A Landscape for Gujarat Cities


Gujarat will soon have more people living in cities than in villages for the first time in history. It is known as “The Urbanized State of India”. Per capita GDP is almost twice the national average, and Gujarat has the fastest growing economy in the country.

This rapid urbanization and industrialization have had some adverse impacts on quality of life and the environment. Inconsistent regulatory measures and enforcement have resulted in haphazard growth, and unplanned urban development. This has led to poor air and water quality, inadequate wastewater management, intermittent energy supplies, and degradation of ecosystems and habitats. Rapid expansion of electricity generation, mostly using coal, has increased greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to localized pollution problems and wider climate change.

The state government is conscious of the need to act on climate change, and is the only Indian state with a Climate Change Department. It has been proactive in promoting renewable energy projects as a means of meeting demand, without adding significantly to emissions. In 2009, Gujarat became the first state to announce a comprehensive solar energy policy, capitalizing on the second largest amount of solar radiation of all India’s states, with an average 300 sunny days per year, providing up to 6kWh/m²/day.3


A holistic approach to sustainability is essential, to integrate the potential of individual solutions. Master planning is the overarching tool that addresses the needs of multiple communities with appropriate solutions, to significantly improve the quality of urban life. It extends beyond cities’ physical layout and development, to include energy and water supply, transport systems, as well as working and living conditions. Successful master planning will optimize urban centers, and reduce their total ecological footprint. It will also plan and provide for Economically Weaker Section (EWS) housing as part of the overall urban development strategy. The Government of India defines EWS as the category of people below a set income threshold. Holistically integrating sustainability into urban planning is key to addressing the challenges of increasing urbanization and industrialization, which will further strain the sustainability of Gujarat’s cities.


Urban planning issues

Planning provides the framework for all energy and water management, but there are specific urban planning issues to address in Gujarat. Unplanned and informal urban development is prominent in Gujarat; for example, unplanned settlements to accommodate migrant workers rapidly have emerged near Amroli, Uttraran, and Mota Varacha, north of Surat municipality.

Three specific challenges were the focus for the UII’s planning inputs:

  • Master planning challenges – macro-level planning, that sets an overall strategy to create a cohesive vision for future growth. Issues include integration of land use and infrastructure development, coordination of transport systems, resource conservation and environmentally-sensitive urban design.
  • Infrastructure planning challenges – urban development often takes place without core infrastructure improvements, exerting additional pressure on existing systems. This results in chaotic development patterns and environmental hazards adversely affecting the long-term quality of urbanized areas.
  • Professional and technical capacity challenges – a lack of urban planning professionals is a major concern, affecting successful development and administration of planning policies and actions. The planning process is further hampered by a lack of integrated city information databases. Data is not currently standardized, and is only available haphazardly.


Energy issues

Gujarat has the second highest per capita electrical consumption in India, and demand will increase with growing urbanization, industrialization and improved standards of living. Energy conservation and efficiency improvement programs are therefore essential to minimize emissions, as well as to contain the growth in energy demand.

The UII’s discussions with the four cities revealed that their awareness and perceived impact on energy efficiency is focused on municipal buildings, street lights, and pumping water and sewage. However, energy use in non-municipal buildings offers many opportunities for improvement, and will be increasingly important as the cities expand. Discussions therefore identified energy efficiency in buildings as the key issue on which private sector input can stimulate transformation, beginning with awareness of its importance, and including financing models for energy conservation.


The UII identified three broad challenges requiring solutions:

  • Regulatory challenges – current regulations, or their enforcement, provides an insufficiently strong framework for energy efficiency in the cities and their buildings.
  • Lack of knowledge and skills – the current level of knowledge about energy efficiency solutions is limited in depth and breadth among the many stakeholders involved in energy efficiency. A lack of awareness, understanding and skills inhibits implementation of energy efficiency solutions.
  • Implementation challenges – barriers exist to implementing energy efficiency projects, even where the potential is well understood. Financial barriers are particularly significant because incentives tend to be split between owners, occupiers and other stakeholders, and the first cost of investment is a deterrent to action.

Wastewater issues

Existing water infrastructure in cities such as Ahmedabad and Rajkot struggles to cope with the load resulting from unprecedented growth. Storm water accumulates in some low-lying areas, or is channeled into sewage systems, even in water-deficient areas of the state. The quality of wastewater generated in the cities is another significant issue, with serious pollution problems in industrialized zones, such as Hazira, near Surat.

The UII identified three major barriers to successful wastewater management in Gujarat cities:

  • Infrastructure capacity – the potential varies from city to city. Ahmedabad and Surat can segregate runoffs, and use that resource to recharge groundwater. In Rajkot, lack of a perennial water source and permeable soils require an alternative approach.
  • Quality of treated water – in Ahmedabad, industrial effluent is channeled into the domestic system, complicating the process, and exerting pressure on existing infrastructure. The presence of industries within residential areas has an adverse effect on wastewater quality, especially in Surat, where industries release effluents into the domestic wastewater networks and natural streams.
  • Economic viability – the financial responsibility for wastewater treatment systems generally lies with the public authorities. However, for whomever is responsible, the success and failure of the economic models used in various projects are not always adequately evaluated to help develop efficient wastewater management systems elsewhere.


There are a few proposed solutions to these issues.

Master planning solutions.

