The recent announcement by Municipal Administration Minister KT Rama Rao of appointing ward officers brings focus on the concept of a ward, its components and management methodologies.
What is a ward?
In India, ward is considered to be the unit for all planning. It is a geographic unit which was thought to be suitable for resource allocation and planning. In urban centres, an area with population of 20,000 constituted a ward. Over a period of time certain wards grew faster in terms of population as compared to other wards and this created management issues for municipal bodies or urban local bodies (ULBs). The population of an urban ward in 2011 census ranged from about 40,000 to 60,000 people. Total number of wards in the country is 84,427. In Telangana, there are 2,112 wards. GHMC alone has 150 wards.
The rationale behind ward as a unit was that allocation of resources and management could be better if a fixed population was to be serviced over a certain geographic area.
It is probably the same reason why census is collected door to door, but presented on a ward basis for better understanding. Another interesting phenomenon of the ward structure is that they have no names, only numbers. This was done with foresight that as wards grew and were to be delimited, names would be dysfunctional and a ward if it were to be named after a prominent person in the area could fall in a different ward in the next delimitation exercise.
GHMC – A case in point
In the erstwhile MCH- Municipal Corporation of Hyderabad, the geographical area was about 173 sq km having 24 wards with a population of 35 lakh. Average population per ward was 1,46,000. In 2007, when GHMC was constituted with the merging of 13 peripheral municipalities, the area increased to 650 sq km, with about 67 lakh population and 150 wards. Average population per ward reduced to 45,000. With the present estimated population of around one crore, average ward population could be around 67,000. Through a process of delimitation, wards were carved out for better decentralised management. The administration and election wards now have same boundaries. Hitherto the ward boundaries and election wards being different created confusion in jurisdiction and management.
Typically, an urban local body provides various services to citizens, which include urban planning, regulation of land use and building construction, roads and bridges, water supply and sewerage services, public health, sanitation and conservancy, fire services, urban forestry, preventive healthcare, provision of urban amenities and facilities such as parks, gardens, playgrounds, burials and burial grounds, cremations, cremation ghats/grounds and electric crematoria, cattle pounds, prevention of cruelty to animals, vital statistics including registration of births and deaths, street lighting, parking lots, bus stops and public conveniences, regulation of slaughter houses and tanneries, slum improvement and upgradation, urban poverty alleviation, protection of environment and promotion of ecological aspects, planning for economic and social development, safeguarding interests of weaker sections of society, including the handicapped and the mentally retarded.
Chief Minister K Chandrashekhar Rao had spoken about the basic services a ULB/municipality has to provide. Sanitation, plantation, water management are the basic tenets of the flagship programmes of the Telangana government such as Mission Kakatiya, Haritha Haram, and Mission Bhagiratha.
Spatial planning and GIS
A careful look at the services to be provided to the citizens shows that all of them are location-based. Where should be a building allowed? Where is the road infrastructure needed? Where are the urban amenities required? Where do pipelines and sewerage systems need to be laid? Where are streetlights required? Where should the lung spaces be created? The Operative word is “Where”. That is precisely why a GIS (Geographic Information System)/spatial perspective is needed for planning. A ward-level GIS – map-based planning methodology will enable a stakeholder inclusive approach, better allocation of resources and micro-level planning which will contribute to better urban governance in the long run.
Illustration of GIS-based ward-level planning for sanitation
The author has organised this ward-level planning exercise for sanitation, environment management and water resources for functionaries of ULBs across the country to ingrain a spatial perspective. The georeferencing of data and geotagging of ULB assets enable a transparent management methodology and ensure zero duplication.
Solid waste management plan
India is among the foremost countries generating spatial data of high resolution as good as one metre and an update frequency of 28 days. Bhuvan geospatial portal developed by National Remote Sensing Centre (NRSC) has several easy to use spatial tools which enable creation of maps at a ward, with features of different layers, vehicle tracking, measuring and visualisation tools, DEM (Digital Elevation Models), buffer creation, combining of existing spatial data layers, hosting on the web using open source tools. All this for free!
Hyderabad, global city in the making
Ward-level GIS planning has many advantages as Hyderabad aspires to reach the ranks of cities that are recognised for high living standards. The Minister for Municipal Administration has time and again emphasised ward-level planning, resource allocation and management. It is a tool which can enable Hyderabad leapfrog into a ‘Vishwanagaram’ (global city).
-Maj Shiva Kiran
(The author has a PhD in Development Studies, is an environment & GIS consultant. [email protected])
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