What Goes In Ensuring A Sustainable Township!
Prof. Meenakshi Dhote has over three decades of teaching, research and professional experience in the field of environmental planning with special interest in biodiversity of urbanized ecosystems. Currently, she is heading the Department of Environmental Planning at SPA Delhi and is also Coordinator of Environmental Information Center on Human Settlements supported by MoEFCC.
She has been the member of Delhi State Environmental Appraisal Committee as well as of Delhi Biodiversity Foundation under DDA. Some of her projects include EIA of Mayur Vihar District Center, Regional Environmental Assessment of IWDP, Zonal Master Plan for Mt. Abu Eco-Sensitive Zone, Sustainable Development of Andmaan and Nicobar Islands, Vision Document for Taj Trapezium Zone, etc.
In our efforts to explore what all goes in planning a sustainable town or township, we at BMR contacted Prof. Dhote for her valuable insights, to which she responded in detail. Here are the excerpts of what she shared with us:
How important is sustainability as a factor when it comes to planning a town?
Sustainability is very important when it comes to planning a town; however, it needs to be understood with respect to the current population and profile/characteristics of the town. The physiographic setting – location in hills, deserts, coasts, islands, plateau, plains and its natural endowments indicate whether climate, slopes, salinity of soil, disaster vulnerability etc., would always need to be addressed. The functional characteristics – market town, administrative headquarter, institutional town, industrial townships, etc. will largely determine the infrastructural status, condition of buildings, transportation demands. The cultural resources both – tangible and intangible that the local people identify themselves and at times are the very reason for the existence and sustenance of the town.
We should know what is sustaining the town without detrimental impacts. For example, the historic core of Jaipur over the ages has been deteriorating with respect to infrastructure, building condition in certain areas but it is the export business which is sustaining the area. Residential areas are giving way to commercial usage, largely offices. However, wherever household industries are there water pollution due to dyeing etc. is observed.
Sustainable development is a multidimensional entity and we must identify what aspects specific to a particular town within the SDG framework of targets need to be taken forward to protect the natural resources, ensure gainful employment, reduce vulnerability, and afford a good quality of life.
What features does a sustainable town or township promote?
Sustainable towns and townships promote protection of natural resources such as water, biodiversity, fertile land; protection of cultural resources – tangible and intangible, equitable and efficient infrastructure; waste minimisation, pollution control, participation of the residents in decision making, equity and prosperity – gainful employment across all sections of society, safety and security across all age groups.
As a strategist, which all factors pertaining to sustainability do you keep in mind while planning a town?
As a strategist, the first and foremost thing is to analyse the trends of growth of the town to identify what will help the town in achieving sustainability (or addressing the SDG goals) and what aspects of the town are undermining it. Whether it is infrastructure, employment, control of pollution needs to be understood at the right scale and intensity to promote those aspects which will lead the town towards sustainability and control those that are stopping it.
How many town/townships have you planned till date and how many of them are completely sustainable?
I have been involved as part of the team in the planning of Dwarka sub-city in NCT Delhi and Mount Abu Hill town in Rajasthan. Many of the parameters of participation of people, natural resource conservation, protection of cultural resources, equitable distribution of infrastructure, etc. were built into the planning process. No overall ranking with respect to SDG has been undertaken so far but needs to be undertaken at certain time intervals, say five years or so to know how sustainable these towns are.
What challenges do you foresee in implementing your ideas for developing a sustainable township? And what steps are you taking to combat those challenges?
The biggest challenge is generating awareness of the crucial role of a planner in ensuring sustainable development. The profession makes the planners deal with multifaceted parameters - technical, social, physical, aesthetics etc. Multidisciplinary team with qualified planner is the need of the time for ensuring holistic and sustainable development. Personally, as an academician, I ensure that the training of planners with respect to concepts, methodologies to achieve sustainable development is done, to help them in their practice.