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Vol. 18 No. 4 - October 2012

Planning Ecocities for maintaining the quality of urban ecosystems

by: Swadesh Kumar1, Venkatesh Dutta1, Sadhana Jain2, and Deepika Sharma3


Ecocity is a sustainable city that links the human beings with natural environments. Ecocity provides good housing and good environment using modern technologies such as eco engineering, system engineering and information technology. Ecocity reduces harmful pollution and unnecessary waste and contributes quality of life.  A sustainable city is that where the people are able to fulfill their needs without endangering the living conditions and survival of other people, at present or in the future. Good housing, good air quality, good water quality and healthy environment are needed for a good living condition. The sustainable cities and the eco-city planning approaches may provide solution to environmental problems. Ecological cities enhance the status of society through integration of urban planning. Ecocities provide solar, wind and recycling technologies, in green buildings and green businesses, and in urban environmental restoration projects. An ecocity is an ecologically healthy and eco friendly city. Ecocity fulfill the basic characteristic of healthy ecosystems and requirements of living organism. An ecocity is “An ecologically healthy human settlement modeled on the self-sustaining resilient structure and function of natural ecosystems and living organisms”. There are “well-managed entities in which economic growth and social developments are in balance with the carrying capacity of the natural systems on which they depend for their existence, sustainable development, wealth creation, poverty alleviation and equity”.


Need of Ecocity planning

In India the urban areas have several challenges to face. There is over crowding of the land due to rapidly growing population. The major challenges are related to land use, environmental quality and pollution problems. Pressure on natural resources, sanitation, health and socioeconomic issues, slums settlement and livelihoods, issues related to water and energy are now burning challenges for developing countries. At present the urban services are very poor in India. The sewage do not have a proper way to drainage, it goes own way leaking with water lines. Landfills are becoming a source of infection and diseases. The concept of ecocity planning is now very useful and fruitful for developing world. The resource management and proper plan for designing cost effective measures are needed for maintaining the city clean and green. Rrules and regulations and initiatives from local public are needed for implementation of these concepts.


Urbanization and Environment

Population is increasing rapidly and urbanization is pushing the cities to unprecedented sizes and destroying the natural features of ecosystem. The transformation of land to urban area harms the agricultural land and habitats such as wetland and forests present in and around the city. The land is used for roads, housing and industryies. Many environmental scientists have stated that the basic capacity of the natural system (biophysical component) which supports the human existence on this earth, has reached the threshold limit just because of the urbanization. It is expected that by the year 2025 the global population will reach about 8 billion, out of which 5 billion will be the urban population. About 476,000 hectares of arable land in the developing countries is being transformed for urban uses annually (WRI).As the results show, the urban areas are facing many environmental problems like soil erosion, air pollution, depletion of ground water, climate change, flooding etc.


Some Initiatives for Ecocity planning

Today urban areas in developing countries are facing many environmental and socio economic problems. World Bank has initiated urban and local government strategy for attaining ecological and economic sustainable cities. Many Asia Urbs projects based on ecodevelopment of cities are addressing problems as such as slums, poverty and pollution. The purpose of these projects is to enhance the capacity of Ecocities in India as well as Europe and fulfill the challenges of sustainable urban development. These projects particularly focused on environmental issues issues like sewage treatment, solid waste management, infrastructure like water, roads, electricity and green belts. The main objectives of these projects are to seek cooperation for sustainable development and to develop methods and design for sustainable development of urban cities. Indo-European web portal is an effective and efficient networking discussion exchange programme, on these issues. Projects for ecocity planning initiated by CPCB (Central Pollution Control Board) are based on environmental improvement through implementation of different methods related to sewage drainage, solid waste management and disposal system, protection of water bodies, improvement of traffic and transportation and plantation and landscaping. Funding for the project is on 50:50 cost-sharing basis wherein 50% of the total budget comes from the municipality of the participating town and 50% (limited up to Rs 25 million) from CPCB.


