Improper urban planning creates health hazards, Sasikala Rajeswaran

Improper urban planning creates health hazards, Sasikala Rajeswaran

‘Land is a precious commodity especially in metropolitan cities like Mumbai and land acquisition for various development projects is a major problem and involves time consuming process. At times, the government has to give incentives and ‘legal bribes’ by way of higher floor space index to people to part with their land for development purposes. In doing so, are we endangering the public health?’, Sasikala Rajeswaran, Editor, sawdust

Improper urban planning creates health hazards -min

Improper urban planning creates health hazards -min
Picture 1 of 1

Public suffering due to illogical urban planning and myopic rules regarding FSI can be avoided if we take our experts views seriously. Urbanisation is a sign of growth and is also a cause of growth. More than half of the global population now lives in urban settings. But at the same time urbanization can and should be beneficial for health

Recently, a group of retired bureaucrats, urban planners, architects and several prominent citizens from Mumbai had written to the Chief Minister of Maharashtra raising alarm bells over the rapid rise in contagious diseases like tuberculosis in the city and linking the same to the haphazard development of the city. They had sought immediate intervention of the Chief Minister to halt the redevelopment projects carried out under various government schemes and asked him to overhaul Development Control Rules (DCR) for the city. These experts have highlighted that liveability and environment standards are equally important and the government should give same importance to these factors too as it gives to accommodation.

There is no doubt that accommodation needs of the people at large should be one of the primary goals of the government and government is putting all its efforts to achieve this goal by 2022. Similarly, various development projects undertaken like, Metro projects and flyovers are aimed at providing comforts to the citizens. But, at the same time, we should also realise what price we are paying, especially in terms of environment degradation to achieve these goals. What benefits one can have by living in a city with best facilities like Metro railway, flyovers and skyscrapers but is constantly exposed to deadly diseases like tuberculosis which the government through TV commercials wants to eliminate completely.

Land is a precious commodity especially in metropolitan cities like Mumbai and land acquisition for various development projects is a major problem and involves time consuming process. At times, the government has to give incentives and ‘legal bribes’ by way of higher floor space index to people to part with their land for development purposes. In doing so, are we endangering the public health? Lack of open spaces is one of the main reasons for contagious diseases like TB to spread in the cities. Perhaps this is even more dangerous, in terms of health hazards, than throwing the garbage in the open. While garbage issues are being addressed through various programmes like Swachh Bharat Mission, etc., hazards of improper urban planning are not bothering the administration much as there is little awareness about the same among the public. Public suffering due to illogical urban planning and myopic rules regarding FSI can be avoided if we take our experts views seriously.

Urbanisation is a sign of growth and is also a cause of growth. More than half of the global population now lives in urban settings. But at the same time urbanization can and should be beneficial for health. In general, nations that have high life expectancies and low infant mortality rates are also those where city governments and policies address the key social determinants of health. Remember, with poor urban governance, life expectancy can be as low as 35 years.

An unplanned or illogically planned city can invite many health hazards. When large numbers of people are linked together in space and connected by shared services, the consequences of adverse events like contamination of the food or water supply, high levels of air or noise pollution, a chemical spill, a disease outbreak or a natural disaster are vastly amplified.

Better housing and living conditions, access to safe water and good sanitation, efficient waste management systems, safer working environments and neighbourhoods, food security, and access to services like education, health, welfare, public transportation and child care are examples of social determinants of health that can be addressed through good urban governance. When these determinants are remembered only once in five years and become slogans for fetching votes resultant disaster is unimaginable with enduring side effects. The growth of informal settlements and slums in Indian cities are the direct results of failure of governance in cities.

It should be noted that the urban development and town planning are key to creating supportive social and physical environments for health and health equity. Achieving healthy urban environment in all cities is a national and shared responsibility.

One of the major reasons for improper urban planning is the nexus between builders and politicians who frame rules to suit particular sections of the society. Another reason is the lack of communication and coordination between various government departments and agencies as a result of which holistic view of the issues relating to urban planning is seldom taken. As a result, we are playing with our own future along with that of our future generation.

Government needs to equip local governments with the mandate, powers, jurisdiction, responsibilities, resources and capacity to undertake “healthy” urban governance. A credible health agenda should be the prime objective that should benefit all people in cities, especially the urban poor who live in informal settlements. When cities are planned, managed, and governed well, life flourishes and health outcomes surpass those seen in rural areas.

1 Comment

  1. the main stress should be urban planning keeping all the parameters like population, water resources, land use type, transportation planning a master plan has to be prepared for the future and implemented in a phased manner to help the city for future generations.

Leave a Reply