Urban Planning Across The World Needs To Be Participatory And Sustainable.
Public participation in urban planning has come to be seen as a panacea for creating inclusive societies
Improving the quality of life in a city is the primary objective of urban planning. Integration of land use policies with transport, economic, social and environmental issues and resource planning will go a long way in contributing to the overall development of infrastructure. With unprecedented growth and rural migration, several cities are grappling with congestion, pollution, lack of affordable housing, electricity and water, inadequate transport systems. While conventionally, planning of cities has been a top-down centralised approach, over the last few decades, the value of citizen participation in urban planning has been recognised. Since the voices of the most vulnerable social groups are rarely heard, public participation in urban planning has come to be seen as a panacea for creating inclusive societies.
In cities like Zurich, Municipal plans are drawn up and implemented in partnership with citizen forums. The recent United Nations Conference on Human Settlements has acknowledged that economic forces are considerably impacting rural migration to cities as well as the growth of slums. In this context, the social aspect of sustainable developmentinclude social equity, social justice and opportunities to livelihood and basic amenities of housing, health care and education. New infrastructure and urban services such as sewerage, electricity, water supply, public transport and roads may either induce indiscriminate sprawl or create an efficient density.
The WHO records that each day a city of 1 million people consumes, on an average, 11,500 tonnes of fossil fuels, 3,20,000 tonnes of water and 2,000 tonnes of food while emitting 2,500 tonnes of Carbon dioxide. Since the Rio Summit (1992), urban planning has concerned itself with environmental protection and citizen participatory process. A case in point is the tangible results of rain water harvesting which has helped increase the water table in Chennai. Similar processes in creating conditions for affordable housing, a unified transport system and for freeing the coast of traffic to protect the fragile eco-systems can considerably transform the city.
Competent and accountable urban governance is an imperative factor in ensuring urban plans are implemented. Urban planning hence strives to balance the benefits of development against damage to the environment. The employment of a system of planning is essentially a longterm exercise, while strategies have to be developed immediately envisaging a phased growth. A citizen’s participatory process reinforces its democratic rights and responsibilities in guiding a humane urban process. The writer is the Principal Architect of Artes-Human Settlements Development Centre
Studies of best practices in other cities throw light on the kind of infrastructure and planning involved: the Rotterdam manual for Urban Planning and Environment provides for implementing environmental policies at the local level with land-use planning. The aspects that contribute to sustainable planning are ecological impact of development, impact on future generations, impact of noise, air pollution, soil contamination and safety. The city of Lisbon created a peripheral park – about 500 hectares of greenbelt to relieve congestion and provide social space for its citizens. Stockholm is consciously planning reduction of its carbon emissions. It is imperative however to recognise that that urban and environmental planning is specific to cities and cannot be indiscriminately applied across cities. A sustainable planning process has to be openended and flexible, while being guided by ecological principles implemented through social inclusion.
Courtesy Times Property dtd:-23/10/2010
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