Urban Planning, Green Cover & Biodiversity

What are URDPFI Guidelines?

The ‘Urban and Regional Development Plans Formulation and Implementation Guidelines (URDPFI)' is an update of the UDPFI guidelines of 1996 that provided a framework for plan preparation and implementation process. The towns and cities have become more dynamic in nature and are subject to unprecedented changes, in terms of requirements of infrastructure and other basic services/amenities. Besides, new emerging aspects like regional development, inclusive planning, sustainable habitat, land use and transport integration at the planning stage, service-level benchmarks, disaster management concepts, and governance reforms have given a new dimension to the planning process. To address these emerging aspects, it was felt that the revision of the URDPFI Guidelines should be taken up.


What is Urban Heat Island?

An Urban Heat Island has been best described as a dome of stagnant warm air over the heavily built-up areas of the city. Due to this phenomenon, many urban and suburban areas experience a higher temperature than the surrounding rural areas.

How to analyze the heat-island of a city?

Urban heat island can be calculated in two different ways. One, using the air temperature data and the other, using the surface temperature Data 1.

Air temperatures, important for assessing heat islands, are those found within the urban canopy, from ground level to the tops of trees and buildings. They are most useful for a study whose goal is to mitigate public health risks since they are the best indicators of conditions actually experienced by people. Air temperatures can be measured directly using standard weather stations and other monitoring instruments and/or mobile traverses (cars with sensors that record temperatures along a fixed line). However, because monitoring networks and traverses typically cover just a portion of the city’s area, they may not provide a representative picture of city-wide temperatures. Urban climate models can be used in conjunction with observed data to estimate temperatures in places where no field data is available.

Surface temperatures represent heat energy given off by the land, buildings, and other surfaces. Technologies that measure temperatures of surfaces, such as instruments mounted on satellites and aeroplanes, can provide better geographic coverage than those used for recording air temperatures. They can reveal temperature differences at very fine scales: for example, between roofs, pavements, and grassy areas. Satellite data, however, has a number of limitations (see “Considerations for Measuring Surface Temperatures” below). A combination of satellite data for surface temperatures and data from monitoring stations or traverses for air temperatures offers the most complete picture of a city’s heat island.


Which water bodies will be considered for assessment ?

All natural and manmade water bodies bound on all sides, listed under Census of Water body and 6th MI Census of Ministry of Water Resources, urban & peri-urban lakes under NCLP and wetlands identified as per Wetland Management Conservation Rules 2017 will be considered for the purpose of this indicator. A list with brief description is given below for reference:

a. As per the Census of Water body and 6th MI Census:
Definition of Water Body : All natural or man-made units bounded on all sides with some or no masonry work used for storing water for irrigation or other purposes (e.g. industrial, pisciculture, domestic/drinking, recreation, religious, ground water recharge etc.) will be treated as water bodies in this Census.

These are usually of various types known by different names like tank, reservoirs, ponds and bundhies etc. A structure where water from ice-melt, streams, springs, rain or drainage of water from residential or other areas is accumulated or water is stored by diversion from a stream, nala or river will also be treated as water body.

The types of water bodies which are included are : Ponds, Lakes, Tanks, Reservoirs, Water Conservation Schemes etc. Please note that this list is indicative but not exhaustive.

Following type of water bodies are excluded: i. Ocean, lagoons. ii. River, Stream, spring, waterfalls, canals etc. which are free flowing without any bounded storage of water. iii. Swimming Pool. iv. Covered Water tank created for specific purpose by any individual family or household for their sole consumption. v. Water tank constructed by any factory owner for consumption of water as raw material or consumable. vi. Temporary water bodies created by digging for mining, brick kilns, and construction activities. These may get filled up during rainy season. vii. Pucca open water tank created only for drinking for cattle.

