SPATIAL PLANNING AND GREEN INFRASTRUCTURE
The population of the world has been increasing tremendously over the past few decades, where at present; we are witnessing the birth of 3 children every second. This calls for space to live and carry out activities to earn a living and ensure proper living standards. The demand of this living space has been increasing and consequently, the open spaces are getting lesser and lesser with each passing day.
This is a problem. We don’t want to be surrounded by the grey everywhere because grey, does not ensure a good life. By grey here, I mean the concrete buildings, the roads, railway lines and all that we include in our lists in the name of urbanisation. The grey does seem to advocate the idea of a better life and living standards, which is but false.
The importance of green spaces in any settlement or city cannot be ignored. They, apart from providing oxygen, also support the biodiversity; keeping things in balance. They also play a role in providing recreation and break from the monotonous schedule of urban areas. The services that these green spaces provide are combined and placed under one term by the name of Ecological Services.
There are many ways to keep nature and urbanisation in sync. Roof top gardens, rainwater harvesting systems, rainwater gardens, well planned settlements with adequate green cover, over bridges with green cover etc. The advantage is that these are multifunctional. While on one hand they ensure better air quality and conservation of biodiversity, on the other hand they become places of recreation and tourism.
One thing I learnt was that we as future planners need to keep in mind the very essentiality of green infrastructure since urban development is a really fast process and above that, it’s irreversible. Once we start losing out on the green spaces completely, which has already begun, devastation is inevitable. This might sound exaggerated, but it is the reality. The nature has nurtured us all this while and it’s because of her that we have come a long, long way from being a caveman to being a sophisticated being worried about the future. It’s our job now to keep her alive and thriving while we progress, and planners have to lead the way. It is the need of the hour to plan settlements that ensure the presence of all: residential, commercial, industrial and green infrastructure and it should be brought into action as soon as possible lest it should be late.
SPATIAL PLANNING AND SOCIAL PLANNING: INFORMAL SETTLEMENTS
One thing I have noticed about urbanisation is that the focus is more on the already developed areas or on building new areas. The already existing settlements, especially the ones which are underdeveloped and deprived are not giving much priority. The result of this ignorance is that the already poor state of these informal settlements or slums worsens.
So where exactly does the problem lie? There are few different answers to this question.
Why, don’t we grimace when we start to talk about slums? We think about the small congested houses, the lack of proper hygiene, the unavailability of clean drinking water or proper food. We get disgusted, right?
This is the root of all our problems. Our prejudices about a particular area which we have never tried to fix. Somewhere there is this thought that takes birth in our mind that these people aren’t deserving of development and progress. This thought appears, however much we deny.
Moreover, urbanisation has been more inclined towards the money factor. It has been an expensive process and will remain so. These high costs and prejudices have somewhere alienated the informal settlement dwellers, which is the reason why so many slums in such poor conditions still exist in the same condition, deprived of the basic necessities and alienated from the common process of development.
What is the solution?
Some people ignore the whole thing with the explanation that there isn’t anything that can be done. Some might try to use the age-old methods to fix their state. And some might carry their egos into the matter and resolve to change the whole situation in a go.
No, none of the above is a solution.
One planner from outside that particular community cannot come up with an idea and impose it on the settlement. What needs to be done is bring the people together in the process of planning the settlement. Their voices, concerns, needs need to be kept in mind. Once all of this information is gathered, plans need to be explained to them. Only then can the planning of these informal settlements be done on a proper basis since we need to understand this one crucial point: Planning is done with the people and not for them.
Another solution can be providing rooms in the backside of formal settlements like townships. The same is being carried out in my place of residence i.e., Panipat refinery township. The people involved in jobs of house cleaning, sweeping, shopkeepers etc have been given rooms in the back of the houses. Such a provision is beneficial in sustaining a large number of people in a small area without compromising the basic necessities. This also makes more open spaces available to the public, ultimately combining the ideas of spatial planning with green infrastructure and social inclusiveness.
Planning in the current world has become a very important discipline, in order to make societies and settlements environmentally sustainable, socially inclusive and affordable. For the process of urbanisation to continue smoothly, planners have to lead the way.
Department of Planning
School of Planning and Architecture, Vijayawada