Monday, July 26, 2010

Is regulation the only way to create sustainable cities?

There has been too much emphasis off late on regulations being the only way to create sustainable cities. Through this blog, I would like to express my opinion on the above mentioned topic. 

I think we can play with the question a bit i.e. we can aim at creating self-sustaining cities rather a sustaining one. This is because one of the prerequisites for sustenance is the participation of the stakeholders and in this case it is residents of the city. For it to thrive, the actions of the dwellers will have to be in sync with the requirements of sustainability i.e. taking care of the environmental concerns, politically acceptable and economically beneficial. I know this balance is hard to achieve but so is the concept of “sustainable cities”.

The first and foremost step towards it would be “educating the residents” i.e. educating them about the environmental concerns, about the logic behind different regulations and about the responsibilities of citizenship. Our steps should have one important thing in mind, “every person whether rich or poor deserves at least a small strip of land where he can live with his family”. So, driving people out of their homes to beautify the city goes strongly against the concept of “self-sustainable” cities. After all its the respect for our fellow citizens that stops us from being selfish and self-centered and prevents "community dis-articulation" (the tearing apart of social structures, interpersonal ties, and the enveloping social fabric as a result of forced resettlement). It's not about skyscrapers and flyovers rather it's about empathy, responsibility and education. Even Dubai or proposed custom-built city, Sejong aren’t the right models for “self sustainable” cities as they are too niche. So regulations are the part of the process but not heart of the process.

This is a link to the blog which is a great initiative of an organisation called "Sustainable Cities" that tackles the daunting challenges of urban sustainability.


  1. I have not read the links you have posted here because I do not have time. Based on my limited knowledge of the topic I have to say this is the most impractical blog I have read of yours. I ll quote a movie dialogue here" Best results come when everyone in the team does whats best for himself and the team". Its perfectly correct but the idea of a team or a group is really non-existent in the Indian context.You have based your blog on respect we have for our fellow citizens, which according to me is really absent.
    P.S: I do not have any in-depth knowledge about the concept of sustainable or self-sustainable cities so I might be wrong.
    Njoy IIM life

  2. Sid, the topic say that "is regulation the ONLY way?" Considering that you would find that rules and regulations have been toughest thing to enforce in India. Especially politicization of slum encroachment issue is not a one-off thing. In that light, we need to take steps that are beneficial to all the stakeholders. The mutual respect has to be inculcated if things are to improve even if it sounds impractical. Thanks for your comments. They were enlightening.