What is the Role of Town Planning in the Development of Sustainable Urban Areas?
The recent drought experienced across large parts of South Africa has once again highlighted the importance of responsible resource management. Town planning plays an integral role in ensuring the best usage of the available water resources, adequate sewage systems, storm water drainage, energy infrastructure development, and communication networks. Failure on the front of resource management and planning can lead to dissatisfaction for a large part of the population of a city.
One cannot ignore the concerns related to clean air, potable water, population density management in specific areas of the urban area, and socio-economic needs of the urban area’s population. To ensure that the cities of South Africa can handle the rapid growing population of city dwellers, it is essential to involve various town planning experts.
Sustainable town planning entails planning to ensure sustainable development and as such, development that ensures that the needs of communities of present are met without negatively affecting the future generation’s ability to meet their needs in future.
Such town planning is not done in isolation of other professions. Indeed, collaboration amongst professionals such as architects, town and urban planners, scientists, engineers, biologists, and environmental specialists is essential to ensure that the objectives of sustainability can be reached.
Governments, NGOs, and the local governments must also be involved and in support of such town planning to ensure that the sustainable development goals can be reached. Practical approaches must be followed regarding resource usage, human settlements, land use management, and more.
Green building codes must be in place and private sector role players should work towards gaining certification for their buildings. Part of such sustainable designs include the creation of various green areas in the urban environment, recycling of water, the use of alternative forms of energy, creation of walk areas, and streamlining of public transportation services.
However, even with all the above forming part of the town planning process, without support of the communities affected by the changes, the plans cannot succeed. As such, it is essential to develop public awareness and to address concerns from community members.
Various challenges must be addressed in order to create sustainable urban environments. A balance must be attained between environmental aspects and human needs to ensure that resources are available for generations to come. In order to achieve such goals, the town and regional planning professionals must seek solutions and work towards the implementation of policies regarding such to assist the communities in managing the various resources responsibly. This is also to help lower the human and economic footprint on the environment.
The town planning professionals gather the data to make informed decisions and communicate with the various stakeholders, including affected communities, regarding land use management for sustainability.
Revitalisation of inner city areas and development of infrastructure form part of the challenges, as some areas of a city may need more development than others. Houses, highways, educational facilities, parks, medical facilities, walk areas, roads, and recreational areas must be developed with the goal of sustainability in mind.
Effective urban and town planning entails the recognition of limits in development, in order to prevent the destruction of natural habitats. As such, green zones must be implemented to protect sensitive habitats of endangered plants and animal species. It is thus essential that modern town planning take the natural landscape into consideration. It is important to protect and promote natural eco-systems within the regional plans for development.
Another important aspect that modern town planning professionals must consider is that of urban density. The density refers to the population of a particular city or area within the city. It is essential to gain an in-depth understanding of the urban density of the area to be developed. Higher density cities with well-developed infrastructures are often more sustainable than those with lower population densities, but with poorly developed infrastructure, unable to sustain the population in the urban areas.
Lower density cities are sometimes seen as unsustainable because people have to travel far to get to their places of work and study. The other side of the coin is that where too many people live in cramped and poorly developed spaces, hygiene often lacks and this can lead to the outbreak of diseases. It thus becomes clear that a balance must be attained to ensure sustainability.
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