Balanced Regional Development through District Planning – A comparative analysis of Indian and South African planning frameworks

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Abstract Summary
Regional planning literature suggest development of small and medium sized cities to counter balance mega-city-centric growth poles. Yet, implementations of such strategies are problematic, especially in fast growing transitional economies of the Global South. Market driven global economic environment typically favours metropolitan scale, connectivity and human resource talent pool, in channelizing investment generations. Moreover, newly industrializing countries often lack institutional and technical capacities to undertake integrated regional planning. This paper compare and contrast approach towards balanced regional development through district planning in India and South Africa to draw policy lessons. Employment generation for surplus rural labour has become a crucial developmental challenge for both India and South Africa. Despite achieving impressive GDP growth rates, both the countries are suffering from job crisis. Youth unemployment rate of South Africa is 52.15 percent; while in India, official unemployment rate is 7.2 percent, but under employment is over 30 percent, as millions of people, are stuck in low skill-low wage casual jobs. Rural urban income differentials are high. Rural youth are migrating to big cities, but low skilled jobs are only available at the bottom tier of the urban informal labour market. To redress rural—urban dichotomy, both the countries had sought to undertake regional planning at a district level, and district plans are seen as integrative platform for urban and rural area plans and sectoral agencies of the provincial government. In India District Planning process was institutionalised as part of a wider process of state restructuring and decentralisationunder the74th Constitutional Amendment Acts of 1992. District Planning is a mandatory statutory activity; but its implementation had been slow and uneven. Considerable state-wise variation exists in the planning process as well as its institutional arrangements. In states where properly implemented, District Planning has become an integral part of the participatory planning, gender empowerment, spatial targeting of developmental grants and disaster risk mitigation. India has also undertaken pilot project to develop 30 rurbun clusters to encourage skill development and training for artisans and handicraft sector. Compared to the Indian district planning model’s emphasis on social equity through participatory planning, the South Africa's district planning approach is more top-down and has stronger emphasis on economic issues. South Africa’s innovative Spatial Planning and Land Use Management Act (SPLUMA) of 2013 has sought revive rural and small town economies by building logistics networks and product value chains for agro-processing sectors connecting different settlement hierarchies. It has also built in mechanism to harmonize strategic business plan with land use planning and infrastructure development. The comparative analysis of two major transitional economies shows potential of district planning to achieve balanced regional development. It also underscores the need for the regional planning mechanism to combine features of top-down strategic approach and bottom-up participatory approach
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Professor (Urban Management & Governance)
Xavier University Bhubaneswar

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