Indicators for Slum Redevelopment Program

Guidelines for a comprehensive and sustainable action

Slums are informal neighbourhoods characterised by overcrowding and poor infrastructure. Their situation has been a concern for years and the place for many urban experiments. Concerned cities conduced field studies and launched multiple redevelopment programmes over the years in order to improve their conditions of living. Despite a better understanding of the issues affecting the slums, many of these programmes still present shortfalls, sometimes resulting in slum inhabitants returning to their former habitat. Nowadays, cities have a comprehensive look on these neighbourhoods. Based on the styles of interventions and the patterns of development, a common set of indicators to redesign an informal settlement can be identified.

This datasheet gives an overview of some identified indicators. They are parted in three themes: physical, institutional and social actions. Each of them is linked with a case study. Each indicator has been discussed in detail in this article.

Read More

Indicators for Slum Redevelopment Program

This article is in continuation to the published datasheet.  

Informal settlements represent a significant part of urban ecosystems. Due to the booming economy, growth rate of cities in developing countries is much higher than the developed countries. Almost 32% of the urban population of the world live in the cities of developing countries (UN-Habitat, 2012). The same number was responsible for 50% of the urban growth globally between 2000 and 2010 (UN-Habitat, 2014). Unprecedented demand, lack of infrastructure and facilities creates marginalised populations and inequalities, leading to development of slums. The United Nations Habitat programme uses five characteristics to define slums (UN-Habitat, n.d.):

  • Inadequate access to safe water
  • Inadequate access to sanitation and infrastructure
  • Poor structural quality of housing
  • Overcrowding
  • Insecure residential status

The interventions to upgrade conditions of the slums date back to as early as 1969 when The Kampung Improvement Programme was launched by the UN as world’s first slum upgrading programme (UN-Habitat, 2006). The aim of slum-upgrading programs is to tackle the issues mentioned above through a rather holistic approach. In India, tackling these issues can lead to improvement in the quality of life of at least 6 million households (Hindman, 2015). This article takes a comprehensive look on some of the neighbourhoods and suggests some common indicators that should be considered while designing slum redevelopment programmes. These indicators are broadly divided in three areas:

  • physical improvement
  • institutional systems
  • social policies

These indicators must comply with the context of the concerned upgrading program. Slums are organic neighbourhoods following the everchanging needs of their inhabitants. Narrow streets, hazardous locations and social frameworks must be considered while building a sustainable community that relies on the existing frameworks. Innovation is the key to create specific solutions for sustainable slum upgrading.

Physical improvement

Physical improvements visibly improve the quality of life and transforms neighbourhoods. Several programs advocate on the provision of infrastructures before solving the insecurity of tenure and other social concerns (De Soto, 2000). Some of the factors that should also be considered are as follows:

Steady Water and Energy Supply

Mostly, slums lack a formal water and energy distribution system. The primary focus on providing the infrastructure, in many informal settlements, is often constrained due to the overcrowding and difficulty in accessing the areas (Arias-Granada, Haque, Joseph, & Yanez- Pagans, 2018). However, it should also be noted that presence of a physical infrastructure alone is not enough. According to World Bank, the implementation of water and energy distribution system should follow the following steps (Arias- Granada et al., 2018):

  • Funding
  • Tenure requirements
  • Education
  • Reliability

Many households are not able to afford the implied expenses of a new water supply system. Re-development programs must include grants and subsidies to encourage the inhabitants to use the provided water and electricity supply network and the sanitation systems. For example, the Orangi Charitable Trust in Karachi launched a micro credit programme to enable families to pay for sewerage (UN-HABITAT, 2014). Simultaneously, organising awareness campaigns can highlight the advantages of legal energy access and improve user-behaviour.

Furthermore, developing trust between users and providers spawn reliability. The municipal networks must suffer no interruption, water must be clean and should be devoid of any bacterial contamination. For example, the slums of Dhaka have a water distribution system better than many slums, however, the quality of the water is not equally good, almost 57% of the dwellers still report quality issues (Arias-Granada et al., 2018).

Efficient Solid Waste Management and Sanitation System

In India, 58% of the slums do not have access to a proper drainage system (Hindman, 2015). The outdoor and indoor exposure to polluted water, in addition to open defecation, has a direct impact on inhabitants’ health (Nassar & Elsayed, 2018). Improvements should integrate the following features:

  • Dimensioning: The sanitation and waste management networks should be able to accommodate the area in influence, the amount of waste generated and the number of people responsible. Shared structures shall not exceed a limit, that can be settled at 2 households (UN-HABITAT, 2004).
  • Reliability: The sanitary services provided must be available at any time and place and under any conditions.
  • Education: Slum upgrading programs should raise awareness about waste management and hygiene behaviours.

The Asian Development Bank settled a system of different levels of collection in a few cities of Rajasthan (Bikaner, Jaipur and Jodhpur). Slum dwellers were hired to take care of the garbage collection and cleanliness of roads. This system is now sustainable and completely funded by the inhabitants themselves (ADB, 2002).

Streets and Public Transport

Streets and public transport networks help in creating a continuity essential to erase the rupture between formal and informal neighbourhoods. Proper streets have a great impact on social life and can serve as an outdoor extensions of living spaces; they are a vital support for commercial and cultural activities too. Thus, the transformation of the neighbourhood must preserve the community Supported framework and its social advantages. Similarly, public transport passing through a neighbourhood provides access to basic services, jobs and other opportunities in the city (UNHABITAT, 2014). As a structural component, the transportation network must be efficient. This is characterised by its:

  • Acceptability
  • Adaptability
  • Accessibility
  • Affordability

While integration of streets network with the informal settlements seems simple, however, it must be well planned. The new street network must be built around the existing network in order to build a coherent infrastructure for the area. Public transport and access for emergency vehicle should be clearly delimited (Sheth, 2009).

