In this article, You will read Sustainable Development of Cities (i.e. Sustainable Urban Planning) – for UPSC (Settlement Geography – Geography Optional).

Sustainable Development of Cities

  • The term sustainable development goes beyond the boundaries of science and business development and trade to include human development, values, and differences in cultures. In fact, many organizations are referring to sustainable human development as opposed to sustainable development in order to emphasize issues such as the importance of gender equality, participation in decision-making processes, and access to education and health.
  • Cities have become the focal point of these components as the major consumers and distributors of goods and services. However, many cities tend to be large consumers of goods and services. While draining resources out of external regions that they depend on as a result of increasing consumption of resources, and growing dependencies on trade, the ecological impact of cities extends beyond their geographic locations.

What is Sustainable Urban Planning?

  • Urban Planning – According to the UN-Habitat, the urban planning is defined as the planning and design of urban lands which guides governments and other organizations to support urban growth, improve sustainability, efficiency, and equity through planning at all levels of governance.
  • Concerns over climate change, clean air and water, renewable energy, and land use continue to draw attention to sustainability, particularly sustainable urban planning – the developmental strategies and practices that ensure livable, self-sustaining communities over the long term.
  • According to a 1987 United Nations report, sustainability is “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”
  • Sustainable urban planning involves many disciplines, including architecture, engineering, biology, environmental science, materials science, law, transportation, technology, economic development, accounting and finance, and government, among others. This kind of planning also develops innovative and practical approaches to land use and its impact on natural resources.
  • New sustainable solutions for urban planning problems can include green buildings and housing, mixed-use developments, walkability, greenways, and open spaces, alternative energy sources such as solar and wind, and transportation options. Good sustainable land use planning helps improve the welfare of people and their communities, shaping their urban areas and neighborhoods into healthier, more efficient spaces.
    • According to Census of India, 2011 – Urban centres in India are defined as any area fulfilling the following criteria:
      • Minimum population of 5000,
      • At least 75% of male population engaged in nonagricultural field,
      • The population density of at least 400 persons per sq. Km.

What is a sustainable city?

  • The URBAN-21 conference Berlin 2000 defines sustainable urban development as “improving the quality of life in a city, including ecological, cultural, political, institutional, social and economic components without leaving a burden on the future generations – a burden which is the result of a reduced natural capital and an excessive local debt.”
  • A sustainable city can be defined as one that is able to provide the basic needs of the population along with the necessary infrastructure of civic amenities, health, and medical care, housing, education, transportation, employment, good governance, etc. giving due importance to the environment, equity and futurity. It should take care of the population’s needs and all sections of the society without discrimination.
Sustainable Development of Cities
More sustainable cityLess sustainable city
Compact forms of residential developmentLow-density spread out residential
Mixed land use, homes, jobs, and shoppingSegregation of land uses: houses, jobs and
shopping separated into uniform tracts or
Employment is based primarily on education
and skill
Employment is based primarily on
environment polluting or non-renewable
resource-based industry
Movement by foot and by bicycleHeavily dependent on private cars
Wind and solar energyThermal and nuclear energy
Tertiary treatment of sewage, use of natural
means of sewage treatment
Discharge of sewage into water bodies or
watercourse untreated or low level of
Protection and use of natural hydrological
Hard surfaces preventing infiltration,
channeling natural watercourses.
Natural open space, protection of wetlands.
Woodlands, habitat, etc. Use of manure,
compost, integrated pest management, etc.
Destruction of the natural landscape, parkland
and exotic species, heavy use of chemical
fertilizer, herbicides, and pesticides
Reduction of waste, recovery, reuse and
recycling of waste material
Landfills, incinerators

Need for Sustainable Urban Planning

  • India is in the midst of a transition from a largely rural to a quasi-urban society. According to the Census 2011, 31.2% of the Indian population lives in towns. More than 50% of India s population will be in urban areas by 2050. It must be noted that this quasi-urban transition has to be accompanied with green energy, clean water, mass mobility, nutrition, education, healthcare, waste management etc. to achieve a certain degree of sustainable living.
  • Rapid urbanisation: According to the Census 2011, the census towns in India rose over 185% from 2001 to 2011 while only 0.36% increase was seen in villages.
  • Unsustainable Urban growth: The significant lateral growth in the city region is very slow as compared to the urban population. The population density of NCT is 11,297 people per sq. Km. (Census, 2011) which is much higher than the national average of 382 persons per sq. Km.
  • Migration: Lack of employment, health care, education and other facilities in the rural areas of the country has led to excessive migration towards the urban centres. This rapid migration has led to the problem of slums in the cities.
  • The rapid shift from agriculture: Due to the governmental policies and increasing population pressure on agriculture led to a sudden shift from agriculture to other economic activities which further led to a population explosion in the urban centres in search of employment opportunities.
  • Unequal Economic development: The unequal distribution of natural and economic resources has created an economic development divide in the country where the colonial legacy and focus on a few economic centres has widened the gap.
  • Centralised growth poles and growth centres: The phenomenon of urbanization is concentrated in a few pockets in India which failed to laterally percolate the benefits of urbanization.
  • Changing climate: Global warming and increasing unpredictability of monsoon and other climatic phenomena have also increased the vulnerability of both rural and urban settlements.
  • Depleting resources: excessive population pressure on land use pattern and other resources, increasing energy demands and imbalance in production and consumption have further increased the need for sustainable urban planning.

