- Briefly summarize the fact situation.
- Examine the reasons why development and environmental issues come in conflict with each other.
- Provide short-term and long-term solutions separately to deal with this conflict.
- Analyse the benefits of including environmental concerns in the planning process of development.
The given situation is a typical case of development vs environment. In this particular case, 30,000 trees are to be cut to develop a residential colony for housing the homeless populations of a city. However, the issue is that the city has already lost more than half of its green cover and suffered from extreme climatic events. In this respect, the senior officer is expected to lay down the case clearly for the better understanding of policymakers and the citizens. He/she must be able to identify the issues for the stakeholders and enable them to take an informed decision.
- The reasons for occurrence of such situations are:
- Lack of planning : Planning is not done appropriately for the development of a city by the municipal authorities, et al.
- Lack of awareness and focus on adverse consequences of climate change: Sustainable development and consequences of climate change are relatively recent concepts that are being inculcated into urban planning only after facing repercussions such as urban heat island effect and urban flooding.
- Lack of appreciation of the role played by ecological factors in well-being of a city.
- Excessive population pressure: Lack of macro level effective planning for uniform growth of the cities across the country, leads to excessive population pressure on the city that fulfils opportunity as well as infrastructural needs of individuals as compared to other less developed urban centres.
- Building new infrastructure: Expansion of city is done at the cost of sacrificing green cover. For instance, building a metro requires huge amount of contiguous land. Because of already overcrowded cities, the land is acquired by cutting down forests.
- Standard of living: City is being seen as a place of improving the standard of living. This again requires creation of new infrastructure causing pressure on the environment.
- Short-term solution:
- The decision to select a settlement site must be taken after due consideration of all factors. Alternative sites must be exhausted where threat to environment is least.
- Temporary relocation: Relocate the homeless by building temporary accommodation, such as dormitories.
- More generous Floor Space Index norms to incentivise vertical development of city rather than horizontal development.
- Co-ordination between municipal authority and forest department: to implement proper design so as to save as many trees as possible, save few trees from being felled down.
- Compensatory afforestation using CAMPA funds: must be done using the right species of trees.
- Reform the Rent Control Act along the lines of Model Tenancy Act.
- Proper planning: including identifying the future increase in population (trends), need of appropriate infrastructure, funding source etc.
- Introducing environmental accounting practices so that negative effects of environmental destruction can be measured.
- Compulsory afforestation drives must be undertaken by various public and private sector entities to replenish the lost green cover.
- Freeing up of excess land held by government PSUs etc.: As recommended by NITI Aayog, it will help in developing low cost housing for the poor.
- Development of wasteland sites for urban infrastructure.
- Effective implementation of policies such as the smart city project so that population pressure on certain urban centres due to lack of opportunity and infrastructure at others is controlled.
- Policy makers to understand the long term consequences of climate change and focus on sustainable development.
- Development of Satellite towns: Creating employment in nearby and suburban areas so that inward migration to cities may be stemmed.
- Potential benefits of inculcating environmental concerns in the policy making:
- Sustainable development: by utilizing resources appropriately keeping in mind the needs of the future generations.
- Mitigate extreme climatic events: as is being witnessed in various cities, for e.g. Chennai flood was due to haphazard urbanization.
- Limiting the adverse impacts on communities dependent on forests/tree-cover for livelihood.
- Low emission of Greenhouse Gases: forests are the major store houses of GHGs such as CO2.
- Reduced number of environment-related protests: they are increasing in number due to adverse impact on the local residents. For e.g. , recently, residents of a colony in the capital protested against the proposal of government to fell trees for its development.
- Preservation of rich biodiversity which helps in maintaining the ecological balance.
Urban design solutions must protect the trees and adopt integrate sustainable methods with new design principles, instead of continuing in a business-as-usual mode.