Wednesday, April 04, 2012

The Green Development Plan Imperative

Our cities, towns, villages and regions are testimony to the outstanding failure of our Development and Regional Plans. The National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) aiming to encourage reforms and fast track planned development of identified cities has failed miserably to formulate strategies and address this failure of design and implementation of planned development.

Even as the world struggles to deal with never before rates of exponential growth, huge environmental challenges and unprecedented energy crisis we are witnessing the folly of design of urban habitats that make the cities and the country more and more vulnerable to unmanageable exponential growth, increasing environmental disasters and a totally avoidable energy crisis.

The purpose of a development plan should be to create livable and sustainable habitats, not cancerous megapolis.

If our cities continue to be built on the rationale of driving growth we will have cancerous growth that is neither inclusive nor sustainable. It is no surprise that driving growth as an end in itself and poor and static designs have resulted in less than 30% of the Development Plans ever made being implemented. Among many things this approach has resulted in 3.7 million vacant houses in major cities in Maharashtra while large numbers still get attracted to these very cities and remain homeless. So much for market driven solutions for urban India.

To create livable and sustainable habitats the Development or Regional Plan must first protect all natural heritage. This must protect our hills and mountains that create our local climate and weather and also capture, store and release rain water into nallas. This must ensure the protection of all water bodies: rivers, nalas, lakes, ponds, tanks for it is they that harvest, store and distribute rainwater and recharge our groundwater. They bring life to our lands and sustain all that is precious and living. They must protect the forests, woods, trees, all flora and fauna; it is these that make the local climate and weather livable and provide enduring sustenance.

To ensure that cities and regions remain sustainable Development and Regional Plans must ensure zero water imports, zero food imports, zero waste exports. Such a Development Plan will need to restrict the growth of habitats based on the water and food available within the city or region, on the waste that can be processed and utilized within the region. Such a Green Development Plan will create walk-size neighborhoods and communities. They will design the habitats to lower energy needs and satisfy increasing proportion of the energy needs through gas as a transition fuel. The Plan will drive at least an additional 5% increase in the energy need satisfied from renewable sources every year.

In order to ensure that the Development or Regional Plan is implemented the detail Plan for the region of the taxpayer will be printed on every tax claim from any government agency along with a list of the projects the agency is undertaking in this region for the financial year. School children will take up projects that report the violations of the green Development Plan for a region in their neighborhood. Agencies implementing the Plan will be required to produce a consolidated report every quarter on the progress in implementing the Pan.

A Green Development Plan is no longer a choice; it is the only option for a sustainable and livable future.

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