Characteristics of Sustainable cities

  • Cities will need to become more aware of the impact of their consumption patterns have on other regions and ecosystems. A sustainable city will also need to acquire accountability and responsibility for increasing consumption patterns. Cities may work towards responsibility by adapting a policy to reduce, re-use and recycle consumer goods. Some cities may go as far as implementing user fees in order to control unsustainable consumption patterns.
  • Healthy cities contribute to a healthy nation. Other characteristics to sustainable urban development includes:
    • Controlled population for whom adequate, meaningful employment is available.
    • Adequate governance services which can meet the needs of the population and takes care of the sense of civic duty, community participation, a sense of identity, responsibilities, transparency and equality in local institutions.
    • Efficient basic civil amenities for reasonable comfortable existence. For example, due to the shortage of power more than 50% (of power) is illegally consumed without payment to the municipal corporation leading to corruption, unacceptable financial losses and inadequate supply to those who pay for the consumption of power. A similar situation has evolved where an inadequate water supply has led to similar financial losses and an inadequalte supply of water for the population.
    • Planned housing colonies with adequate infrastructure like school, parks, drainage system and local Medicare establishment.
    • Transportation affects the environment; efficient transportation planning has to take consideration a wide range of options and choices like adequate roads, parking lot, alternate system of transportation, and mass transit facilities. The aim should to be reducing total vehicle miles driven in congested areas thus reducing pollution and emission of green house gases.
    • Effective environmental infrastructure to address issues of untreated sewage and polluted rivers, lakes and coastal zones thus threatening the quality of aquatic ecosystem.
    • Empowerment of women and encouragement of their participation in political social and economic life in the city and adoption of urban policies that take into account women’s needs and initiatives.
    • Development of an efficient urban private sectors, both formally and non-formally, which reduces poverty by generating jobs and facilitates economic growth.
    • An efficient health care system would address issues of nutrition, family planning and sanitation.
    • Citizens are law abiding, conscious of their role and contribute to all aspects of growth of the city.
  • According to United Nation’s World Economic and social survey 2013, a sustainable city has following characteristics:
    • They should meet their inhabitants development needs without imposing unsustainable demands on local or global natural resources and systems.They should not transfer risk both spatially and temporarily.
    • They should integrate socio-economic development, environmental management, and urban governance.
    • The settlements should be inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.

Advantages of sustainable cities

  • By promoting sustainable urban form and functions, cities become healthy, viable communities for citizens. Efficient urban form also helps protect the hinterland ecosystem that cities depend on. In many ways advantages to sustainable communities are underlined in the characteristics and definitions of urban sustainability.
  • A good quality of life, natural open spaces, reduce waste, equality, access, lower crime, sense of community, clean air and water quality, and environmental diversity is just a few beneficial characteristics previously mentioned.
  • The most important advantage of a sustainable city is that it follows such development path which allows for an integral and long term development without compromising future generations.
Planned cities in India
  • A few of the planned cities in India include
    • Delhi-NCR,
    • Amravati (Andhra Pradesh),
    • Gandhinagar (Gujarat),
    • Navi Mumbai,
    • Lavasa (Maharashtra),
    • Chandigarh (Punjab),
    • Naya Raipur (Chhattisgarh), etc.

Challenges associated with Sustainable Urban Planning in India

Economic Challenges

  • Production and resourcing: Rapid increase in urban population and increase in per capita income leads to the increased demand for luxury goods. To sustain the demand-supply balance along with sustainable utilization of resources is difficult to maintain.
  • Labour and welfare: Major migration in the urban regions is in the form of labourers and daily wage earners thus, monitoring their working and living conditions and ensuring their welfare is a challenge.
  • Technology and infrastructure: Lack of sophisticated, environment-friendly technology and sustainable infrastructure to support urbanization is a major concern.
  • Investment and fund utilization: India being a developing nation where around 35% of the urban population is BPL lacks the necessary funds and investments to provide basic facilities at an affordable price.