For more information visit http://mowr.gov.in/sites/default/files/Instruction%20Manual%20for%20Census%20of%20Water%20Bodies.pdf

b. All water bodies within ULB boundary that have qualified for National Lake Conservation Plan (NLCP) as per NLCP guidelines

For more information visit https://smartnet.niua.org/sites/default/files/resources/NLCP_guideline_0.pdf

c. All wetlands identified as per the Wetland Management Conservation Rules 2017

Definition of Wetland: “Wetland" means an area of marsh, fen, peatland or water; whether natural or artificial, permanent or temporary, with water that is static or flowing, fresh, brackish or salt, including areas of marine water the depth of which at low tide does not exceed six meters, but does not include river channels, paddy fields, human-made water bodies/tanks specifically constructed for drinking water purposes and structures specifically constructed for aquaculture, salt production, recreation and irrigation purposes;

Other important terms:
"Wetlands complexes" means two or more ecologically and hydrologically contiguous wetlands and may include their connecting channels/ducts;

"Zone of influence" means that part of the catchment area of the wetland or wetland complex, developmental activities in which induce adverse changes in ecosystem structure, and ecosystem services.

"Human-made wetlands" are defined as wetlands that are planned, designed and operated to meet a specific purpose (such as providing water for irrigation, producing fish through culture operations, producing salt, recreation, preventing salinity intrusion, flood control etc.)

For more information visit https://yamuna-revival.nic.in/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/Wetlands-Conservation-Management-Rules-2017.pdf

Which open areas will be considered for the assessment?

Open areas are defined as recreational spaces, planned greens and green buffer zones as per URDPFI Guidelines, 2014. The details of the same are given below:

A. The open spaces can include the following three categories, namely:

  • a) Recreational space
  • b) Organised green (parks, play fields and other open spaces like specified park, amusement park, maidan, a multipurpose open space, botanical garden and zoological parks, traffic parks etc.)
  • c)Other common open spaces (such as vacant lands/ open spaces including flood plains, forest cover etc. in plain areas

As per the Urban Classified Land use, the Recreational Use Zone can be subdivided into

  • 1. Playgrounds/ Stadium/ Sports Complex: P1
  • 2. Parks and Gardens – Public open spaces: P2 and
  • 3. Multi‐open space (Maidan): P3

For more information, visit:

B. Definitions compiled from various sources under Basic Planning Definitions (Pg 60, Vol II, URDPFI 2014)

Buffer Zone - Buffer zones are areas created to enhance the protection of a conservation area, often peripheral to it, inside or outside. Within Buffer zones, certain legal and/or customary restrictions are placed upon resource use and/or is managed to reduce the negative impacts of restrictions on the neighbouring communities.

Eco Sensitive Zones as defined in Guidelines for Declaration of Eco-Sensitive Zones Around National Parks and Wild Life Sanctuaries, MoEF, 2011 - The extent of eco sensitive zones as following: Many of the existing protected areas have already undergone tremendous development in close vicinity to their boundaries. Some of the protected areas actually lying in the urban setup (Eg.Guindy National Park, Tamil Naidu, Sanjay Gandhi National Park, Maharashtra, etc.). Therefore, defining the extent of the eco sensitive zones around protected areas will have to be kept flexible and protected area specific. The width of the eco‐sensitive zone and type of regulations will differ from protected area to protected area. However, as a general principle the width of the eco sensitive zone could go upto 10 kms around a protected area as provided in the Wildlife Conservation Strategy‐2002.

In case where sensitive corridors, connectivity and ecologically important patches, crucial for landscape linkages, are even beyond 10 Kms width, these should be included in the eco‐sensitive zone. Further, even in context of a particular protected area, the distribution of an area of eco‐sensitive zone and the extant of regulation may not be uniform all around and it could be of variable width and extent.

For more information, visit

Environmentally Sensitive Zone/Area (National Environmental Policy, 2006 ; NBC, 2005, and Aizawl Master Plan) - Environmental sensitive zones may be defined as areas with identified environmental resource with 'incomparable values' which require special attention for their conservation. All Earthquake/landslide prone, cliffs and environmentally hazardous area, areas adjacent to fault lines, areas with slope higher than 45 degrees (NBC, 2005), flood plain, wetlands and areas adjacent to major drainage lines for general guidance, other areas identified by State Disaster Management Authority to be included in the environmentally sensitive areas.

Open Spaces (National Building Code 2008) - An area, forming an integral part of the plot, left open to the sky.

Park (Study on Zoning Regulation, TCPO, 2004) - A premise used for recreational/leisure activities. It may have on it related landscaping, parking facilities, public toilet, fencing etc. It will include lawns, open spaces, green etc.

Play Ground (Study on Zoning Regulation, TCPO, 2004) - A premise used for outdoor games. It may have on it landscaping, parking facilities, public toilet, etc.

