Symposium: Becoming Smart about Settlements: Policy, Planning, Governance and the Urban Challenge in India

3rd Built Environment Symposium

Organised by Aga Khan Planning and Building Service, India’s (AKPBS, I), in collaboration with Centre for Urban Policy and Governance, School of Habitat Studies, TISS (Mumbai)

August 26-27, 2016 at TISS, Mumbai.



Smart is the new buzzword for cities. But even as we debate the ideal of smart cities (and villages!), how governance and policy understand and respond to the existing urbanization dynamic deserves closer attention. On the one hand, cities are explicitly being yoked by policy to the task of pushing up the GDP. On the other, the process of urbanization is unfolding in a poorly understood, weakly planned and regulated, unsustainable, and iniquitous manner across the urban-rural continuum spanning megacities, smaller cities and towns, and peri-urban villages. The rapid expansion of speculative urbanism, and new cultures of consumption is accompanied by a neglect of mounting crises related to livelihoods, inequality, social fragmentation, ecological devastation within and across each of these geographies. The fact that governance and policy initiatives at central, state and local levels are increasingly furthering these fraught processes forms the rationale for this symposium.

This symposium shifts attention from the outcome of smartness in cities to the more critical challenge of becoming smarter about understanding and addressing the process of urbanization as a whole. It seeks to explore the limitations of current policy, planning and governance thinking about the process of urbanization and consider different approaches to becoming really smarter about it. Policy and planning are the key objects of attention for the symposium, but are approached in relation to governance at large.

In particular the symposium seeks to critically re-examine a number of themes related to the engagement of policy and governance with the urbanization challenge in India:

·         What are the chief ‘objects of attention’ for Indian policy and governance? How should they be recast for policy and planning to become more effective in responding to various challenges of actually unfolding urbanization?

·         What are the critical challenges facing the policy, planning and governance establishment addressing Indian urbanization? How should these challenges be approached, studied and understood in developing appropriate responses?

·         What are value frameworks and goals that ought to orient governance and policy approaches, strategies and instruments, if India is to meet its urbanization challenges effectively and sustainably?

·         Given the weak record of governance and policy making related to cities and urbanization, does policy craft as a whole need to be rethought, reoriented and restructured?

While taking for granted commitments to broadly accepted values of democratic and participatory process, economic and environmental sustainability, and social justice, the symposium is conceived as a platform for open debate across diverse, even contradictory, ideological and professional orientations and traditions.



Day – 1 : 26th August, 2016
Time Activity Name
9:30 – 10:00 am Registration
10:00 am – 10:15 am Welcome Note Suhail Nathani – AKPBS, I Chairman
10:15 am – 10:45 am Introduction Amita Bhide and Himanshu Burte – Centre for Urban Policy and Governance (CUPG), TISS, Mumbai
10:45 am – 11:15 am Key Note Address Nitin Kareer

Principal Secretary, Department of Urban Development, Government of Maharashtra

11:15 am – 12:15 pm Session 1: Urbanization in India

1. Abhay Pethe (University of Mumbai)

On Matters Urban: Back to Basics

2. Darshini Mahadevia (Centre for Environmental Planning And Technology, Ahmedabad)

Challenges of Inclusion in India’s Urbanization


12:15 pm – 1:15 pm Session 2 : Different Urbanizations
1. Lalitha Kamath (Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai)

Negotiated urbanization in Mizoram: Between cultural specificity and ahistorical standardization

2. Surekha Ghogale (Aga Khan Planning and Building Service, India)

Community-led initiatives in urbanisation

1:15 pm – 2:30 pm Lunch
2:30 pm – 3:30 pm Session 3 : Policy Culture, History, Outcomes

1. O P Mathur (National Institute of Urban Affairs, New Delhi)

Public Policy Responses to Urban Challenges

2. Gautam Bhan (Indian Institute for Human Settlements, Bangalore)

What we talk about when we talk about policy


3:30 pm – 4:00 pm Tea Break
4:00 pm – 5:30 pm Session 4 : Fresh Agendas for Policy

1. Rahul Srivastava and Matias Echanove (Institute of Urbanology and URBZ, Mumbai)

Joint economic and urban strategies for Mohalla improvement

2. James Wescoat (Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture, MIT)

Blue-Green Urban Infrastructure: Toward a Long-Term Policy Comparison of Boston and Bombay

3. Bharath Palavalli (Fields of View, Bangalore)

‘Right’ way forward: Negotiating the urban future


5:30 pm – 6:00 pm Wrap: Open discussion




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