Keep Plan(et) A: urban planning holds the key

Localized design interventions, responsive policies and emission standards can help preserve and regenerate urban green ecosystems

Localized design interventions, responsive policies and emission standards can help preserve and regenerate urban green ecosystems

There is no Plan(and) B. Until someone solves this problem, we must maintain Plan(and) A and create a win-win proposition for the environment. The problem statement is clear, climate change is as real as what we see around us.

Cities are engines of economic growth and cultural engagement. As India rapidly urbanizes by the 40% mark, we have an opportunity to view our cities as agents of change rather than contributing to the problem. Our planning and design has long contributed to the problem of building concrete jungles in our cities and so we need a new awareness for a solution-based approach. What’s great about a good city is that it belongs to its people. It represents a collective of visions that must work for every citizen, family, community, cluster, neighborhood, neighborhood, city and ultimately the planet.

Since sustainable development is a shared responsibility, our first response might be to “preserve” i.e. safeguard existing natural habitats, understand their long-term preservation, and create as little intrusion as necessary. . A second answer might be to “conserve” — judicious use of natural habitat and resources; and the third “regenerate” – putting in place systems through architecture and planning for nature to integrate with the built environment, to responsibly evolve, grow, die and regenerate. Robust planning, localized design interventions, responsive policies, emission standards, strict monitoring, regulation, and a prototype-at-scale approach can help preserve, conserve, and regenerate urban green ecosystems. Connecting these green ecosystems will enable better engagement with the earth and its natural forces which, in turn, will promote a positive impact on our well-being, our livelihoods and improve our living conditions. Planners, policy makers, architects, developers and informed societies can embed their work within this green framework and systematically identify and relieve biodiversity constraints across scales, assets, uses and programs in urban settings. Such localized interventions within urban networks could restore existing natural systems or create new microclimates that attract biodiversity and help alleviate the stresses and strains of mundane urban life.

To do this, planners should map existing biodiversity, ensure segregation of motor vehicle traffic to minimize impact; encourage public transit; integrate pedestrian green spaces, in particular as natural air filtration systems; working with natural water systems; and building for resilience. Localized interventions such as urban farms in shared landscaped spaces can also help re-emphasize connecting with the land for sustenance. Developments can therefore be assessed for their ability to regenerate the positive elements of the environment – oxygen, water, pollination, food, biodiversity and other key health parameters to positively impact communities.

The forest came first, then our cities. They can not only coexist, but find a home in each other. It would help us all think like a forest and be grateful that the forest doesn’t think like us. Our thinking must merge and create for a sustainable future.

The author is CEO Vikhroli, Director of CSR and Head of Sustainability, Godrej Properties.