Magazine 2012
Sustainable Human Settlement  
Development in Urban Centres  
Ms. Mittal Chauhan  
Maniben Nanavati Womenb s College,Mumbai.  
Earth provides enough to satisfy every manb s need, but not every manb s greedb   
By M.K.Gandhi  
Worldb s population is increasing at unprecedented rate with majority of them living in cities. As increasing  
proportions of the worldb s population, production and consumption become concentrated in urban areas, the  
need for urban development patterns that are ecologically sustainable becomes obvious. Urban centreb s have  
significant relevance relating to sustainable development because majority of people live in urban centreb s, also  
an increasing amount of the worldb s economic activities are located in urban centreb s which in turn demand high  
use of resources and also generate large amount of waste. Hence urban settlements, particularly in developing  
countries, are showing many of the symptoms of the global environment and development crisis, they nevertheless  
generate 60 per cent of gross national product and, if properly managed, can develop the capacity to sustain  
their productivity, improve the living conditions of their residents and manage natural resources in a sustainable  
way. Hence, the amount of resource used and waste generated from production and consumption located in  
urban centers has major effects on ecological sustainability. Thus, the key ecological issue for urban centers is  
not only to develop sustainable cities but developing such patterns of consumption that are compatible with  
sustainable development within their region i.e. which suits the local needs. This papers aims at ways to  
achieve equal access to resources by all human communities, along with making continuing efforts for growth  
and development alongside preserving the ecosystem.  
We are looking forward for clean water, clean air, productive soil and agriculture, abundant forest and wildlife.  
Infact we want our relationship with environment to be sustainable. In other words we would like to look towards  
a future with a feeling of confidence that essential resources are not depleted or degraded but they are being  
maintained and renewed so that these resources are available for future generation. Very simply a concept of  
sustainable development means, b To meet the need and aspiration of the present without compromising those  
of the future.b   
Hence the topic sustainable human development tends to place emphasis on improving the livelihood of  
people especially the poor. Access to safe and healthy shelter is crucial to a personb s physical, psychological,  
social and economic well-being. The right to adequate housing as a basic human right is enshrined in the  
Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.  
Despite this, it is likely that at the present time, at least 1 billion people do not have access to safe and healthy  
shelter and that if appropriate action is not taken, this number will increase dramatically. In industrialized  
countries, the consumption patterns of cities are relentlessly stressing the global ecosystem and at the same  
time settlements in the developing world need additional raw material, energy, and economic development to  
overcome basic economic and social problems. Human settlement conditions in many parts of the world,  
particularly the developing countries, are failing mainly as a result of the low levels of investment in the sector  
in these countries. There is an urgent need for suitable urban development plan with high priority being given to  
the needs of the urban and rural poor, the unemployed and the growing number of people without any source  
of income.  
There is a large and diverse literature about sustainable development but much of it ignores urban centers or  
sees urban centers as the problem, with little discussion of the role of urban policies and urban management in  
meeting sustainable development goals. Most of the global reports about sustainability or sustainable  
development produced by international nongovernmental organizations or U.N. agencies give little detailed  
consideration to the role of urban policies, the urban governance structures needed to implement sustainable  
development goals, and often give little attention to the scale of unmet needs in urban areas. The report of the  
Brundtland Commission, Our Common Future, published in 1987, which had considerable importance in getting  
sustainable development issues more widely discussed by governments and international agencies, was unusual  
in that it had a chapter on urban issues, but this chapter was nearly dropped because of the opposition to a  
chapter on such issues by some Commission members. The early drafts of Agenda 21, the blueprint for sustainable  
development that came out of the Earth Summit, the UN Conference on Environment and Development, hardly  
mentioned urban centers, and it was only through intensive lobbying by particular U.N. agencies, who felt that  
urban issues were important, that this omission was addressed in the final version.  
While discussing about urban centers in relation to sustainable development, it is usually understood that urban  
centers have major role to play in causing pollution and waste. But it can be misleading to attribute to urban  
centers the resource use, waste, pollution, andGreenhouse gas emissions that occur within their boundaries.  
Though majority of the industries and commercial enterprises (or corporations) and middle- and upper-income  
groups with high consumption lifestyles may be concentrated in urban centers, but it is not only their concentration  
in these urban centers that is environmentally destructive but also their level of resource use and waste generation.  
