Rural Development Planning: A Challenge for Countries around the World

rural development planning

What is a Rural Area?

The concept of a rural area varies from country to country, but it generally refers to a land area that consists of small settlements and slow-paced life, unlike semi-urban, urban, and metropolitan areas. Rural lifestyle differs in terms of social notions, culture, the standard of living, the complexity of life, and the factors responsible for boosting the economy.

Since the rural development planning of the economy, health care, educational facilities, and job opportunities is pretty slow, it forces the migration of the young population to cities in search of better opportunities. This leaves less literate and non-wealthy people living in the rural areas. Drivers of the economy include primary land-based industries such as resource extraction, agriculture, cattle farming, fishing, forestry, etc. The percentage of social interaction at such places is high and so is close contact with nature and a homogeneous population.

rural development planning
Photo by James L. Stanfield from Society 

Other Types of Areas


People belonging to an underdeveloped ethnic class of the society having their customs, culture, belief systems, languages, etc. are called tribal people. A tribal area refers to community housing where the residents of that particular area belong to a specific tribe and are known by their ancestors or patriarchal descendants.

Semi urban or Suburban

In general, suburban areas are a mixture of an urban and rural lifestyle. They have similar facilities as that of an urban area such as schools, colleges, cafes, restaurants, parks, beaches, railways stations, bus stops, shops, small businesses, etc. They offer more space for accommodation and other purposes. Numerous people prefer to live in these places since they have a lower cost of living, so they can commute daily for work or education to nearby cities.


Urban areas are cities with better resources, high population density, and cost of living, low availability of land, better opportunities and standard of living, better public transport, gardens, etc. As opposed to rural planning, the housing typology usually consists of compact housing in high-rise apartment buildings due to the high real estate rate.


Metropolitan or metropolis comes from the Greek language that means “mother city”. It is a city that includes the suburban areas in its vicinity and dominates them in terms of social and economic aspects. For example, Mumbai and Delhi are seen as a source of better opportunities and resources by inhabitants of nearby cities.

Demographics of Rural Areas in Other Countries


As per the world bank, 39.44% of the total world’s population constitutes the rural population as of 2020. These ‘countryside’ areas are dependent on primary activities like agriculture, cattle farming, fishing, forestry, etc. The population density is lower than urban areas and still declining. Working on farms or ranches is a common practice in the rural lifestyle. Villages, small towns, and other small settlements are considered in this.

Canada, USA, France

In Canada, areas having a population density of fewer than 400 people per square kilometers are called ‘rural communities, and areas with at least 50% population of rural communities are called ‘rural regions’. 19.3% of Americans belong to rural America or the countryside occupies 97% of the landmass. 15% of the population in France lives in areas with rural planning taking over 90% of the entire land.

Germany, UK

Out of 402 Districts in Germany, 295 are rural. 19 million hectares of land in Germany is allocated to farming. 10% of the population has jobs in fishing, agricultural, or forest-related sectors out of which 5% indulges in primary activities. Both urban and rural planning are equally viewed in Germany as a result of the equal living conditions policy. A rural area in the United Kingdom is defined as an area where at least 26% of the population live in a rural setting and can hold market areas. Various measures are taken to protect the green belts and countryside of Britain.

Literacy and Migration

The world literacy rate is 86.3% for people of at least 15 years of age out of which males constitute 90% and females being 82.7%. 281 million people are known to be living as immigrants which is 3.6% of the population from the entire world. The USA has 51 million immigrants, the most among any country, which accounts for 18% of the world’s immigrant population.


Roads of Rural Areas 

85% of the streets belong in a rural setting with traffic or less than 1000 vehicles in a day. USA, Canada, Russia, India, Brazil, China, Japan, and France make up 59% of these roads. Countries like the USA, Japan, UK, Germany, France, Italy, Austria have better accessibility and better rural development planning as opposed to developing nations such as Sudan, Nepal, Bhutan, Afghanistan, Chad, Bangladesh, Burundi, etc.

The greatest road network in the world is in the USA. 67% of which are claimed to be ‘paved’ as of 2009. Rural Accessibility Index (RAI) is a term used for measurement of accessibility where a road is accessible if the population lives within 2kms of area. As of 2006, the RAI for China is 97%, 61% for India, 47% for Bhutan, and 92% in Sri Lanka making it the highest among other South Asian Countries in terms of rural planning.

road network
Photo by Tim Gruber from The NewYork Times

Water Supply and Drainage

A large portion of the rural development planning in Asia and Africa still experiences a lack of basic water supply and drainage systems due to environmentally challenging locations, low literacy rate, unskilled labor, etc. Most of them are dependent on natural sources like rivers, lakes, wells, etc. which are contaminated. Water supply and sanitation infrastructure projects are generally ignored due to problems such as lack of funding and management.

