Sustainability Approach In Planning Practice

In the current era of ‘resource crisis’, sustainability is no longer optional. Not only in India, but globally, people have understood that if we intend to survive for another 5000 years, almost compulsively, we need to be sustainable. By definition, sustainability means ‘optimum resource use’, such that enough is left for future generations to survive. Sustainability is not a formulae, it is essentially an approach. There are few professionals, across the world, who are integral to sustainability and sustainable designs. Hence it can be re-termed as a field of ‘super-specialization’ in planning (similar to neonatal-cardiology in medicine).

Sustainability is driven by common sense and can be learnt from a deep understanding of local context, local climate and local materials. It was difficult to calibrate sustainability. But now we have tools like rating systems, carbon footprint calculations, energy modelling systems etc to help us with that. Till recently it was difficult even to communicate sustainability. But now with clarity about the link of sustainability (read environment) and economics, it is easy to show commercial benefits of being sustainable.

Our oldest recorded existence as humans, dates 5000 years back (3000 B.C. Egyptian civilization, Indus civilization). If we look into this history of 5000 years, it can be divided into 2 major phases:
(a) pre-industrial revolution phase (3000 B.C. to 1800 A.D., ie 4800 years) and
(b) post industrial revolution phase (1800 A.D. to till date, ie 200 years).
It is only in the last 200 years that we have had electricity, steam engine, telecommunications, internet and all the modern gadgets which seem to dominate our lives these days.

It is a derived consensus, now, in this era, that we need to make best use of the new technology that we have, without forgetting our roots, making best of both worlds to make our lives more comfortable.

The first and foremost change required, today, is to ‘strengthen’ the link between environment and economics. If ‘green’ is linked to business incentives, only then will it be adopted by business and can it get translated into a mass movement amidst capitalist economy. This also supports the ‘Make in India’ slogan of our honourable prime minster, say ‘Make Green in India’ and thereby ‘Make India Green’. For e.g., giving interest free loan to industry which wants to promote and manufacture eco-friendly products or to those who want to make green technologies (similar to those who want to manufacture electric vehicles). This will generate demand-supply chain resulting in market demands for green products/materials/technologies. Secondly, if there are more benefits to people or consumers who want to be green, the demand for green products/processes can be expected to increase.The true appreciation of environment, as a commodity, which has come to us for ‘free’, will begin if and only if it gets linked to economics. This phenomenon is true for all strands of sustainability, more so for sustainable planning approaches.

Shreya Dalwadi
Faculty, MSUB

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