If these production units were dispersed in rural areas, they could reduce their local ecological impact on urban  
centres but their total consumption or use of resources and generation of wastes would not change drastically.  
By some criteria, the ecological impact of industries and wealthy households would increase if they were  
dispersed in rural areas, because their spatial dispersion would imply a greater need for motorized transport.  
Concentrating people and production in cities gives more possibilities of waste reduction, reuse, and recycling  
and also makes good environmental management cheaper since it is difficult for any environmental agency to  
check on the emissions and waste disposal practices of industries disperse through rural regions. In addition,  
concentrating people in cities reduces their per capita resource use. In high-income countries and in the  
wealthier cities or regions in middle-income countries, it is the middle- or upper-income households with two or  
more automobiles living in rural areas, small towns, or low density outer suburbs of cities that generally have the  
highest consumption of resources. One particularly wealthy, high-consumption individual or household with  
several large automobiles with frequent use of air travel (for pleasure and work) can have a more damaging  
global ecological impact than thousands of urban dwellers in informal settlements in low-income nations. There  
are few valid generalizations for urban centers because of their diversity in terms of size, quality of life, and total  
or average per capita resource use. There is considerable variation in the way that different governments define  
urban centers.  
In terms of ecological sustainability, urban centers vary from those with very low levels of resource use and  
waste generation to those with very high levels of resource use, waste generation. Thus it makes very difficult to  
generalize about urban centres in relation to sustainable development.  
According to its original meaning the term Sustainable Development according to the World Commission on  
Environment and Development, or the Brundtland Commission in 1987 states that, b the goals are to meet the  
needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own  
needsb . The development component for urban centers is the extent to which their inhabitants needs are met.  
These include the need for adequate livelihoods, for adequate shelter [secure, good quality housing with basic  
infrastructure (for water piped into homes and provision for sanitation, drainage, and solid waste removal)] and  
for services (including schools, health care and emergency services). During the 1990s, the discussions about  
urban development in low- and middle-income nations came to recognize that reducing poverty meant not  
only more secure livelihoods and better housing but also ensuring all urban citizens had the right to exercise  
their civil and political rights and that they were protected by the rule of law against violence, other crimes, and  
unsafe working conditions.  
While meeting the needs of the present as mentioned in the component of sustainable development, requires  
consideration of whose needs are to be met, what needs, who defines needs, and who obtains more power and  
resources to ensure they are met. Hence here comes the role of national and state government and especially  
the local governing bodies and non governmental bodies to play an important and leading role. The various  
needs include economic, social, cultural, health, and political as follows:  
b "
b "
ECONOMIC NEEDS: i.e. to generate surpluses, making continuing efforts for development and growth.  
SOCIAL, CULTURAL & HEALTH NEEDS: it includes health care, transportation and education. It is also  
concerned with guaranteeing equal access to resources by all human communities.  
b "
POLITICAL NEEDS: it includes freedom to participate in national and local politics and in decision  
regarding management and development of oneb s home and neighborhood.  
b "
ENVIRONMENTAL NEEDS: includes adequate housing with proper provision of water, sanitation and  
drainage. Also protection from environmental hazards and provision of recreational facilities for children  
and adults.  
Access to land resources is an essential component. Land resources are the basis for human living systems and  
provide soil, energy, water and the opportunity for all human activity. In rapidly growing urban areas, access to  
land is becoming increasingly difficult by the conflicting demands of industry, housing, commerce, agriculture,  
land tenure structures and the need for open spaces. Furthermore, the rising costs of urban land deter the poor  
from gaining access to suitable land. In rural areas, unsound practices, such as the exploitation of marginal  
lands and the encroachment on forests and ecologically fragile areas for commercial interests leads to landless  
rural populations which results in environmental degradation. There is a need to develop environmentally sound  
physical planning and land use system so as to ensure access to land to all households.  
The overall human settlement objective should be to improve the social, economic and environmental quality  
of human settlements and the living and working environments of all people, in particular the urban and rural  
poor. Such improvement should be based on technical cooperation activities, partnerships among the public,  
private and community sectors and participation in the decision-making process by community groups and  
special interest groups such as women, indigenous people, the elderly and the disabled. In developing these  
strategies, countries will need to set priorities in accordance with their national plans and objectives, taking into  
account their social and cultural capabilities. Furthermore, countries should make appropriate provision to  
examine the effect of their strategies on marginalized groups, with particular reference to the needs of women.  