Even in developed countries like the USA, the struggle for clean drinking water in rural lifestyle still exists. Lack of funds, poor management, poor treatment of pollutants and waste management, declining population are some of the factors responsible for America’s water crisis. 21million people were subjected to unhealthy drinking water in the year 2015 as a result of a quality violation in 9% of the water treatments. $190 billion is the estimated price to update rural America’s water supply as per Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).


As of 2017, 14% of the world’s population lacks household electrification. A rural electrification program would improve productivity, education, safety, healthcare, and employment, ultimately leading to social and economic upliftment and better rural development planning. According to researchers, policies are put up but the cost of providing electricity in remote villages is quite high. Also, both demand and supply are subjected to rapid change. This remains a challenge in the planning process for renewable energy sources in rural areas.


Firefighting is not up to the mark in rural planning. The standards for fire safety are per the protection of property rather than lives; The changing demographics along with remote locations of rural areas make fire safety difficult. Also, the approach to deal with fire hazards differs in an urban and rural lifestyle.


There’s a lack of Low-cost housing options in the UK and USA that is leading to migration and a decrease of basic amenities like convenience shopping due to lack of demand. Affordability has reduced due to loss of jobs, lack of access to credit, lower income, and an increase in real estate rates. Local and national governing bodies and nonprofit organizations are working towards the improvement of the situation.

Photo by Arunas Sileika from Society 

Demographics of Rural India


India accounts for 18% of the world’s population out of which 31% belong to ages 10-24 years. According to The World Bank, around 65% of entire India’s population belongs to rural areas as of 2020. This population is scattered across 600,000 villages in India, most of which have a population of less than 1000. The rural lifestyle comprises different castes and tribal communities (Adivasi).


Even though India has shown a great degree of progress, the rural lifestyle of India continues to have religious influence. These villages have a majority of the Hindu population. Other religions include Christians, Muslims, Sikhs, Jains, and Buddhists. Settlements not coming under urban areas come under rural areas. Every state’s local governing body has a different set of rules and regulations under certain acts to classify a place; There have been instances where a certain area is claimed to be rural by the local or state government but urban by the central government.


The literacy rate of rural India is observed to be increasing. That being said, in terms of primary education, rural India still has a long way to go. Child marriages, more preference for a son, female infanticide, low status for women as a result of patriarchal families are still one of the many pertaining issues in the rural lifestyle. Gender discrimination causing a slanted sex ratio is still a population challenge faced by India. Women’s literacy rate has increased from 0.2% in the 1800s when the first school for girls’ education commenced, to 6% at the time of independence in 1947.


The top two states for migrants are Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. The states preferred by migrants are Maharashtra, Delhi, West Bengal, and Haryana. Maharashtra witnessed around 3.2 million migrants at the beginning of the 21st century which is said to be the largest in-migration of that time.


Only 56% of the rural areas have electricity connections. This number decreases, even more, when it comes to the excruciating condition of toilets. As of 2005-2006, only 26% of households had toilet facilities, 30% had a Television and only 2% of the households were observed to possess health insurance. The rural lifestyle accounts for 55% of the total expenditure per month.

Rural India has made a considerable amount of improvement when it comes to possessing electronic devices like cell phones, computers, TVs, etc. The most used way of transport is the bicycle. Nearly 50% of households own a bicycle and 11% own either a scooter or a motorcycle. Contradicting the scenario in urban areas, the amount of people owning their own house in rural lifestyle goes up to 93%.

Existing Conditions of Infrastructure in Rural India

Roads of Rural India

Considering rural development planning, there has been a tremendous increase in rural roads of India. The total length of rural roads went from being 2,06,408 km in 1950-1951 to 41,66,916 km in 2016-2017. During the years 2007 – 2017, the second-highest CAGR was that of rural roads (5.7%). Rural roads comprise 70.65% of total road length making them the highest.

road development
Photo by Maulindu Chatterji from Society

Purpose of Better Road Connectivity

Road development in rural planning is important for transportation and in all development of rural areas. Better road conditions provide more connectivity to nearby areas with better services. This increases agricultural activities and employment leading to rural growth and reduction of poverty. Types of roads included in rural roads are as follows –

  1. Panchayati Raj Roads (Panchayat Samiti, Zilla Parishad, Gram Panchayat)
  2. Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana. (PMGSY)
  3. Constructed by State PWDs.

