NCU India: Integration of Spatial and Economic Planning

National Commission on Urbanization (India) – Integration of Spatial and Economic Planning

The imperatives for integration of economic and spatial factors in the planning process are obvious. This kind integration on the one hand enhances the benefits arising from national planning through maximum in and intra-sectoral coordination and acts as a corrective influence for likely imbalances or adverse effects that may arise due to differential emphases on sectoral programmes.

The integrated planning at various levels enables a better perception of the needs of local areas, makes better informed decision-making possible, provides people with a better opportunity to participate in the decision-making and helps in better exploitation of local area for improving productivity and production.


Thus an integrated economic and spatial planning would help in achievement of national development goals of economic growth and social justice in an accelerated and more effective manner. In order to achieve this integration, three things are needed:

  1. Formulation of a national policy to provide for integrated economic and spatial planning.
  2. Devising a suitable mechanism.
  3. Ensuring the conditions successful implementation of the above policy.

National Policy Urban and Regional Development

The policy on urban and regional development should shift from an ad hoc to a more integrated approach towards investment and physical planning. It should be guided by the principle of optimum utilisation of resources simultaneously maintaining ecological balance. Actually, this policy should be oriented positively towards enabling an orderly transition from a predominantly agricultural and rural society an increasing urban one. These policies should aim at achieving a balanced regional development in the shortest possible time.

Similarly, the policy must shift its attention from the distribution city sizes. It would be more desirable for the policy to focus on the needs of each region and city. The approach should, therefore be more economic than physical. It must be recognized that the central problems are those of generating employment and incomes. Employment location policy needs to be coordinated with infrastructure investment policy in terms of location.

Greater attention should be paid to creating those sub-structures in the economy which will bring about a rapid spread effect of the benefits of planned development as evenly as possible through sectors alone but through space also. Spatial development must be conceived as a comprehensive system of inter-dependencies generating flows and counterflows that are the essence of economic growth and income convergence.

Another principle that should guide the policy is to strike a balance, through physical planning, between the renewable and non-renewable resources. This would require a long-term view and projections to take rational decisions as to the extent to which a particular resource should be exploited and which of the resources needed to be conserved. This brings to the fore the question of conservation of the environment and ecology which can be ensured only when physical and economic factors are integrated in the planning process.

National Level Mechanism

The essential characteristics of the multi-level planning should be that it should emphasize that planning from below implies that the development plans prepared at the lowest unit should be nested with the next higher unit and so on. The instruments for integration of economic and spatial factors in the planning process would therefore, differ from level to level as also the extent and scope of integration. For example, at the national level, a National Physical Plan needs to be prepared to integrate itself with economic or sectoral development plan. When the sectoral programmes are proposed and their distribution is thought of, it will be more rational with the help of a physical framework which would at once show the most appropriate locations and regions for the proposed investments in different sectors.


From now on, projections of urbanization should be undertaken more systematically to integrate them with the economic modelling exercises. Such a procedure would also have important feedback effects in working out the urban infrastructure and housing implications of the planned sectoral activities along with the implied demand for the building materials. Indeed, the importance of urbanization projections is mainly to provide information for the required infrastructural investment at the right places at the right time – both rural and urban.

Initially, it may not be necessary to build in the rural/ urban distinction into the main sectoral model. It would be adequate to build a sub-model which uses the outputs of sectoral model to allocate activities between and rural areas and work out the infrastructure investment implications. These could be fed back into the main model at discretion. Over time, as the information system improves and experience with modelling builds up, urban rural allocations should be integrated increasingly with the economy-wide allocation and consistency exercises.

Planning Education

The restructuring of planning process to achieve integration of spatial and economic factors would require quite a large number of professional planners. We need, therefore, augment as also to reorient the planning education.

The recommendation made by the Task Force for initiating a centrally sponsored scheme of building up planning capabilities is relevant in this context and effective implementation of this scheme will go a long way in enhancing planning capabilities. The role of Institute of Town Planners in this regard also needs to be re-emphasised so that they can be more effectively involved in carrying out their function of conducting the Associateship Examination. This will again require re-thinking to make the profession more broad to based and integrate it with the discipline of economic planning.

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