Regional Planning for Sustainable Development

Keeping in view the fast changing global economic, business, and financial environment, the necessity has arisen to look at planning as a rescuer’s role.
Regional Planning for Sustainable Development

Dr B K Mukhopadhyay

(The author is a Professor of
Management and Economics, formerly at IIBM (RBI) Guwahati. He can be contacted at

Keeping in view the fast changing global economic, business, and financial
environment, the necessity has arisen to look at planning as a rescuer’s role. Complexities galore and traditional risk management techniques are fast losing ground, calling for reinforcing the process through more global cooperation, attaching top importance to the emerging economies, which possess the latent potentialities to ultimately counter and balance the topsy-turvy global economy. Regional planners, therefore, have been changing their approach to tackle the hitherto unforeseen challenges, including the adaptation and mitigation processes to deal with climate change.

Backward region development essentially calls for exploring the existing and potential resources. Human resource management, backed by marketing strategies, always stays at the top of the agenda on this score. While resource availability is not that difficult under the ongoing business environment scenario, more often than not, appropriate utilization itself remains a laggard. As a result, the result achieved in the next period remains suboptimal in spite of the creation of institutional facilities. Time has come to see that the latent resources—human, technological, and physical—are bolstered over time so that the markets [domestic and overseas] offer excellent opportunities to forge ahead by recognizing the competitive skills. The creation of facilities over time and space is the starting point since a lot depends on how the same is absorbed, as business is a continuous and spontaneous process. In this paper, an analysis is made mainly focusing on the North East Region of India, which continues to struggle against a number of odds that have been holding back the overall development process.

Regional development indicators have to be considered

Actually, any study or scanning of development is important and, at the same time, interesting. It is important because in any economy, developed or developing, the scope for further economic and social development is always there through optimal utilization of resources over a finite time and space. The challenge before the biggies is how to maintain the level of development already reached for ensuring a better life for its citizens and to aid trailers so that the latter can climb upon the development track. For the developing block, the challenge is all the more crucial and, at the same time, difficult, especially considering the complexities of the globalization process. Newer techniques and the innovention [innovation plus invention] process call for continuous searching and unearthing. Thus, the arena is interesting, more so because the process of development today is not well defined and there are no short-cut routes!

Especially as of now, the change has been so fast that it has become increasingly difficult to adapt quickly to the ever-changing processes where one technology is being quickly substituted for the next. The orthodox view, considering development as relating to the process of increasing the relative and absolute wealth of LEDCs [least economically developed countries] usually through notions of increased output of either industrial or agricultural goods, has also been under the scanner. Modern-age economists contend that the development of LDCs [least developed countries] to the wealth levels of the richer OECD [Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development] nations using extractive production and trading processes similar to those of OECD nations is untenable because of the ecological and environmental damage that would ensue. The new paradigm of development has no doubt, reasoning, and validity considering the reality that has been increasingly prevalent globally.

In fact, development means ‘upward drift of the entire social system’, as rightly opined by Prof. Samuelson. Truly, development studies as an area calls for an inter-disciplinary and multi-disciplinary approach where the economic factors are equally important as the non-economic factors so that all of the relevant issues of concern to developing economies in particular are addressed in a wholesome manner: regional studies, demography, economics, anthropology, management, and essentially sociology, pedagogy, social policy, migration, human security, philosophy and ethics, international relations, and gender issues. The crucial need remains: to learn lessons from past development experiences in Western countries. Harry S. Trumann rightly stated that ‘for the first time in history, humanity possessed the knowledge and skill to relieve the suffering of these people’. Time stays; we go out. Ecological and environmental damage were not on the tea-time discussion table, whereas the same has now been the talk of the town.

It has a special focus on issues related to social and economic development, and its relevance goes to communities and regions beyond the developing world. That is one of the foremost reasons why the area is given much importance by the leading global institutions—the World Bank, United Nations, Asian Development Bank, and the like. Non-government organisations as well as private consultants have to borrow a lot from this discipline.

Regional Planning: A Comprehensive Approach

Actually, the emergence of development studies as a separate discipline started in the second half of the last century, mainly emerging out of concern hovering around economic and social prospects for the trailers [third world] after decolonization, when it was largely felt that economic aspects alone could not fully address the development requirements [viz., educational provisions, political effectiveness], and thereafter it could reasonably assume an inter-disciplinary and multi-disciplinary area of thought. That encompasses a variety of social and scientific fields.

Clearly speaking, the very overall objective of a regional plan is to achieve sustainable development harmonizing social, economic, and environmental needs through appropriate planning and management of land and its resources, in as much as regional planning deals with the efficient placement of land-use activities, infrastructure, and settlement growth across a larger area of land than an individual city or town. Regional planning is a sub-field of urban planning as it relates land use practices on a broader scale. Regional development refers to the provision of aid and other assistance to regions that are less economically developed. The implications and scope of regional development may therefore vary in accordance with the definition of a region and how the region and its boundaries are perceived internally and externally.

Especially in today’s world, the severe shortage is there, especially in Asia, for skilled personnel who could join the team that shoulders the responsibility of ensuring not only growth but development as well as ensuring balanced regional growth—drifting apart from the incidence of rural exploitation for urban growth! In fact, it is the very incidence of regional imbalances that keeps the rural counterpart as the depressed corridor. Skilled personnel with a better understanding of the growth environment can only be the instrument for developing the backward regions, ensuring the creation of lasting assets as well as human factor utilization and thus easing social tension, terrorism, and destructive politics.

What is more, human security aspects have emerged to be an area where there exists a high degree of correlation between security and development aspects. Clearly, as of this day, inequalities and insecurity in one region have definite direct and indirect bearings on global security and the development of the global economy.

Recent happenings—subprime crisis, financial crisis, food insecurity, distributional hazards, corruption, and communal disharmonies—are hindering the growth process in many ways. So, traditional thinking is to be heavily replaced by the latest regional planning techniques in as much as regional development and regional policies have to pursue two overarching aims: increasing economic growth and/or augmenting social justice by reducing spatial disparities hierarchically, temporally, sectorally, and functionally.

The requirements at this stage are: a simple and robust regional planning framework for water and land incorporating both regional and sub-regional components; integrated management of land and water; greater direction on appropriate resource management outcomes. Naturally, the need is to have a plan that is easy to understand and administer and the ability for people to quickly determine whether an activity is region-friendly.

So, necessarily, regional planning turns on the logic that a strategic overview is required to deal effectively with urban and environmental issues that have wide implications. So this calls for integrated management of the economic, social, and physical resources of a spatially bounded area.

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