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This article is written by Tarannum Vashisht, a student of the Rajiv Gandhi National University Of Law, Punjab. This article is aimed at adjudging the prevailing land-use policies in India. After analysing, some suggestions are provided for their improvement. 


This goes without doubt that for development in any field, planning has to be done for framing of an adequate strategy. The same goes for land-use patterns, for development in this field, the concept of land use planning has developed. The concept encompasses the development of policies to effectively regulate the usage of land. This is to be done for maximising the use of the available resources and achieving more desirable outcomes in both social and environmental arena. 

Land use planning In India

In India, the concept of land use planning developed when the need for planned development of towns and cities was felt. Earlier, the population growth and availability of resources were in consonance with one another and hence there was no need for human planning. However, with an increase in population and depleting resources, the requirement for smart planning of land was felt.

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This majorly happened after India achieved independence. Before that cities were mostly established based on their location with respect to essential resources. For example, cities which were near the coast were established as port cities. However, after independence, the prophecy of using land according to a planned strategy gained importance, to maximise the output using the available resources. 


Town planning commences 

Town planning commenced in India with the establishment of improvements trusts, assigned with the responsibility of checking health care issues. With the passage of time, along with these trusts, municipalities were also established to catalyse this service. The phenomenon of ascertaining a piece of land for certain activities started with these organisations. The most important work that they performed was the formation of theoretical, spatial and sector maps. One immediate benefit of these maps was the systematic collection of taxes on the basis of these artificial boundaries. This can be called the primary form of spatial planning. 

Growth of development authorities

As the dimensions of cities became more complex, municipalities became insufficient to host these land planning problems. This is when the development authorities came into the picture. These were established specifically for the purpose of city and town planning. Vivid ways were used by these authorities to govern and monitor. These authorities charted out various Town Planning Schemes and Development Plans to ensure development. 

Current land use planning schemes In India 

This concept of town planning being relatively new in India is still struggling to gain attention. However, with the increased realisation of the importance of quality of life, land use planning is gaining attention. Planning at the national level is done by the Planning Commission of India, now renamed NITI Aayog. The five-year plans passed by this commission detailed the allocation of funds to various sectors. Planning of the Urban areas is carried out through various planning schemes. The master plan is one such plan, particularly made for the urban sector development. It is pertinent to note that the most important component of all these schemes is land use planning, as it denotes a spatial nature to a plan. Land use planning, in simple words, here implies, assigning a specific purpose to every piece of land. 

The utility of land use planning In India 

India, is the best example of a rapidly developing country, with a consistently rising GDP. A major chunk of the population still involves itself in agricultural work, however, there has been a stark rise in the number of people migrating from villages and towns to cities. Due to this development, there has been a rapid rise in urbanisation. For managing the limited resource and land in urban areas and making this rapid urbanisation systematic, land use planning in India becomes an utmost necessity.

Therefore, land-use planning is done in India primarily to divide areas for specific purposes. Then the areas which are assigned the specific tasks would do nothing but those activities. This is done to maximise the utility of the overall land and negate the possibility of repetition of the use of land for the same activity. It also stops any other future negative impact. 

Constitutional provisions for land use planning

Following are the provisions made in the constitution for the purpose of land use planning-

Seventh schedule 

The constitution of India in its seventh schedule provides for land use planning. It assigns the responsibility to both the state and centre to look into this matter. Entry 19 of the State list provided in the seventh schedule, assigns the task of enacting laws and policies to the state legislatures. Also, the seventh schedule empowers the centre to make policies and legislations for development of defence infrastructure, railways, interstate rivers, industries etc 

74th Constitutional amendment

By this constitutional amendment, spatial planning was introduced in the constitution. Section 243ZD and 243ZE, which were added via this amendment provided for spatial planning in District and Metropolitan Area Development Plans. Thus, spatial planning can be rightly termed as a constitutional obligation.

Land use planning at national level

As provided in the seventh schedule, the central government has a responsibility for national-level land use planning. The tasks which are to be fulfilled by the central government are as follows:

  • Framing of policies and programmes.
  • Construing model acts.
  • Framing of land use planning and development guidelines

The following departments are allocated the task of land use planning at the national level:

Department of Space

This department has the task of creating thematic maps of wasteland, environmental disasters, land use in different terrains etc. It also performs the work of charting out plans for local and regional level land-use patterns. 

Ministry Of Urban Development

The ministry of urban development undertakes a number of plans for land use planning. Some important ones are- Model Urban and Regional Planning and Development Law (Revised) 1996, URDPFI Guidelines 2014, National Housing and Habitat Policy 2007 and

Smart Cities Mission. All these programmes were aimed at land use planning in cities, towns and metropolitan areas. 

