No ambiguity on need for better urban planning

We need to operationalise policy on the assumption that increased frequency of extreme weather events and deepening impacts are the new baseline

By Rajneesh Sareen
Published: Wednesday 30 August 2017
Urban drainage systems should work in integration with precipitation predictive modelling. Credit: Wikimedia commons

Cities, as concentrations of large populations, are at risk of climate change impacts on infrastructure, human lives, human health, personal property, environmental quality and future prosperity, especially for the urban poor, informal settlements and other vulnerable groups.

The impact of climate change ranges from an increase in extreme weather events and flooding to warmer temperatures and public health concerns. Precipitation and temperature are key climate variables.

With the formulation of National Action Plan on climate change in 2008, the issue of climate change mitigation and adaptation has come to the forefront of the public policy agenda. Still, the focus is largely on mitigation of climate change rather than increasing resilience or the adaptive capacity of the people and places to deal with climate extremes.

City planning or urban planning is one such discipline which could enhance the adaptive capacity of places to deal with the impacts of climate change. There could be ambiguity over the apparent relation of a city master plan to climate change, but migration, changing land use pattern, mobility needs and spatial development and built form are factors contributing to increasing vulnerability of people living in urban centres. Such dimensions need to be considered within the scope of a City or Area Master Plan.

Therefore, re-orienting urban planning in light of climate change and a good land-use plan with suitable development control regulations can play an important role in this. Climate-related impacts must influence decision-making right at the level of planning for cities. We need to operationalise policy to work on the assumption that increased frequency and deepening impacts are the new baseline. Inventions should include:

  • City-based vulnerability assessments for understanding the requirements for resilience building in planning, design and infrastructure.
  • Urban drainage systems should work in integration with precipitation predictive modelling; this may challenge the current planning norms with regards to parks, open spaces, setbacks, buffers and floodable zones as their functionality should now include their adaptive capacity (rainwater harvesting or neutralisation potential).
  • Strong land use control is needed and conversion policies around the performance zones need to be devised or strengthened.
  • Social cost assessment for conversion/densification of land use should include loss and damage proposition under such eventualities and levies should be utilised for building and enhancing adaptive infrastructures.
  • Integration of green and brown agenda to enhance the responsive capacities.
  • Collective environmental performance of an area should emerge under various land use integrations.

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