Rural Planning Proposals

Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY) is a major scheme by the Ministry of Rural Development Planning of India. Out of the total (44,66,916) length of rural roads, 6,84,343 km are that of Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana as reported by the National Rural Road Development Agency (NRRDA) of the Ministry of Rural Development.

6,46,880kms are constructed by the State PWD/RWD departments, 19,35,693 km are Panchayati Raj Roads according to the State/UT Panchayati Raj Departments and 9 lakh km were constructed under the Jawahar Rozgar Yojana scheme. In 2016-2017, Maharashtra was responsible for 12.67% of roads in rural development planning making it the highest. Following Maharashtra were Assam (9.19%), Uttar Pradesh (7.69%), Odisha (7.09%), and Madhya Pradesh (7.03%). These five states were responsible for 43.767% of total rural road length.

Water Supply and Drainage

Even though the condition of water supply and drainage has improved since the 1980s, an ample amount of people still face issues like lack of water, sanitation, availability of hygienic washrooms, drinking water supply, properly planned sewerage systems, to name a few. Various schemes are executed at a national level, state level, and/or regional level by the government, leading to rapid rural development planning. Entities responsible for setting policies are the Ministry of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation, Ministry of Urban Development, and Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation along with State Governments.


Rural Sanitation Coverage had hiked up from 1% in the 1980s to 95% in 2018. Amount of people with access to better water sources has gone from 72% in 1990 to 88% in 2008. 8% of Indians still have no access to proper sanitation facilities. When it comes to rural development planning at a local level, many government institutions that are responsible for the provision of water and sanitation lack financial resources resulting in weak services.

According to RICE (Research Institute for Compassionate Economics), 44% of people from the states of Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, and Rajasthan have low access to sanitation and use open spaces as a means of defecation. In 2015, 150 million people were shown to have no access to “at least basic water”. According to Indian rules, for adequate water supply, a minimum of 40 liters/capita/day of drinking water is provided within a distance of 1.6 km or 100-meter elevational difference and the number of pumps required is 4 per 1000 people.

Failing to adhere to these standards results in people having to spend a tremendous amount of money on the purchase of water due to inadequate rural planning. According to The World Bank, no village or city in India adheres to the international standards of Water supply and sanitation. The first Indian town to provide continuous water supply for 24 hours with 100% coverage is Malkapur from Satara District of Maharashtra.


As of 28th April 2018, all the census villages in India have been electrified. 19,09,679 households from seven different states have reported being unwilling to get electrified but have been showing a willingness in recent times and are being done the same by concerned states. The World Bank had reported India to have a maximum unelectrified population after which the Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi promised to electrify all 18,452 identified villages within 1000 days. 988 days after that, on 28th April, a tiny village in Manipur called Leisang was electrified. The Prime Minister referred to this as a historic day towards the rural development planning journey of India.

Although this is a huge accomplishment, as of 2018, only 1,417 villages have reached the stage of “total electrification”. If one transformer in each village gets connected and at least 10% of the homes and public spaces get connected to it, the government considers the village to be electrified. As a result, 31 million homes are yet to receive electricity. These statistics along with situations like load shedding say that in terms of electricity, rural planning in India still has a long way to go.


A lot of people in rural India use straw or reeds for roofing, also known as a thatched roof. This helps in the rapid spread of fire in no time. Lack of usage of LPG cylinders gives rise to the probability of gas explosions. Common people are often seen neglecting means of fire safety not only in rural but also in urban areas. Even in a metropolis like Mumbai, a lot of the old buildings are seen without firefighting staircases and lifts, smoke detectors, sprinkler systems, etc.

The codes for firefighting should keep changing according to people’s needs and the social infrastructure of a particular place. Rural lifestyle is affected the most due to lack of reach to facilities and its remote location. As per the fire cell of the National Disaster Response Force, there is a need for 97.59% more fire stations, 96.28% more firemen, and 80.04% more rescue vehicles. These figures in themselves should be a major eye-opener for people.

Other reasons include factories, firecrackers, bonfires, stacking of timber and wood, and electrical short-circuit. Even though each village has at least one fire station, there is a need for more fire stations in the villages. 5 people in India die daily because of fire. It is estimated that over 8000 fire stations and 1.4 lakh fire tenders exist in rural areas.

