Globally, the urban population had rapidly increased from 10% in 1900 to 55% in 2018, and by 2050, it is projected to rise up to 68% (1). Such an intense rate of urban growth has increased environmental vulnerability such as unplanned land use/land cover (LULC) change, rapid urban expansion to the peripheral areas, higher demand of energy, increased pollution level and loss of flora and fauna (2)(3)(4). Thus, the demographic megatrends such as environmental degradation, population growth and urbanization poses a major challenge for the environmental sustainability (5).
Revisiting our development goals
The current development pattern has brought all of us in a place wherein we must revisit our understanding of GDP focused development, climate adaption, and urban planning. While promoting economic development, we often ignore environmental concerns such as land and water degradation, pollution, and loss of forests and wildlife. Also, the lack of proper land use control is resulting in poor land urban growth patterns (6). As a result, over the decades, there has been dilapidation in the health of all living organisms. Thus, environmental planning has the potential to minimize these conflicts between the environment and development. Environment planning is an emerging field which facilitates the utilization of land for development in conjunction with environment, society, governance, and other economic factors. Moreover, it aims to promote sustainable communities that focus on the fragile ecology of the earth.
Purpose of Environmental Planning
Overall, environment planning helps to maintain harmony between the natural and the human-made systems. All the ecological services gained from the environment should be utilized rationally without compromising its use by future generations. Environmental planning is a practice of protecting the natural environment at individual and governmental levels for the benefit of the natural environment and humans. Due to the population explosion and intensive fossil-fuel based development, the biophysical environment is getting degraded, either partially or permanently. It is well understood that economic development is much required, but it is equally essential to preserve the environment.
Sustainability and Development Goals
At a global level, United Nations, framed the Sustainable Development Goals, under goal no. 13 of Climate Actions, provides a platform at a global scale to spread awareness about climate change and urgent actions required to combat its impacts. One of the historical events was the Paris Agreement on Climate Change to strengthen the global response to combat Climate Change. The Paris Agreement envisions keeping the global temperature rise below 2 degrees Celsius. Also, COP 25: Madrid 2019, COP24: Katowice 2018, covers the crucial aspects of combatting climate change (7). The UN recommends that countries urgently act on pollution reduction, resource efficiency, and environmental protection to achieve SDGs and ensure sustainability. In India, there are various laws established by the Government to maintain a balance between development and the environment. These comprise, but are not restricted to, The Forest (Conservation) Act (1980), Environmental (Protection) Act (1986), Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act (1981), Wildlife Protection Act (1972).
Furthermore, the National Green Tribunal was established under the National Green Tribunal (NGT) Act 2010 for the effective and expeditious disposal of cases relating to environmental protection. The UN recommends that countries urgently act on pollution reduction, resource efficiency, and environmental protection to achieve SDGs and ensure sustainability. NGT was very critical on the high levels of pollution in Delhi and remarked it as an act of negligence (8).
Limitations in Environmental Protection
However, the impact of such actions adopted by governments is widely debated (9). Despite these strong measures adopted by all the governments at the global level, there are still many challenges faced by environmental planners. Every citizen has a fundamental right to quality of life, as contemplated in Article 21 of India’s Constitution. Unfortunately, in the professional field, economic development is more prioritized over the environment. There is minimal attempt to consider the fragile environmental conditions in the planning process. There have been attempts to dilute the roles and functions of NGT. The role of NGT has been limited to providing guidelines and supervision, resolving disputes, and safeguarding the interests of the general public. Most importantly, the NGT act does not include the Wildlife Protection Act 1972 and the Indian Forest Act, 1927; thus, it remains silent over significant issues. Such circumstances create a hindrance in promoting sustainable development.
NGT- Apex Body for all the Environmental Concerns
Existing development guidelines get easily adjusted to meet the greed-based demand of builders, developers, and industrialists. NGT should be authorized to visit and assess the periodic environmental performance report form developmental projects. If found defying the norms, a hefty penalty should be imposed on the company. The preparation of Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and Environmental Monitoring Plan (EMP) should be compulsory for large scale projects and specifically all the projects approved in ecologically fragile areas. NGT should be empowered to take action against the shrinking forest, encroachment of rivers and water bodies, and pollution. Moreover, the scope of NGT should encompass sectors such as construction, renewable and non-renewable energy sources, rampant cutting of forests, depleting groundwater, riparian buffer delineation, extinction of flora/fauna, and disasters.
