Integrating environment

M Ubaid Iqbal

How can environment be integrated into urban planning and development. At what levels can this be implemented? Sustainable development is multidimensional. It requires an understanding of complex and often conflicting relationships which require an integrated approach and an integration culture. After all, the city is a mosaic of different neighbourhoods with different functions, problems and opportunities. Although a city development strategy which fails to take due account of environment may achieve its other objectives, it will not contribute to the ultimate goal of sustainable development.
Cities today need to be competitive. They operate in a global marketplace, competing with other cities and urban settlements around the world for investment. A city cannot compete, however, if it offers investors security, infrastructure and efficiency. Hardly any city can offer these elements without incorporating environmental issues into its planning and management strategies. The environment and the urban economy are inextricably linked.
Cities which integrate the environment in urban planning and management benefit in many ways. Such cities prove more liveable, more equitable and more inviting to investors. Their citizens are healthier and fewer working days are lost to environment-related illnesses. Urban space and infrastructure respond better to public needs. In addition, cities which integrate the environment into their planning and management support international action to combat global environmental threats such as climate change, which may endanger the future of many urban settlements.
Local authorities should be encouraged to use planning, management or assessment to include environmental considerations at any level of urban planning, in any sector. Planning offers a long term overarching development framework into which more narrowly focused short-term plans can be integrated. Environmental management systems may be institutionalized in the city management structure. Assessments evaluate environmental effects of a policy, plan or program.

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