Ministry Of Rural Development

This ministry vehemently supported previous land use planning schemes and is also propagating the current efforts of the national and state governments. 

Ministry Of Rural Development

The following policies were initiated by this ministry:

Draft National Land Reforms Policy, 2013

This is a localised policy framework providing aid to preparation of village land use plans. This policy also supports the aggregations of such localised plans to help shape the other land-use policies. 

Shyama Prasad Mukherjee Rurban Mission 2016

This policy aims to transform land use clusters to novel urban from rural in a magnificent manifestation. 

Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change

This ministry has contributed significantly to the conservation of environmental resources and eco-sensitive zones. Some policies which relate to land use are-

  • National Environment Policy, 2006

This was a remarkable policy which led to the inception of 490 Sanctuaries, 89 National Parks and 13 Biospheres. The significant success of this policy led to a remarkable rise in the conservation of environmental resources. 

  • Many other policies followed this parent policy. Provisions for zonal master plans were made and important guidelines for Eco-sensitive Zones were also issued. 
  • National Mission for Sustaining the Himalayan Ecosystem

This policy details the formation of an observation and monitoring network to assist the observance of the climatic conditions of the Himalayan environment. This is how this policy aims to foster, manage and develop these ecosystems.

  • National Mission for a “Green India”

This policy had a remarkable feature of the plantation of saplings in over 10 million hectares of land. This was scattered over all types of lands ranging from forest lands to wastelands to community lands. 

  • Coastal Regulation Zones Notification, 2011

This notification is a major step towards the management of land use along the coastline. It also promotes and provides for the required resources for the coastal role management or land use plan. 

Ministry of Commerce and Industry

This ministry has initiated and passed various policies related to land use policy like Delhi Mumbai Infrastructure Corridor. This project covers the infrastructural development of over 6 states- UP, Haryana, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh. This ministry is also accredited for the success of the Make In India policy

Other ministries like the ministry of mining, transport etc. are also associated with various developmental policies for the development of land use planning. 

Way forward 

Till now, we have looked into the existing initiatives undertaken for land use planning. Now, let us look at what all can be done to further evolve and strengthen this area. Following are the suggestions for the same:

  • Minimal damage to the environment should be done. It is a well-understood fact that human beings are at the centre of the developmental process, however, to direct the developmental process establishing and maintaining the already established harmony between nature and needs of human beings is imperative. 
  • There should be a holistic development, the developmental policies should not be centres in some specific areas. This is necessary for the equitable development of the nation as a whole. 
  • Sustainable development should be the goal of the government while framing policies. This should be to ensure that the resources of the country are equitably shared between the present and future generations.
  • Smart utilization of resources should be the aim of these schemes, especially when it comes to land resources. Optimum resources should be channelised for the development for development of wasteland, uncultivable lands, recycled and degraded land. 
  • For a comprehensive development, there has to be adequate harmonization of authorities at all the three levels, that is- national, state and local level. 
  • Also, the evolution of a sound scheme which directs the entire policy is imperative. 
  • Adequate attention should be given to the channelization of employment opportunities into all communities, especially the vulnerable groups like women, tribal groups, underprivileged etc. This would serve the purpose of empowering these communities as well, hence serving a twin purpose. 
  • The specific purpose of each terrain of the land is necessary so that the natural purpose of that piece of land is not altered and hence most effective use of such land is enabled. 
  • Specific attention should be given to conservation of agricultural lands, taking into consideration the growing demands of food consumption of the ever-increasing population of India. 
  • Also, the local programmes to promote the needs of native people who are already in place should be given due weightage. This is to protect the rights and livelihood needs of the tribal and poorer sections of the society. This would serve the purpose of social development of a particular piece of land too. 
  • The cultural and historical heritage of lands should also be preserved at all costs, by protecting certain places which are revered and or have scenic or historical importance. 
  • Lands, extremely rich in natural resources, namely natural ecosystems should also remain untouched. 
  • Due attention should be paid to minimisation of land shifts. Also, once such a policy is framed, it should be specifically monitored to ensure that there are minimal land shifts. 
  • The developmental policies should follow a dismantled approach, following the regional patterns. Therefore, a proper hierarchy of settlement in accordance with the prevailing infrastructural pattern should be followed. 
  • Transportation procedure should be synced with the regional transportation systems, hence sharing the work with the local governments. 


It is evident from the reading of the above-stated facts regarding the various policy initiatives and constitutional and legislative provisions that land use planning is firmly based in India. Also, various efforts have been made by the central government and the governments of various states to enhance and adorn these policies with the improved infrastructure potentials of this country. These should be updated taking into consideration improvement in technology. 



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