Solution  – Sustainability/smart growth pilot project

A pilot project for a specific area may include a town planning scheme, a redevelopment area, or transit-oriented development, and should apply the best practices in sustainable development and smart growth. The main project features will include:

  • A mix of various land uses, such as residential, retail, public uses, and recreational facilities
  • Integrated infrastructure and transport systems and a wide range of transport options
  • An array of housing opportunities and choices incorporating sustainable building design
  • Preservation of open spaces and environmentally sensitive areas
  • Smarter and green infrastructure, incorporating solar-oriented design, energy efficiency, water conservation, native plants for landscaping, reduction and recycling of waste
  • Community and stakeholder collaboration in development decisions
  • Planning and provision for Economically Weaker Section (EWS) housing


Solution  – Master planning scope integration and long-term plan

A long-term master plan will identify sustainable urban growth patterns as a basis for developing adequate infrastructure for expected population and industrial growth. The plan will integrate sectoral plans for land use, transport, infrastructure, and environmental planning at regional, state and city level. It will build a bridge between cities’ current 5-year to 10-year planning work, and the longer 20-year to 50-year plans.

The master plan will be based on a consistent statement of goals, objectives, policies and programs. It will take an integrated approach to land use/zoning, transport/circulation, infrastructure, and natural resources. This will ensure that urban development starts with the expansion and upgrading of infrastructure and public services.


Solution  – Integrated mobility plan

An integrated mobility plan will provide long-term solutions that integrate regional, state, and city transport networks, and provide sustainable choices for businesses and citizens.

Gujarat’s cities would benefit from strengthening and extending existing transport networks and establishing connections within and among different transport modes. The plan will be coordinated at regional, state, and city level.

A key priority is providing cheap, accessible and efficient public transport systems, aiming for approximately 60% of residents using public transport, compared to only 15-18% in Ahmedabad currently4. The plan will examine encouraging public transport through tax incentives, employer transport benefits and similar programs.

The existing road network also needs to be improved, to enhance accessibility, and provide multiple options for efficient mobility. Provision for bicycling and walking will also be included.

The plans will aim to integrate the different modes, with easy, convenient linkages. For example, feeder buses transporting passengers from high intensity use areas such as high density residential or business centres, will help to increase the use of Metro Rail and BRT.


Solution  – Comprehensive parks and open space plan

A comprehensive plan in each city for parks and open spaces will support healthy urban living, and provide habitats for plants and wildlife. Well-designed public open spaces are particularly important for high-density areas in Gujarat’s cities. Areas need to be identified for preservation as open spaces when new development occurs.

A parks and open space plan will determine the per capita norms for green space, bearing in mind the World Health Organization recommendation for 9 square meters per citizen. The plan will envisage a network of publicly accessible open spaces along riverfronts, woodlands, and other special natural habitats, providing recreational facilities, street landscape corridors, and open space buffer areas at city, community, and neighbourhood levels. It will seek to promote sustainable practices such as urban forestry and urban agriculture to plant, maintain, and preserve trees and vegetation and promote better access to fresh and nutritious food.


Energy efficiency solutions

Solution – Building rating system

Mandatory compliance with the Energy Conservation Building Code (ECBC) for new buildings, and a mandatory rating system for all non-residential buildings above a minimum size, will enforce higher energy efficiency standards.

A rating system categorizes buildings according to their level of energy efficiency, and can cover broader environmental and sustainability issues as well. India’s Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE) has introduced the Energy Conservation Building Code (ECBC), which is a foundation for many building rating programs and assessments.

Using a rating or labeling system supports transparency, and can stimulate energy efficiency action. It can also be the basis for additional policy initiatives, ranging from building regulations to financial measures, and can encourage capacity building among all those involved in building energy use. Cities can make regular auditing a requirement, so that buildings are re-evaluated from time to time to ensure that actual performance is maintained at the appropriate level.



Full retrofitting of major buildings, based on a requirement to meet ECBC guidelines, will improve energy efficiency of existing properties. While a full building renovation will have the most impact, replacement of equipment or components can also save energy.

Building owners may perform full energy audits to determine the most effective improvements. Audits should target whole building considerations to avoid piecemeal approaches, such as replacing cooling systems without considering lighting and associated elements.


Solution  – Energy awareness campaign

A wide-ranging public awareness and action campaign will provide long-term underpinning for other solutions. It will create an energy-aware mindset among business and residential consumers that would discourage a high-energy culture.

Business owners need to be informed about the financial benefits of operating with greater energy efficiency, and the increased worker benefits of a healthier and more productive workplace. Citizens need to be encouraged to use energy wisely, as individual behavior is a critical element in most energy-saving solutions.

Advertising and other communications, including social media, could build on existing e-governance infrastructure, including the Gujarat Bank of Wisdom, that provides an open forum for suggestions and advice 6. A campaign could also build on the existing Bal Urja Raksha Dal (BURD) school campaign, so that children take the message back home to motivate their parents.



1. McKinsey Global Institute (April 2010) – India’s urban awakening: Building inclusive cities, sustaining economic growth

2. Available from: www.censusindia.gov.in/2011-prov-results/paper2/data_files/India2/Table_2_PR_Cities_1Lakh_and_Above.pdf

3. Gujarat Energy Development Agency (2012)

4. Gujarat Plus News, Ahmedabad (August 30, 2001) – Survey suggestions to overcome traffic problems

5. Ramanathan Swati, India Urban Space (IUSP) Foundation Publication (2011) – Where are the Urban Planners?

6. Available from: www.indg.in/e-governance/ict-initiatives-in-states-uts/e-governance/ict-initiatives-in-states-uts/e-governance-in-gujarat/view?set_language=en


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