The urban areas of the country are facing problems of deterioration of environmental and socio-economic conditions. The major concerns are unplanned and haphazard development, poor sanitary and living conditions, urbanization and associated problems including slums, poor/inadequate infrastructure and pollution problems. While there are several causes for urban degradation such as population migration, environmental considerations not adequately being incorporated into plans (Master Plans), uncoordinated and haphazard development, weak implementation of plans and laws and inadequate institutional competences, one of the major concerns is resource crunch.
The Government (municipality, local bodies etc.) is not generally having adequate funds to deal with the needed infrastructure facilities, significantly since they do not have mechanisms for recovery of investments and to make the services or infrastructure provided sustainable. However, today there are several mechanisms in operation in various parts of the world. While private investments are easily forthcoming in profit oriented sectors such as road making, public-private investments are one way of handling the sectors such as sewerage or garbage or water supply where the recoveries are to come from the households.
Considering the severely lacking or inadequate infrastructure facilities, deteriorating environmental quality and living conditions on one hand and the lack of finances, awareness, adequate technical competences and organizational set up on the other, there is a need for looking into custom made non-conventional solutions for application.
Pilot studies conducted for urban areas by the Centre for Spatial Environmental Planning created at the Central Pollution Control Board under the World Bank funded Environmental Management Capacity Building Project and supported by the GTZ-CPCB Project under the Indo-German Bilateral Programme, were encouraging. Using the experiences from the pilot studies conducted for urban areas, the Ecocity programme was conceptualized for improving environment and achieving sustainable development through a comprehensive urban improvement system employing practical, innovative and non-conventional solutions. Under the X Plan, a budget provision of Rs. 15 cr has been made for the period 2002-03 to 2006-07 for the Ecocity projects. The outline of the scheme is provided in the following sections.