For more information, visit

Which 'green cover' will be considered for this assessment?

For the purpose of this indicator, green areas area defined as man-made city level and zonal/ district level greens; and reserved/ protected areas as per MoHUA's Urban Green Guidelines, 2014 and protected areas under Wildlife Protection Act 1972 to be considered. The list with a brief description is given below:

A. Types of urban greens in settlements as per MoHUA's Urban Green Guidelines, 2014 are as follows:

  • 1. Reserved forest – notified under Indian Forest Act 1927 or State Forest Acts having full protection with all activities prohibited unless specifically permitted.
  • 2. Protected forest - notified under Forest Act, where no construction activity is allowed. Usually found in urban and peri-urban areas, secured by appropriate fencing or constructing compound wall or combination of half wall and wire mesh.
  • 3. National Park - An area set aside for protection and conservation of outstanding natural fauna, flora, geological formations and natural scenic areas.
  • 4. District Park - As per MPD 2021, to be provided for a population of 2,50,000 with an area of 4 Ha.
  • 5. Neighbourhood Park- As per MPD 2021, to be provided for a population of 10,000 with an area of 0.2-0.4 Ha
  • 6. Tot lots
  • 7. Playgrounds
  • 8. Green Belt/Buffer – include green girdle, park belt, rural belt, rural zone, agriculture belt, country belt, agriculture green belt. A green belt is defined as an area of land predominantly agricultural character and located around the proposed urbanisable limits of urban centre
  • 9. Green Strip - Developed on vacant land for example land under HT power supply lines, along arterial roads
  • 10. Tree Cover - Trees planted along roads within ROW and on median
    For more information, visit https://smartnet.niua.org/csc/assets/pdf/key-documents/phase-2/Up-GreenC-and-BIO/Urban-Green-Guidelines-2014-Town-and-Country-Planning-Organisation-MoHUA.pdf

B. Protected Areas under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972

  • 1. National Parks - A National park is a protected area which is reserved for the conservation of only animals, where no human interference in any form of harvesting of timber, collecting minor forest products and private ownership rights is allowed
  • 2. Wildlife sanctuaries - A protected area which is reserved for the conservation of only animal and human activities like harvesting of timber, collecting minor forest products and private ownership rights are allowed as long as they do not interfere with the well-being of animals.
  • 3. Conservation reserves- The State government may declare an area (particularly those adjacent to sanctuaries or parks) as conservation reserves after consulting with local communities.
  • 4. Community Reserves- The State government may declare any private or community land as a community reserve after consultation with the local community or an individual who has volunteered to conserve the wildlife.

What are native and endemic species?

A native species is an indigenous species found in a particular geographical location and area (like a state/ country) which thrives in that particular ecosystem. As per IUCN, it is a species that is assumed be intrinsically part of the ecosystem, owing to having developed there, having arrived in the area long before record of such matters was kept, having arrived by natural means (unaided by human action), etc.

Endemic species are those native species which are highly restricted to a particular geographical region or ecosystem and are especially vulnerable to extinction if their natural habitat is eliminated or significantly disturbed.

A state wise list of endemic and threatened plant species can be accessed at http://www.bsienvis.nic.in/Database/Endemic_and_Threatened_taxa_3942.aspx

What are alien and invasive species?

A species that is not native to the ecosystem in which it is introduced is called an alien species.

Invasive species are a subset of introduced species or non-native species (or alien species) that are rapidly expanding outside of their native range. Invasive species can alter ecological relationships among native species and can affect ecosystem function and human health.

A list of invasive alien species of India can be accessed at http://nbaindia.org/uploaded/pdf/Iaslist.pdf

How is a 'tree' defined?

The Forest Survey of India defines any woody plant with a minimum height of 4.5 ft and 10 cm diameter as a tree.

How is 'tree cover' defined?

Assessment of forest and tree cover is a regular and mandated activity of Forest Survey of India. Tree cover is estimated partly using high-resolution data and partly from field inventory data. Tree cover is an estimated area comprising of tree patches, which are less than one hectare and isolated outside the recorded forest. 

To understand 'tree cover', it is essential to distinguish it from 'Trees Outside Forest (TOF)' means. Trees existing outside the recorded forest area mainly in the form of block, linear and scattered size of patches are called TOF. The important point to note here is that tree cover is a subset of TOF. 

