The term ‘Ecocity’ has been widely and varyingly defined by various proponents, to connote the same fundamental principle – an urban centre that is moving towards controlled, and sustainable patterns of consumption and growth. ‘Ecocities’ as diverse as Midrand, South Africa, Whyalla in Southern Australia and Cleveland, USA offer varying approaches to the integration of sound environmental practice into their management.
The concept’s roots in India can be traced back to initiatives launched by the Government of India, chiefly the Zoning Atlas initiative of the Centre for Spatial Environmental Planning (CSEP) of the Central Pollution Control Board. This led to pilot studies on the Environmental Management Plan for Kanpur. Experience gained under these initiatives has led to the evolution of eco city concept.
The Ecocity concept draws upon the various international initiatives discussed in earlier sections, important forerunners that aim at far-reaching change in UEM. These initiatives acknowledge the multi dimensional issues of urban environments and lay special emphasize on transparency and accountability in governance, and the need for public participation in decision-making processes. More specifically the Ecocity concept has evolved to include
- Integration of environmental concerns in urban civic management
- Balancing the needs and pressures of urban growth and change with the needs and constraints of the environment
- Planning and management of urban development, avoiding or alleviating problems while realizing the positive potentials of city growth and change
New and more positive approach to urban management that help to mobilize and effectively use local resources
This concept was extensively discussed in May 2000, in the Conference of Ministers organized by The Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) for the heads of the departments of environment of the various states of the country
As a result of these deliberations, the emphasis of the Ecocity programme shifted from mega cities to medium and smaller cities where the environmental interventions were considered to be manageable, amenable to public-private partnerships and peoples’ participation. The initiation of environmentally and socially sound patterns of development in these small towns was also recognized as strategic — given their presence as regional economic hubs these towns have the potential to stimulate positive change in their hinterland and, in the long-term, reverse the current influx of population to the mega cities.
To carry forward the Ecocity initiative, pilot projects have been planned by the MoEF in select urban centers in the country. One of the most visible of these initiatives is the ‘Taj Eco-city’, encompassing an area of thirty square kilometers around the Taj Mahal in Agra, Uttar Pradesh. Further, under the 10th Five Year Plan, a specific budget has been earmarked to create “environmental landmarks” in various urban centers that will act as demonstration projects for environmental integration in urban planning.