After the formation of Telangana, Hyderabad has shot into global limelight as one of the most liveable cities in India. While on one hand, the fast growing economy is providing opportunities for citizens to grow and fulfil their aspirations, on the other, the city is growing bigger by the day, making it increasingly difficult to manage.
We highlight the broad challenges as well as areas with potential and suggest four key strategies in a comprehensive approach for future planning and development of Hyderabad for policymakers, administrators and political leaders.
The focus has to be on regulating urban sprawl, providing efficient regional connectivity between Hyderabad and surrounding districts, leveraging Hyderabad’s growth to develop backward areas in the region, development of viable economic sectors to support all-round growth, provision of adequate water supply to sustain this growth and ensuring a balanced and good quality of life for the residents of Hyderabad and adjacent districts.
Hub for Telangana
Hyderabad has been historically known as a vibrant centre for art, culture, cuisine, trade and commerce. It has also been for many centuries an important political centre from where, always, a larger region has been ruled. Throughout the five centuries of its prominence, Hyderabad has been well-known nationally and internationally.
The turning point for Hyderabad post-independence came when the Telangana State was formed with Hyderabad being retained as the capital of the new State. This meant that the economic powerhouse of Hyderabad would now serve a comparatively smaller new State of Telangana.
After the creation of Telangana State in 2014, Hyderabad overcame uncertainties and continued on the growth path. Buoyed by innovative and development-friendly policies of the State government, it quickly became one of the fastest growing cities in India, winning multiple recognitions across the world as a preferred city.
Telangana now scores the highest in the EoDB index of India. Hyderabad is resurgent and its growth story is speeding. Investments keep pouring into Hyderabad ensuring the cycle of economic development continues to spur real estate development. An affable climate supported by good living conditions with higher standards of physical infrastructure and affordability makes Hyderabad among the most preferred destinations for work and home.
But like other cities, Hyderabad too now faces the problems of urban sprawl. Earlier attempts to prepare master plans/land use plans defining specific purposes for specific locations were intended to channelise growth and balanced development.
However, market economics ruled the type and direction of growth. Physical and natural environment took the first brunt of such growth. The economy kept growing but the city also kept expanding, putting immense pressure on the civic agencies to provide even the basic infrastructure.
While the city grew on most fronts, quality of life suffered on many parameters. High population growth rates, increasing traffic, congestion, infrastructural challenges in water supply, sewage, solid waste management, pollution, public health and other socio-economic issues come to the fore.
It is important to note that Hyderabad is a radially outward growing city. The inner ring road is fully within the core city area. Next is the ORR (outer ring road), which is 162-km long and encircles around 1,800 sq km. The GHMC is around 650 sq km in extent and contained within the ORR. Most of this area is developed and constructed.
The RRR (regional ring road) is much farther away and almost co-terminus with the HMDA boundary. It is 330 km long and encircles around 7,000 sq km. Thus there are three major rings (two exist on ground and one in the planning stage) in the spatial structure of Hyderabad. Connecting these are the major arterials, which radiate outwards out of which there are 14 arms of National and State highways and other major roads, which form a broad skeletal network.
It is well understood that Hyderabad kept growing exponentially and this led to a continuous increase in demand for urban land. Enabling a good life for the aspirant citizens who keep flocking into this historic city for economic prosperity is important. Master plans prepared were intended for regulating the growth and to have a balanced development while retaining the unique character of each area.
However, the ground reality clearly indicates that continuous expansion of urban development leading to unmanageable urban sprawl is making it quite a complex urban fabric. Economics apart, this has created a huge challenge for governments to manage civic services and for citizens to have a good quality of urban life.
With the creation of HMDA, the growth trajectory of Hyderabad, and the city being the hub for Telangana State, the key question for policymakers is what urban pattern should Hyderabad follow in the future? It is clear that static plans will only serve a limited purpose.
Land being a basic commodity for growth and an important factor for satisfying human needs, it becomes all the more important to use it properly and to strategise land development plans keeping in view the environment and human quality of life as a central theme for future development.
What is needed for Hyderabad is a dynamic planning system, flexible yet structurally sound, regulatory in nature and proactive is channelising growth to intended areas and with required standards of living.
We will highlight four major strategies — compact city surrounded by satellite cities; integration of RRR with these cities; development of five backward districts and planning for drinking water — in the concluding part. These need to be explored and implemented as part of a holistic approach covering other major thrust areas to make Hyderabad future-ready. (To be continued)
(The author is president, Telangana Development Association. Maheep Singh Thapar, Urban Planning and Development expert, contributed to the article)