For more information, visit https://fsi.nic.in/isfr2017/isfr-tree-cover-2017.pdf

What is tree density?

Tree density gives us an idea of how closely trees are growing in a given area. This value can be expressed as trees per hectare. The tree density is not an exact number of all of the trees in the region, but it serves as an estimate.

What is forest canopy density?

Forest Canopy Density (FCD) refers to the proportion of an area in the field/ground that is covered by the crown of trees and is expressed in percentage of the total area.

What is urban biodiversity?

Urban biodiversity is the variety and richness of living organisms (including genetic variation) and habitat diversity found in and on the edge of human settlements. This biodiversity ranges from the rural fringe to the urban core. Refer – Urbanization and Effects on Biodiversity – Pg.10


Why cities should focus on high biodiversity to increase the resilience of the city?

Home to more than half of the world’s population, our growing cities are responsible for a disproportionately large ecological footprint. This presents a unique threat to the natural ecosystem’s cities dependence on climate regulation, protection against hazards, energy provision, as well as the health and well-being of urban residents. The better protection and enhancement of urban biodiversity can dramatically increase the resilience of our cities to current stresses and future risks.


What is the People’s Biodiversity Register?

People's Biodiversity Register (PBR) is a document which contains comprehensive information on the availability and knowledge of local biological resources, their medicinal or any other use; or any other traditional knowledge associated with them, including landscape and demography of a particular area.


What kind of data is required for the Urban Biodiversity Inventory for a baseline assessment?

Refer to the National Biodiversity Act:


How to calculate the City Biodiversity Index?

Refer to


What is the IUCN List?

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened species is the world's most comprehensive inventory of the global conservation status of plant and animal species. It uses a set of quantitative criteria to evaluate the extinction risk of thousands of species.


How is Ward-level Hazard Risk, Vulnerability and Capacity Assessment prepared in a participatory manner (based on NDMA guidelines, 2014)?

Refer to National Disaster Management Guidelines - Community Based Disaster Management, February 2014 By National Disaster Management Authority, Government of India.


What is the Paris Agreement on climate change (2015)?

The Paris Agreement’s central aim is to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change by keeping a global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees celsius above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase, even further to 1.5 degrees celsius. Additionally, the agreement aims to strengthen the ability of countries to deal with the impacts of climate change.


What is the Climate Action Plan?

A Climate Action plan is a strategic framework that attempts to identify the gaps for all climate mitigation and adaptation issues in a city related to the sectors of waste, water supply, wastewater, stormwater, transport, buildings. Recommendations include measures for mitigating the effects of carbon emission as well as adaptation to climate change for short-term, medium-term and long-terms actions. The plan details the steps that the cities can take to reduce their contribution to climate change. The process of developing a climate action plan can identify cost-effective opportunities to reduce emissions that are relevant to the city.


How to prepare a Climate Action Plan?

A Climate Action Plan is usually a focused study commissioned by the city that analyzes the past and present data. On all the sectors of waste, water supply, wastewater, stormwater, transport, buildings etc affecting the mitigation and adaptation aspects of climate change. The study is expected to come out with vulnerabilities (sector-wise and geography wise), priority steps and actions in the short, medium and long term.

Link to Climate Resilient Cities Action Plans:


What is a Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC)?

The Paris Agreement requests each country to outline and communicate their post-2020 climate actions, known as their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). NDCs embody efforts by each country to reduce national emissions and adapt to the impacts of climate change. The Paris Agreement (Article 4, Paragraph 2) requires each Party to prepare, communicate and maintain successive Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) that it intends to achieve. Parties shall pursue domestic mitigation measures, to achieve the objectives of such contributions.


What is a Carbon Sink?

A carbon sink is a natural or artificial reservoir that absorbs and stores the atmosphere’s carbon with physical and biological mechanisms. Coal, oil, natural gases, methane hydrate and limestone are all examples of carbon sinks. Part of understanding how the climate is likely to change in the future is understanding how some reservoirs that are currently absorbing carbon (carbon sinks) might stop absorbing carbon in the future. For example, the ocean may change how much CO2 it absorbs as the climate changes. Also, some reservoirs, which are currently stable, might change and start to release CO2 and become carbon sources.