Housing in Rural India

A “census house” is defined as an individual structure having its entrance and access road with a common courtyard or staircase block. Contradicting the notion in urban areas where people prefer renting a certain space, rural India has a high percentage of ownership of houses. Also, the concept of community housing is witnessed in the rural lifestyle more than urban areas where people are more self-centered. These houses are constructed keeping in mind the environmental aspects of that particular area. For example, areas with higher rainfall tend to have sloping roofs and are constructed on stilts in case of water accumulation.

census house
Photo by Shivang from Pinterest

Classification of Houses by Strength

The Census of India has classified houses based on the construction materials used (for walls and roofs) into three categories namely Kaccha, Semi-Pakka, and Pakka. Houses with kaccha materials for roofs as well as walls were classified as kaccha houses and that of pakka materials are called pakka houses. The houses with either element made by kaccha and the other by pakka are called semi-pakka houses.

Classification of Houses by Size and Design

Almost all the houses in rural India are constructed with locally available construction materials. Most of them are called ‘huts’. Huts are small-sized low cost houses made out of locally available materials. These are simple in shape, easy to construct, and cheaper. These materials include but are not limited to stones, mud, unburnt bricks, bamboo, clay wood reeds, leaves, sand, grasses, etc. Most of these are called ‘Kaccha’ houses. They can be made with flat roofs by using materials like C.I. sheets, tiles, and mud.

Bungalows are owned by people having better financial status in the village. Materials used for the construction of bungalows include burnt bricks and cement. They’re known as ‘pakka’ houses. Usually, they’re constructed on the land owned by the person itself and are easier and cheaper than that of urban areas. There may also be independent houses with one wall attached to the neighboring house like row houses. These may be limited to the ground floor or be a duplex or triplex.   

Classification of Houses by Shape 


This is one of the most common forms of buildings in community housing. It is mostly used for residential purposes as well as some public buildings, schools, and hostels. It consists of three to four rooms inside along with a huge front yard and a shed at the back. Some of them may have verandahs attached to them for cooking, cleaning, gardening, or cowshed.

rectangular house
Photo from TeaHub


This shape is preferred by rich people in villages where the houses are constructed of cement and brick. They usually have a courtyard right in the center of the built-up and all the rooms are planned to surround the courtyard.  All the surrounding rooms open up into the courtyard. It may be at a ground level or even plinth level and open to the sky or have a skylight depending on the climatic conditions and material of the roof.


This shape isn’t as commonly used as rectangular and square. It’s built with locally available materials like bamboo, leaves, grass, reeds, mud, etc. due to its easy access and cheaper costs. It is the simplest form and a perfect example of low cost housing since it is the least expensive of all. It comes with a conical roof and is also known as ’roundhouse’ but may have different regional names like ‘bhungas’ in Gujarat. Apart from these, other shapes include L-shaped houses, U-shaped houses, etc.

circular house
Rural development planning: Photo from Beyond Carlton

Patterns of Settlement

Community housing in villages generally does not possess a proper definite pattern but the pattern depends on the cultural perspective. The most observed shape of village settlements is rectangular as a result of rectangular agricultural lands. Another common pattern is elongated where one side is limited by existing natural, physical, or cultural elements. Other patterns are fan-shaped, circular, polygonal, oval, horseshoe, and irregular-shaped.

Affordable Housing ( Low cost housing) Schemes by the Government

Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (PMAY)

This scheme was launched in the year 2015 and its goal was to provide 2 crore houses to the homeless. In the 1st phase, 1 crore houses were built and allotted. The PMAY Gramin is a scheme responsible for low-cost housing provisions to the residents of rural India and PMAY Urban for Urban residents.

Pradhan Mantri Gramin Awas Yojana 

This scheme was also launched in the year 2015. Although this comes under low-cost housing, the eligibility of this scheme is determined by the financial condition of the person. People with a maximum annual income of Rs. 6 lakhs are eligible. Financial assistance of Rs. 1.2 lakhs and Rs. 1.3 lakhs are provided for residence in plain and hilly areas respectively.

Rajiv Awas Yojana

The goal of Rajiv Awas Yojana is the elimination of slum dwellings and offering alternative legal housing options. Along with this, it plans on the provision of better infrastructure facilities in the existing slum areas to hike up the standard of living of the residents there. Apart from these, individual state governments have other schemes for low cost housing.

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