Political problems

  • Governance: The fringing regions around the urban area lack clarity regarding governing bodies. The multiplicity of governing bodies creates ambiguity regarding delivery of services and the region lacks proper development.
  • Law and order: the Unplanned haphazard growth of urban regions along with rapid development creates law and order issues viz. increased crime rates, drug abuses and other illegal activities.
  • Security: Women and children are the most vulnerable sections of the society. With the changing societal norms and highly cosmopolitan society of urban centres has further increased concerns regarding their security.
  • Indian cities still lack proper surveillance systems and adequate police force to ensure their security.
  • Ethics and accountability: Ensuring accountability and ethical practices by the governing bodies pose a great challenge to the sustainability of the urban centres.

Social problems

  • Slums and slum dwellers: Rapid migration in the urban regions has led to the problem of illegal land encroachment and unplanned settlements in the form of slums. The slum dwellers are generally ill-represented and denied all the basic facilities which further aggravate the problem.
  • Social Pollution: Social pollution and degradation of societal norms due to highly cosmopolitan urban society is a common feature. These regions are highly prone to crimes and other illegal activities.
  • Health and sanitation: The unplanned urbanization lacks basic infrastructural facilities especially with regards to sanitation and waste disposal and management which give rise to various health concerns. Pollution and adulterated food supply also lead to health issues in urban centres. Mental disorders are on the increasing trends in the region.
  • Gender issues: Despite high literacy rate the gender ratio is poor in urban centres in India. As per the Census 2011 report, the gender ratio of Delhi is 832 while that for Mumbai is 852 females per 1000 males. Crime rate against women is also high in these centres which pose serious concerns about their security.
  • Generation concerns: The changing social structure has greatly impacted the family values. Increasing trend of nuclear families with both the partners working has increased the vulnerability of children and old age people in the society.

Environmental problems

  • Environmental degradation: The increased vertical extends along with excessive constructional activities and vehicular and industrial emissions have degraded the urban micro-climate which has increased the vulnerability of the region for climatic and environmental hazards.
  • Waste management: Improper waste management practices and landfills negatively impact the urban climate and water bodies.
  • Changing land use pattern: The fringing regions of the urban areas have rapidly changing land use pattern from agriculture and forested land to concrete jungles. Unplanned extension of these urban centres further depletes the resources and degrades the environment.
  • Deforestation and desertification: Increasing population and constructional activities lead to rapid deforestation and desertification in the R-U fringe.

Government Initiatives Towards Sustainable Urban Planning

The Ministry of Housing & Urban Poverty Alleviation (MoHUPA) is the apex authority of the Government of India at the national level for the formulation of housing policy and program, administering of Plan schemes, collection, and dissemination of data on housing, building materials/techniques and for incentivizing the adoption of general measures for reduction of building costs.

Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT):

  • The scheme focuses on urban renewal projects to establish an infrastructure that could ensure adequate robust sewerage networks and water supply for urban transformation.

Smart City Mission:

  • The Smart Cities Mission is an innovative and new initiative to drive economic growth and improve the quality of life of people by enabling local development and harnessing technology as a means to create smart outcomes for citizens.
  • The objective is to promote cities that provide core infrastructure and give a decent quality of life to its citizens, a clean and sustainable environment and application of Smart Solutions.

Heritage City Development and Augmentation Yojana (HRIDAY):

  • HRIDAY was launched with a focus on holistic development of heritage cities and have selected Ajmer, Amritsar, Amravati, Badami, Dwarka, Gaya, Kanchipuram, Mathura, Purl, Varanasi, Velankanni, and Warangal for this Scheme.

Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM) (Urban):

  • It was launched on 2nd October 2014 with an aim to make the country clean by 2nd October 2019.
  • INDOCIN – the India Sanitation Conference 2016 was held involving all stakeholders like State Government, Urban Local Bodies, NGOs, Citizens etc. to further accelerate the deliverables in Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM).

Housing for All by 2022 Mission

  • National Mission for Urban Housing also works towards sustainable urban planning. The broad objectives are as follows:
    • Slum rehabilitation of Slum Dwellers with participation of private developers using land as a resource;
    • Promotion of affordable housing for weaker section through credit linked subsidy;
    • Affordable housing in partnership with Public & Private sectors and
    • Subsidy for beneficiary-led individual house construction or enhancement.

Suggestive Measures

  • Looking at the various aspects of Urban Planning with the issues and challenges involved in it we can rightly conclude that there is a need for Sustainable Urban Planning to fulfil the requirements of the growing urban population.
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Sir will u cover the topics of Geomorphology like applied geomorphology, denudational chronology and slope ? Won’t you?


Sir Please finish it if possible. It is really helpful forus.god bless u

Last edited 2 years ago by Arushi

Thanks lotus very useful