What is meant by Greenhouse Gas Emissions?

Any gas that has the property of absorbing thermal/infrared radiation emitted from Earth’s surface and reradiating it back, thus creating ‘greenhouse effect’ is called so. The most significant greenhouse gases are water vapour (H2O), carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O), according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). By increasing the heat in the atmosphere, greenhouse gases are responsible for the greenhouse effect, which ultimately leads to global warming.


What kind of measures need to be taken for mitigation of Greenhouse Gas Emissions?

The mitigation measures that need to be identified from the gaps that emerge after the analysis of the GHG emissions of your city. The measures in urban planning include afforestation, cleaner power sources, promotion of rainwater harvesting through regulations for the city, renewable energy generation etc.

What is MRV?

MRV stands for Measuring, Reporting and Verifying. MRV refers to processes whereby information is provided, examined and assessed to see whether parties meet their obligations towards international reporting requirements such as National Communications, Biennial Update Reports, and National Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Inventories. MRV was initially coined in Bali.

The Bali Action Plan initiated new monitoring requirements that forced both developed and developing countries to make commitments concerning mitigation actions that could be measured, reported and verified. This agenda was strengthened at Copenhagen and furthered in Cancun. It also enables countries to demonstrate progress under initiatives such as Low Emission Development Strategies, intended Nationally Determined Contributions, and nationally appropriate mitigation actions (NAMAs).


How to prepare a GHG Emission Inventory?

Planning for climate action begins with developing a GHG inventory. An inventory enables cities to understand the emissions' contribution to different activities in the community. It allows cities to determine where to best direct mitigation efforts, create a strategy to reduce GHG emissions and track their progress. To allow for more credible reporting, meaningful benchmarking and aggregation of climate data, greater consistency in GHG accounting is required. This Global Protocol for Community-Scale Greenhouse Gas Emission Inventories (GPC) responds to this challenge, offering a robust and clear framework that builds on existing methodologies for calculating and reporting city-wide GHG emissions.

Refer to the Global Protocol for Community-Scale Greenhouse Gas Emission Inventories document to understand the methodology and process.


What is the Global Protocol for Community (GPC)?

World Resources Institute, C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group and ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability (ICLEI) have partnered to create a GHG Protocol standard for cities known as Global Protocol for community-scale Greenhouse Gas Emission Inventories (GPC). The GPC provides a robust framework for accounting and reporting city-wide greenhouse gas emissions. It seeks to:

  • Help cities develop a comprehensive and robust greenhouse gas inventory to support climate action planning.
  • Help cities establish a base year emissions' inventory, set reduction targets, and track their performance.
  • Ensure consistent and transparent measurement and reporting of greenhouse gas emissions between cities, following internationally recognized greenhouse gas accounting and reporting principles.
  • Enable city inventories to be aggregated at sub-national and national levels.
  • Demonstrate the important role that cities play in tackling climate change, and facilitate insight through benchmarking – and aggregation – of comparable data.


What is Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment?

The impacts of climate change will vary between regions, from sector to sector and even within sectors. Climate change is a key driver of climate-related risks, but it is not the only one. The regional impacts of climate change also depend on the development of environmental, socio-economic, political and technological conditions at the regional scale. Understanding the specific vulnerability and risks is essential for planning and implementing adaptation actions at the regional level. Climate change vulnerability assessment would enable to plan and implement adaptation measures, and to prioritize resources. They identify which regions, sectors or system components are particularly affected by climate change, and where there is an urgent need to adapt.


What is IPCC?

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is the United Nations body for assessing the science related to climate change. The IPCC provides regular assessments of the scientific basis of climate change, its impacts and future risks, and options for adaptation and mitigation.


What are the guiding principles for City Climate Action Planning from UN-HABITAT?

UN-Habitat launched the ‘Guiding Principles for City Climate Action Planning’ on Friday at the Climate Change Conference COP-21 in Paris. The principles establish benchmarks for action planning in cities, based on international evidence and best-practices. The principles are designed as an instrument for cities to tangibly address climate change and provide effective city-level climate action planning tools. These guiding principles are intended to be applied flexibly, together with more detailed ‘how-to’ manuals, to help cities more effectively play their role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and building climate resilience.


Case Study