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Environmental Planner | Roles, Responsibilities & Future Prospects

Who is an Environmental Planner?

Environmental Planner is an expert in the field of Environmental Planning who prioritizes the environment for the health and well being of the society. Environmental Planner aims to analyze and reduce the impact of any Planning related project or development project be it Highway construction, Real estate building, or any other on the Environment. He or she does so by following the necessary legal framework and regulations at the national and at the state level. It makes sure no problem should arise in the interplay of the built environment and natural environment. It emphasizes the sustainability of settlements by maintaining the balance between the three components: Economic, Environment, and Society. As the settlements today are facing vital challenges in terms of disasters like flooding, landslides, heat waves, drought; poor air quality; drastic changes in the climatic conditions; loss of habitat and species, Environmental Planner plays a significant role in combating these challenges.

What is Environmental Planning?

Environmental Planning is an area of specialization which focuses on solving environmental problems concerning land use, policy framework, and design during the planning of settlements. The term environment suggests, the biotic and abiotic factors around us. It involves air and its quality, water, and its quality which may be surface or groundwater, micro, and macro-climatic conditions, soil, flora (forests and other green areas) and fauna, agricultural lands, and its interrelationship with the built environment, etc. Environmental Planning does not only give priority to the environment but deals with the problems arising with the interaction of the natural and built environment. A person who pursues a course in this is usually referred as “Environmental Planner”.

Read about: What is Environmental Planning?, Ecosystem Valuation & Services | Meaning, History & Example

What does Environmental Planner do? – Roles, Responsibilities & Scope

Environmental Planners are engaged in the development projects which require special attention to the environment though it is not compulsory. They are also hired for the planning projects requiring high expertise in every aspect along with Environment. Although they are involved in development planning, the tasks and responsibilities may differ depending upon a project to project. Development planning may involve feasibility studies, site planning, Strength Weakness Opportunity, and Constraints (SWOT) analysis followed by the projections and proposals. Land-use Planning, Public health Planning, Solid waste management Plans, City Sanitation Plans, Environment Impact Assessment (EIA), Disaster Management Plans, Environment impact statements (EIS), and Review of Plans are some key tasks to be done by Environmental Planner. Also, Environmental management and monitoring, Energy planning, environmental design, landscape management, Park and recreation facilities planning can also be the part job depending upon the purpose and scale of the project. All this is done for the well-being of the people, stakeholder consultation is one of the major tasks of an Environmental Planner.

Environmental Planner

Area of Responsibility Representative tasks
Land-use Planning Site selection, population forecasting,  Allocating future land for different land-uses, Calculating carrying capacity, land suitability, etc.
Public health Planning Water and air quality monitoring, other environmental analysis and evaluation, etc.
Solid waste management Plans Allocating lands for landfills and dumping sites, Collection and disposal of solid waste, Routing of vehicles, Policy formulation, etc.
City Sanitation Plans Preparation of shit flow diagrams (SFDs), community and public toilet facility mapping, etc.
Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) Impact Forecasting, Evaluation, and development of alternatives for the project, etc.
Disaster Management Plans Analysis of current scenario, mapping of previous disasters, impact identification, future modeling, and forecasting, etc.
Environment impact statements (EIS) Report preparation of current and future scenarios of the proposed project etc.
Review of Plans Public facilities review, Infrastructure, and other services review, etc.
Environment management and monitoring Collecting samples and identification of air, water, and soil quality, taking actions, etc.
Energy planning Alternative energy uses, energy budget analysis, etc.
Environmental design Streetscape designing, Riverfront development, micro-climate performance studies with the use of environmental elements, etc.
Landscape management Stormwater control, flood plain management, wetland conservation, etc.
Park and recreation facilities planning Selection of site, landscape design, and other amenities, evaluating its impact on the surrounding environment, etc.

Source: Author

Environmental Planner has three key responsibilities:

  1. Technical such as cartography or mapping, analyzing, modeling, proposing and monitoring, etc.
  2. The design involves the preparation of Plans and design of facilities and services etc.
  3. Decision making involves formulating necessary policies, legal and institutional frameworks, evaluating the alternatives of the project, etc.

Who can be an Environmental Planner?

Environmental Planning is a multidisciplinary field. It requires a variety of perspectives from different backgrounds. More diversity indicates the complexity of the course. Environmental Planning can be practiced by professionals from various backgrounds. These include design (architecture, urban design, landscape architecture, conservation architecture), science (geography, Environment, Sociology, Environmental Psychology), engineering (Civil, Chemical), public health and all other fields related to the environment (Sustainability, Climate Change, Natural resources, Forest management, Agriculture, Landscape ecology, Environmental Geosciences, Renewable, and Sustainable energy).

Related: Reasons why Urban Planning is important for cities

Future prospects

Environmental Planners not only brings health and well-being but also enhances the lives of people in numerous ways. They can work as or with  scientists and other technical experts are finding a direct correlation of Environment with different aspects of city planning. For instance, air pollution not only affects the health of the individuals while it also increases the crime rates in the city. In the heyday of the environmental crisis, Environmental Planners are often considered to be the one who beautifies and protects the environment. Their role is not limited as stated above, there are various diverse dimensions to it from the preparation of city sanitation plans to public health planning.

Environmental Planner work in government organizations having different tasks and responsibilities. For instance Disaster management cell, Pollution control boards, Urban development authorities, Public health have different tasks assigned to the Environmental Planner. In the case of the Private sector and NGOs, there is direct communication with the stakeholders, wide research and diverse models to work upon. The multilateral organizations like that of WHO, UNDP, ADB also hire Environmental Planners to meet the international standard of development while working on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and other aspects of the environment.  Not only that, one can work as an Independent researcher or consultant after pursuing Environmental Planning. The tasks, responsibilities, and where they are hired is not limited. More the countries are going toward the era of urbanization and development, more is the need for Environmental Planner to make the cities liveable and sustainable.

Related: Importance of ecology