Techniques Used in Ecocity Development

In recent years, due to urbanization and modernization, demand of two wheelers and four wheelers increasing day by day that leads to air pollution, water pollution and noise pollution. Migration from rural to urban areas in search of jobs has increased informal settlement which disturbs the sustainability of cities. Global report on human settlement 2009 assesses the effectiveness of urban planning as tools for sustainable development of urban areas. Clean air, fresh water, lovable sound and productive land are the basic needs of the peoples. Many past practices are being implemented for sustainable city planning which is based on good housing, sanitation, electricity, quality living environment and socioeconomic profile. Many techniques like, eco-engineering design and development, eco-scope planning and legislation and ecosystem monitoring and management are used for sustainable development of urban areas. Remote sensing, GIS (Geographical Information System) and other modern database techniques are used now-a-days for making city green. GIS is a vital tool to identify the city green through data merging. In this method the information is in the digitized form (such as soil map, climatic maps, topographic maps, land use maps, land cover maps, road maps etc). Through this technique we can identify the potential area to improve the green systems and provide a set of plant list for those particular areas. Some of GIS tools which are involved to develop city green are-

Topological data structures- These help in handling the spatial relationships among lines and polygon features.

Spatial analysis capabilities- These would help in manipulation and display of map and locations related attribute data.

Automated Mapping technology- It helps in handling different spatial map information system easily.

Data base management- It helps in handling variety of data.

Remote Sensing- Remote sensing is an essential tool for analytical and descriptive subjects. These modern techniques are being used in environmental planning, disaster management, environmental impact assessment and monitoring. For city green plan we need many basic information at regional scale regarding land use maps, climatic maps etc. For the collection of all these information we require huge manpower and it would be a time consuming process. The remote sensing provides us all these biological and physical information at the regional level through aerial photographs, satellite pictures directly and frequently.

Through querying- With this method we set questions related to environmental factors and functional factors and find out the appropriate plants for a location. If we want to prepare a tree list for a plot then the following questions may be asked

How much area is available?

What type of building is to be built? Is it Public or Private?

What are the possible plant lists available for the region?

What are the physical characteristics of the plants?


Guidelines for Ecocity Development

Ecocity development requires ecological security, clean air, good water supply, food, healthy housing, good municipal services and protection against different natural calamities. Ecocity development is a whole systems approach integrating administration, ecologically efficient industry, people’s needs and aspirations, harmonious culture, and landscapes where nature, agriculture and the built environment are functionally integrated. Many religious places like Tirupati, Ujjain, Puri are considerably polluted and during spiritual walk, pilgrims suffer from many problems. We will have to initiate projects at local and regional level to mitigate the problems and it could be possible only through ecocity projects initiatives. Some guidelines are given below-

i. Ecological sanitation: Efficient, cost-effective eco-engineering for treating and recycling human waste, gray water, and all wastes.

ii. Ecological industrial metabolism: Resource conservation and environmental protection through industrial transition, emphasizing materials re-use renewable energy, efficient transportation, and meeting human needs.

iii. Ecological infrastructure integrity: Arranging built structures, open spaces such as parks and plazas, connectors such as streets and bridges, and natural features such as waterways and ridgelines, to maximize accessibility of the city for all citizens while conserving energy and resources and alleviating such problems as automobile accidents, air pollution, hydrological deterioration, heat island effects and global warming.

iv. Ecological awareness:  It would help people understand their place in nature, cultural identity, responsibility for the environment, and help them change their consumption behavior and enhance their ability to contribute to maintaining high quality urban ecosystems.


1Babasaheb Bhimrao Ambedkar University, Lucknow, India, <[email protected]>

2Indian Institute of Remote Sensing, Dehradun, India

3National Botanical Research Institute, Lucknow, India

This article has been reproduced from the archives of EnviroNews - Newsletter of ISEB India.

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