UTC India-Student Essay-The Urban Plight- Decaying Environment

By Malvika Paliwal, FY, Dept of Planning, School of Planning and Architecture, New Delhi.

Like every country India also does a population count by conducting census, in last census it noticed a leap of 20 million citizens. Since the 1970’s the population of India has almost doubled up, however the Infrastructure and provision of amenities have not caught the pace of increasing population which has led to unsustainable use of natural resources.

This population is absorbed by the same amount of land that was available before, which had led people with no option but to compromise with the quality of life. Also out of this population about 68.8% lives in rural areas and only about 31.2% habilitates in urban areas. After seeing the trends, there is a possibility that much of this rural population will migrate to urban areas in search of livelihood. This would further add pressure on the existing resources which are not enough for the current population in urban areas.

The in-migration in metropolitans create an incessant demand for housing, public facilities and services. The ground reality is that most of the cities are unable to cope with it giving rise to impoverish housing conditions and inhabitable environment. The core of the city starts degrading because people are squeezed into limited amount of area without any provision of facilities. As a result dingy quarters adjacent to narrow filthy streets start blooming in various parts of the cities, Number of illegal housing and squatters soar up. This unorganised housing sector has no access to good quality water and sanitation network, There is no proper mechanism for solid waste disposal which subsequently results into heaps of untreated waste collected in different parts of the city degrading soil and ground water quality.

Organic development does not keep in mind the micro –climate and the environment of the area and consequently floodplains, water recharge areas, coastal shores and other sensitive areas are all covered with concrete and other hard material. Relentless development leads to creation of heat islands and also acts as a barrier for interaction between different ecosystems jeopardizing the natural environmental processes. Hence planned development protecting environmentally sensitive areas by creating eco sensitive zone development norms would be of much help.

Rise in population also paves the way for transportation and connectivity problems. As the spatial character of the city increases in size, people have to travel large distances for their daily needs and jobs. The cities have about 30% of total cars in the nation. Increase in motor vehicles lead to congested and polluted streets and people taking up more time to reach their destination. With more than half of the population of cities under lower income groups, need for public transport is seen in urban areas. Public transport should be promoted not only to cater the demand but also to reduce the carbon count.

Distribution of all sections of population should be done in such a way that self sufficient and sustainable spaces are created without reduction in quality of life. However the character of city should not be hampered while taking care of individual needs. Self sustained pockets function better because of easy connectivity and availability of facilities and an equitable distribution of population in terms of their income to induce interdependencies fostering economic and social development. New neighbourhoods should be planned prior to projected population increase.

Rather than developing edges of the city, creation of Satellite towns is the best way to accommodate the increasing urban population, without playing with the central city. These towns can be planned prior to the population increase by projecting it. Because they are a green field development it could be easily blended with the existing city, they also pave way for planning the town keeping in mind the existing environmental conditions of the city. Redevelopment of degraded and high density areas is also another way to meet the demands of city and provision of buffer for environmentally sensitive areas. Industrial areas should be identified separately and special provisions such as effluent treatment plants and waste disposal mechanism should be provided to them so that development goes hand in hand with environmental sustainability.
The measures which operate at the intersection of development and environment would also help to regulate climate change in long term.
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