engineering, architecture and economics before deciding to become a town planner
. Need to be good at sketching, imaginative, data interpretation and knowledge of software such as CADD
How do i get there?
In terms of education, there are many fields one can pursue in order to become a town planner. These include architecture, civil engineering, economics, grography, among others. One can also pursue bachelor of planning after class 12. Every institute has its own entrance test that aspirants need to clear
Institutes & urls
School of Planning and Architecture, New Delhi
Centre for Environmental Planning and Technology, Ahmedabad
Malviya National Institute of Technology, Jaipur
Guru Nanak Dev University Amritsar
MIT Centre for Alternative Building Sciences, US
British School of Planning, London
Pros & cons
Involves study and effort
A town planner needs to keep abreast with new technologies and possess multi-disciplinary knowledge
Huge scope in india
An academician talks about growing opportunities in the profession
What is the job of a town planner like? How has it evolved?
A town planner is trained to prepare town plans, or master plans. These are statutory documents that give the broad direction for the spatial growth of a city. Most states in India have Town Planning Acts that empower the state town planning departments to prepare town plans for all the towns and cities in the state. After the town plans are prepared, these need to be implemented. Town planners also play a role there in terms of validating land use, approving land subdivisions, projects, etc. Town planners have a key role to play in terms of giving sanctions to the proposals put up by real estate developers. Town planners, in addition to preparing master plans, also have to prepare zonal plans for the city.
Today, in addition to political intereference in the planning process, it is increasingly being felt that people themselves also need to be actively involved. Therefore, plans prepared today need to go through detailed exposure in terms of stakeholder consultative meetings, etc. Often, in the preparation of a master plan, thousands of comments are received and all these need to be duly examined before the plan is finalised. This is often seen as a huge challenge and not always welcome. Therefore, over the years, we have moved from a top down approach to a participative and inclusive approach to plan preparation.
What is the scope and future growth of this career in India?
There is a huge scope for town planners in India. While we have as many as 5,161 towns and cities in the country, only a few hundred have plans prepared.
Most cities do not have zonal plans in place. Many states have initiated the process of town plan preparation and there is a great demand for town planners in the country today. Further, with the implementation of the 74th Constitution Amendment Act, the town planning function has now become the statutory function of urban local bodies. We have around 600 districts and 5,000 towns, the demand for town planners is humungous. The requirement is, therefore, in a few thousands. With urbanisation increasing, the requirement of town planners is only going to increase in the days to come.
What are the basic educational requirements?
Town planning education is available at both the bachelor’s level and the master’s level. There are just over a dozen schools of planning in the country and there is a need to start more. One has to have a maths and science background for entering at the undergraduate level. Many engineers and architects directly take to the postgraduate planning course without the undergraduate planning course.
The job avenues for town planners are mostly in the private sector today. There are a good number of consultancy companies who employ town planners. A small number do join the government or get into teaching and research. For most fresh graduates, a package of R4 lakh to R5 lakh per annum at the starting level is common.
What are the skill sets required for the job?
Town planning is an interdisciplinary profession and one needs to have a broad understanding of several subjects such as engineering, architecture, geography, public administration, economics, sociology, etc. Computer skills, particularly GIS skills are a basic prerequisite. A town planner needs to have a thorough understanding of civil society and economy. He has to be a visionary who has to create the platform for the future. He should understand the relationship between physical spatial development and socio-economic development. He should also have the capability to convert ideas and policies into physical ground realities since land is the basic resource with which the town planner has to deal. Last but not the least, good understanding of the laws of the land and working of the courts is essential.
What is upside and downside to the profession?
Town planning is a challenging job for people who can think of the big picture. It provides opportunities to amalgamate various subjects and tackle a range of subjects in a comprehensive manner. It affords team working in an interdisciplinary environment. On the down side, there is a lot of interference from the politicians and even the civil society. People use the tool of RTI and ask so many questions that in most offices today, the town planners is doing more of information churn rather than town planning! Also, for the enormous work that is put in and the huge responsibility shouldered by the town planner, the pay packets fall more than short.
Prof Dr PSN Rao, professor and head (housing ), SPA, Delhi As told to Vandana Ramnani