The world is moving from predominantly rural living to urban living. While on one hand, this has increased the density of population in urban locales, it has also created the substantial strain on natural resources, forests, ground water and quality of air making humans squarely at odds with the rest of nature in a constant struggle to extract more & more form it.
This transition has made the quality of the city’s infrastructure – its housing, electricity, roads, waste management, drinking water, flood defences and so forth very important, as it largely determines the quality of life, for the residents. It also largely determines the city’s resilience to environmental hazards but more importantly to the social order and general well being of its residence. It is well known that cities that offer little green & open spaces, suffer from lack of quality drinking water and often also have the highest level of diseases both physical & psychological and thereby increased unhappiness resulting in higher crime rates which creates a vicious cycle of negativity. Indeed the availability and quality of infrastructure are at the core of many of the challenges faced by urbanizing cities in developing cities, leading to large-scale migration to the developed world thereby creating a strain on both ends of the world.
Nature conservation is in fact now at the helm of sustainability discussions world over. India often acts as an apt example of how unplanned urban growth can destroy even the world’s most mega-diverse countries. The recent example of the city of Bengaluru which is predicted to run out of water by 2025, along with 11 countries across the globe is an alarm for the city officials, yet the city administration has still to demonstrate any serious planning efforts to address the impact of increased urbanization on the environment so clearly witnessed in shrinking lakes around the city, constant climactic changes hampering crop patterns on one end and increasing cases of lifestyle epidemics on the other. The situation in Bengaluru is just an example of how successive governments have not bothered to look into sustainable avenues to manage the city’s water requirements.
In the city infrastructure planning, urban planning is a relatively new profession that has arisen from concerns for health and maintaining wellbeing through averting diseases and illness associated with overcrowding, poor sanitation, and exposure to environmental pollution. There is a growing body of research showing a connection between human health and wellbeing and the design and structure of towns, cities, and regions. In fact, cities are more than just buildings and people. Most liveable cities have beautiful open spaces, inviting both residents and tourists to come for some rest and recreation. World over and in some of the most progressive cities, like New York, Singapore, Canada, a lot of impetus has been given to preserve and build green spaces around the concrete cities. With Central Park in New York, Botanical gardens ( also a UNESCO Heritage site ) in Singapore, Hyde Park in London, Kowloon Park in Hong Kong to name a few. These open spaces provide many advantages, for sports, recreation, and preservation of nurture. It is a key factor to keep the people of the city of healthy.
It is important to value green spaces in cities but it is also a challenge particularly in emerging countries where space and resources are both a constraint. It, therefore, becomes imperative to sensitize policymakers, practitioners, and the public to begin thinking about green spaces as valuable contributors to larger urban policy objectives, such as job opportunities, youth development, public health, community building and most importantly the city’s health. Foremost the city must work hard at establishing connections between built-up urban environments and nature. Therefore, the view to build sustainable and smart cities where experts can determine the best usage of water, electricity and open, green spaces. This will not only make the city more liveable and attractive to global firms looking for a place to set up shop but also raise the overall health index.
Urban planning can be environmentally friendly. Public places around the world that define the progressive cities are successful because of the attitude and sensitivity towards nature and the need for the government to constantly lead by example.