Related: Importance of Sustainable Environmental Planning in India
Recommendations for better Environment Planning
The environmental planner should be a member of the NGT body. They should be authorized to scrutinize the existing and upcoming development proposals and award them performance stars. These stars will be gained only after implementing rainwater harvesting mechanisms, renewable energy set up (such as solar, wind), solid waste management (eco- friendly waste disposal technique). Thereafter, these stars would help the owner to avail relaxation in property tax or other municipal taxes. Such a rating system can be applied to other development activities to avail lower stamp duty charges, flexible interest rates from the banks etc.
Public participation should be encouraged in the planning process to address the issues faced by the common public. Green building guidelines should be promoted among the public through multiple interactive community awareness programs. Annual plans for destination revival, afforestation plan (in coordination with forest department), ecotourism rejuvenation, community-driven tourism proposals can be prepared along with the guidance from environmental experts. Forest department can implement and execute the forest plans to regenerate the forest loss demonstrated in the status report prepared by the environmental Planner. Overall, such recommendations, if adopted by the concerned authorities, would promote sustainable urban development.
- Importance of Urban Planning
- Environmental Planner | Roles, Responsibilities & Future Prospects
- Regional Planning – Need, Importance & Implementation
- Importance of ecology
- Introduction to Human Geography
Ar. Keerti Manisha is currently working as an Environmental Planner in a reputed planning organization in India. She is an honors graduate in Architecture from UPTU, Lucknow in 2014 and Master in Environmental Planning from School of Planning and Architecture Bhopal (SPAB) in 2016. She has received gold medal for the best academic performance in Bachelors of Architecture Uttar Pradesh Technical University 2014 by Honorable Governor of Uttar Pradesh. She has received a certificate of Merit for best Thesis Award 2016 for her thesis on the topic of Development Regulations for the Catchment area of an Urban Water Body: Upper Lake Bhopal-ITPI MP Regional Chapter. She held first position in Annual Rainbow Cities Summit and Annual Urban Research Awards 2016 organized by Xavier University, Bhubaneswar (XIMB).
Ar. Vishal Chettry is currently pursuing a Ph.D. from VNIT Nagpur and had worked as an Assistant Professor at Amity University Rajasthan and Poornima University Jaipur. He has won a certificate of appreciation from the Poornima University Jaipur for his performance during the tenure (2016-2017). He has presented numerous research papers at renowned International and National conferences. His research interests include urban sprawl, urban sustainability, and application of RS and GIS in the urban and regional planning domain. He has completed a master’s degree in Urban and Regional Planning from the School of Planning and Architecture Bhopal (2014-2016) and a Bachelor’s degree in Architecture from MIET Gondia (Nagpur University) (2009-2014). He has won a certificate of appreciation for the best thesis project on the topic “City Center at Guwahati” from the IIA Nagpur chapter in 2014.
- United Nations. World Urbanization Prospects: The 2018 Revision [Internet]. Department of Economic and Social Affairs. 2018. Available from: https://population.un.org/wup/Publications/Files/WUP2018-KeyFacts.pdf
- Meiyappan P, Roy PS, Sharma Y, Ramachandran RM, Joshi PK, DeFries RS, et al. Dynamics and determinants of land change in India: Integrating satellite data with village socioeconomics. Reg Environ Chang. 2017;17(3):753–66.
- Mehdipour N, Fakheran S, Soffianian A, Pourmanafi S. Road-induced fragmentation and the environmental value of roadless areas in a partly protected landscape in Central Iran. Environ Monit Assess. 2019;191(7):1–12.
- Chen D, Lu X, Liu X, Wang X. Measurement of the eco-environmental effects of urban sprawl: Theoretical mechanism and spatiotemporal differentiation. Ecol Indic. 2019;105:6–15.
- United Nations. World Population Prospects 2019: Highlights [Internet]. Department of Economic and Social Affairs. World Population Prospects 2019. 2019. Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12283219/
- Raghu Baba. (2009). Environmental planning as a tool for environmental protection – The need and the possibilities. Retrieved from URL: https://www.geospatialworld.net/article/environmental-planning-as-a-tool-for-environmental-protection-the-need-and-the-possibilities/
- Sustainable Development Goals. Goal 13: Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts. Accessed on 02 June 2020. Retrieved from URL: https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/climate-change/
- The Economic Times. (2019, November). NGT on Delhi’s pollution situation result of continuous negligence apathy of authorities.
- National Institute of Open Schooling. Introduction to Law. Retrieved from URL: https://nios.ac.in/media/documents/SrSec338new/338_Book2_New.pdf. Pg. 6.