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Basis of Infrastructure Planning for Urban Planners

Infrastructure clenches its roots deep down in every system. To understand Infrastructure Planning, we must understand the basics of Infrastructure. This article critically interprets definition of infrastructure and then reviews different categories of infrastructures in literature. Further the emphasis is made to justify the importance of infrastructure planning and management for a planner. The Dictionary defines infrastructure as “The underlying foundation or basic framework (as of a system or organization)”. But in the view of planning, it has much deeper meaning.

Urban Infrastructure

Defining Infrastructure

Definitions are important. They lend clarity and focus to discussions. Without such precision and focus participants are likely to speak by one another or even at cross purposes. If the aim is to make a well-considered decision, especially a weighty one, clarity of definition is essential. This is the basic role of a Physical Planner. Everything is relative. The need to define arises with the emerging ambiguity in practice.

According to Jochimsen, Infrastructure is also defined as the sum of material, institutional and personal facilities and data which are available to the economic agents and which contribute to realizing the equalization of the remuneration of comparable inputs in the case of a suitable allocation of resources, that is complete integration and maximum level of economic activities.

Also Read: Urban Infrastructure | Development and Evolution

According to the Definition of infrastructure posed in survey by Harvard University, Infrastructure is defined as facilities, structures, networks, systems, plant, property, equipment, or assets that:

  1. are essential to driving sustainable economic development and growth, lifting levels of productivity and boosting employment and critical to encouraging business innovation and improving the global competitiveness of enterprises.
  2. provide services and support that are basic to the functioning of a community, organization, or society and crucial to its economic productivity.
  3. are key to managing population growth and meeting current and future environmental challenges.
  4. provide a platform for economic development, social cohesion and stability.
  5. provide primary services which are crucial to the success of economic development in society in that their absence or their less than optimal performance would severely hamper its productivity and growth.
  6. provide social services and support private sector economic activity.
  7. are capital intensive/have high fixed costs and long economic lives and have strong links to economic development, and a tradition of public sector involvement.
  8. form the underpinnings of a nation’s defense, a strong economy, and its health and safety.
  9. facilitate the building up and maintenance of the stock of human capital, for example, health and education.
  10. create the framework conditions for productive activity, public good: defense, general public goods or services, environment, and order and safety or have direct impact by reducing enterprises’ production and transaction costs.
  11. are the basic physical and organizational capacities and resources needed for the operation of a society or enterprise or are necessary for an economy to function.
  12. facilitate the production of goods and services and the distribution of finished products to market.

Criteria for Infrastructure Classification

The classification of the infrastructure lacks a single approach as well. As key to an understanding of classification the thing should be noted that classifications developed are potentially overlapping. Many elements existing under a particular head may have their presence under other heads.

There is one major classification which is proposed by World Bank, which segregates the Infrastructure under 2 major heads: Physical and Social. The basic idea behind this classification is the tangibility. Further, this classification possesses minimal overlapping.

Physical Infrastructure:

Houses, buildings, reservoirs, canals, waterways, pipes, irrigation facilities, drilling platforms, pipelines, generation plants, coal mines etc. come under physical infrastructure. These arise because of the needs that are tangible in nature.

Social Infrastructure:

Public buildings, police stations, military installations, telecommunication facilities, newspaper production works, schools, universities etc. come under Social infrastructure. These needs are intangible in nature like healthcare, education, security etc.

  • Hansen (1965) classifies Infrastructure as Economic and Social; Economic includes roads, highways, airports, sewer networks, gas, electricity water distribution networks etc. and social includes Schools, hospitals, sports arenas etc.
  • Aschauer (1989) classifies as Core and Non-Core. Core includes roads, highways, gas, electricity water distribution networks, public transport etc. and non-core includes all other residual components.
  • Sturm, Jacobs (1995) classifies as Basic and Complementary. The Basic infrastructure comprises of roadways, railways, harbours, docks, drainage etc. and the Complementary includes the gas, electricity, water distribution and telephone networks.
  • Di Palma, Mazziotta (1998) classifies as Material and Immaterial. The material includes all the transport networks, water systems and the energy networks whereas immaterial consists of structures dedicated to development, innovation and education.
  • Biehl (1991) classifies as Network and Nucleus. The network has transport system for the nucleus, that comprise of central buildings like schools and hospitals

Importance of understanding Infrastructure for an Urban Planner

Such classifications highlight the basic significance of the Infrastructure and link the basic developmental ideals with Physical Planning which are:

  1. Infrastructure is instrumental in promoting economic growth
    1. Faster access to destinations, increase in productivity
    2. Incentives for construction of facilities, infrastructure and residential infrastructure, which in turn promote economic growth
    3. Improved access and transfer of data, leading to reduced travel times and increases in productivity
    4. Reliable and abundant power enables setting up of industries and residences that create jobs, manufacture products and promote economic growth
  2. Infrastructure also plays a role in alleviating poverty
    1. More reliable access to markets so that fresher goods can be sold at lower wastage levels
    2. Improved health, reduction in health related spending, potential increase in income savings
    3. Increased access to information leading to improved ability to make decisions on issues like selling price of produce etc.
    4. 24 hour electricity increase the duration of the productive working day, thereby augmenting income, increasing agricultural yields etc.

This inter-relationship between economic developments, poverty alleviation and infrastructure puts planners into practice. Creation of a flexible classification, formation of a minimum set of methods for assessing infrastructure endowment and methods for assessing its impact, empirical evaluation of economic effects of interaction between different levels of infrastructure system make up the concerned subjects for physical planners.

List of References

  1. Wain Allan, Beeferman Larry (November 2010). Infrastructure Defining Matters Final. Harvard Law School, Harvard University.
  2. Irina Baskakova, Malafeev (September 2012). The Concept of Infrastructure: Definition, Classification and Methodology for Empirical Evaluation. Ural Federal University N. Yeltsin Lenina Ave., Yekaterinburg, Russia.
  3. Hansen, N. M. (1965). The structure and determinants of local public investment expenditures. Review of economics and statistics 2: 150-162.
  4. Biehl, D. (1986). The Contribution of Infrastructure to Regional Development. Office for Official Publications of the European Communities. Luxembourg.
  5. Sturm, J.-E., J. Jacobs, et al. (1995). Productivity impacts of infrastructure investment in the Netherlands 1853-1913. University of Groningen.
  6. Gianpiero Torrisi (January 2009). Public infrastructure: definition, classification and measurement issues. University of Catania, Faculty of Economics, DEMQ