The sustainability of urban development can be defined by many parameters relating to the availability of water  
supplies, air quality and the provision of environmental infrastructure for sanitation and waste management.  
In most developing countries, poor environmental infrastructure is responsible for widespread diseases and the  
conditions are set to worsen due to growing needs that exceed the capacity of Governments to respond  
adequately. Much of the urban population in underdeveloped and developing nations lack safe, regular, and  
easily accessed piped water supplies and good quality provision for sanitation and drainage. A U.N. report  
published in 2003 shows that the deficiencies in provision for water and sanitation in urban areas of Africa, Asia,  
and Latin America are much worse than had previously been suggested by official statistics; for instance, it  
suggests that at least 35 percent of the urban population in Africa and Asia have inadequate provision water and  
at least half have inadequate provision  
for sanitation. As many as 100 million urban dwellers in low- and middle income nations have to resort to open  
defecation, because of the lack of toilet facilities in their homes or nearby. Within these nations, it is also  
common for 30b 60 percent of a cityb s population to live in poor quality one or two-room shacks in squatter  
settlements or illegal subdivisions; most have very inadequate provision for infrastructure and services, and a  
high proportion are at constant risk of eviction. Many of these informal or illegal settlements are located on land  
sites in flood plains, along river banks, or on steep slopes that are at risk from landslides because these were  
the only sites in or close to cities on which their inhabitants were able to settle; landowners and governments  
would not have permitted them to settle on better quality sites.  
An integrated approach is necessary for sustainable development which can improve the quality of life, increase  
productivity, improve health and reduce the burden of investments in curative medicine and poverty alleviation.  
b "
Minimizing use of nonrenewable resources: it includes minimizing the use of fossil fuels in transport,  
industry, housing and commerce and also substituting with renewable sources wherever feasible. Also  
minimizing use of scarce resources i.e. minerals.  
b "
b "
Recognition of suitable institutions, understanding of social relations and accounting methods which  
treat the environment as natural capital so that we can measure its depletion or enhancement.  
The goal of providing adequate shelter for all, all countries should take immediate measures to provide  
shelter to their homeless poor, while the international community and financial institutions should undertake  
actions to support the efforts of the developing countries to provide shelter to the poor.  
b "
To plan environmentally sound and culturally sensitive tourism programmes as a strategy for sustainable  
development of urban and rural settlements.  
b "
b "
b "
b "
Adopting and utilizing housing and finance schemes and new innovative mechanisms.  
Improving the rural living conditions to reduce the flow of people from rural to urban.  
Develop rational and environmentally sound use of limited land resources.  
Strengthen the capacity of national, state and local educational research and training institutions to  
provide formal training of land-management technicians and professionals.  
Often too much of focus in placed on national policies and strategies and too little attention to the changes  
needed in each locality and in the role of local governments. There is an urgent need to reconcile a concern for  
global sustainability with the need for development within local structures. There is a need for competent city  
and municipal government that is currently rarely present. Developing countries should encourage technological  
training and research through joint efforts by donors, non-governmental organizations and private business in  
such areas as the reduction of waste, water quality, saving of energy, safe production of chemicals and less  
polluting transportation. There is an urgent need to raise public awareness of the environmental impacts through  
mass media campaigns and support of non-governmental agencies.  
Chary S.N. (2008): b Environmental Studiesb , New Delhi, Macmillian India Limited.  
Hardoy J.E., Mitlin D., Satterthwaite D. (2001):b Environmental Problems in an Urbanizing World: Finding Solutions  
for Cities in Africa, Asia and Latin Americab , London, Earthscan.  
Misra S.P. and Pandey S.N. (2008):b Essential Environmental Studiesb , New Delhi, Ane Books India.  
Singh R.S., Singh S.M., Sandhu J. (2001):b Sustainable Human Settlements: the Asian experienceb , India, Rawat  
UN Habitat (2003):b  Water and Sanitation in the Worldb s Citiesb , London, Earthscan.  
World Commission Environmental Development (1987):b  Our Common Futureb , Oxford, Oxford University Press.  
World Bank (1991): Annual Report, Washington, D.C.