Figure 1 – Metrocable in Medellin, Colombia (UN-HABITAT, 2011)

Households and buildings

Dwellings in slums have specific characteristics: poor construction quality and organic disposition of the different households. Households in slums are usually located too close to each other and not well lit or ventilated. Redevelopments or relocations with proper space management requires construction of new households, following three major characteristics:

Good construction quality of the new dwellings ensures sustainability of the programme over the years. Well-constructed houses coupled with a tenure security programme, gives the citizens a sense of belonging and encourages them to stay longer (Syagga et al., 2012). This also highlights the necessity of compliance with building codes, standards and laws (UN-HABITAT, 2004). Slums households must be adaptable as per the demands of the inhabitants and the overall objectives. Several redevelopment projects construct pre-designed buildings without adapting to the context.

For example, 26% inhabitants of Serra do Mar in Sao Paulo, Brazil faced greater expenses when they were relocated to a neighbourhood not designed as per their previous livelihood (Cavalheiro & Abiko, 2015). The needs of the dwellers play an important role during the conception process. In informal economy systems, workshops and shops are often installed within the house or in public spaces directly connected with the houses. Women, children and the elderly tend to socialize a lot within these spaces. These common areas are a vital part of the social framework of slums (Sunikka-Blank, Bardhan, & Haque, 2019). Citizen’s participation is one of the best ways to identify and accommodate these specific and changing needs. For example, in Dharavi, combined housing addresses the needs of the inhabitants (Menshawy, Shafik, & khedr, 2016). After consultations and specifying their needs, the inhabitants can rent or buy the modules and then choose to extend their households later. This combined housing system provides a flexibility necessary for the families living in slums.

Figure 2 – Combined housing (Menshawy et al., 2016)


Providing proper health and education facilities help in tackling many social issues. For this, three objectives must be followed:

  • Adequate capacity: Addressing the needs of the area the facility serves, without building oversized facilities.
  • Localisation: Accessibility for the community and coherence with the environment and the public aimed.
  • Management: The role of governments, NGOs and private parties in administration and funding should be defined during the first stages of conception.

Fixing clear objectives adequate scope for such services. It has been done in the Favela Bairrio programme, by fixing quotas for healthcare and teaching equipment (Maher, 2017).

Natural hazards

Due to their irregular development without proper planning, slums are usually more vulnerable to natural disasters than conventional neighbourhoods. Although, resilient cities have started adapting to the effects of natural disasters but slums are not entirely integrated into this approach and lack protection against floods, fires and landslides (UN-HABITAT, 2014). In most cases, relocation seems like the only possible solution, the concentration however should also be on reducing the risks and hazards by (Betancur, 2007):

  • Identifying zones of high risk.
  • Installing infrastructures of stabilisation and environment control.
  • Using technologies and knowledge that reduces the risk, especially in the construction of buildings. These must follow good environmental practices.
  • Educating the local population about adapted behaviours.

In Medellin, Colombia, most informal settlements were located on the hills and were subject to landslides and other geological risks. The PRIMED redevelopment project resulted in the recovery and stabilisation of 70% of high risk areas (Betancur, 2007).

Institutional Systems


Owners and tenants, civil society organisation, the private sector and national and local governments have different interests and visions for the neighbourhood they live in. The institutional systems must have:

  • A clear administrative structure: Coexistence of different organisations must be organised within the project to enable collaboration and avoid the concentration of powers.
  • Clear objectives: A commonly defined focus brings the actors together to negotiate and set basis for efficient partnerships.
  • Defined approach and methodology: Strategies of the program must be clearly defined; it must avoid favouring and rely on partnerships with the existing social forces.
  • Transparency: Helps the inhabitants in understanding the role of each stakeholders and the organisation, and simultaneously in preventing corruption. In Kenya, the KENSUP programme created a local authority called Settlement Executive Committee to avoid conflicts between their stakeholders (UNH, 2011). At the same time, local governments must also commit to provide infrastructure and state authorities should facilitate the implementation of policies (Cities Alliance, 2013).
Tenure Regularisation

Slum residents have varying tenure security and are under constant risk of eviction. In Africa in 2007, more than 2,70,000 people in Africa and around 8,73,000 in Asia and Pacific suffered forced eviction (COHRE, 2009). This risk is a barrier to access credit and improve the quality of the house (Menshawy et al., 2016; Syagga et al., 2012). Security of tenure also supports the effective implementation of legal water and energy access. The process can be monitored by a national or local government, even if community organisations and international development agencies can have a role to play (Fernandes, 2011). In Venezuela, Comites de Tierras Urbanas (Urban Land Committees) were created to regroup 150 families in average and enable them to dialogue with the State and the Technical Office for Urban Land Tenancy and Regularisation (OTNRTTU) in order to become owners of their homes (Holland, 2006). There are currently 5212 of these organisations across the country. The Global Land Tool Network proposes the following Indicators to ensure a sustainable property rights regularisation (Global Land Tool Network, 2018):

  • Tenure type must be engineered regarding the social context. Registered freehold may not be the ultimate objective.
  • Customary land tenure processes can be promoted when they don’t discriminate vulnerable social groups as poor and women.
  • A participatory enumeration, a form of community participation, must be advocated to collect more precise data.
  • A recording of land transactions must be carried out, over the long term, thanks to tools implemented in the short term to simplify procedures.
Enabling affordability of households

Slums are the result of the housing markets failure to provide affordable housing (El-hadj, Faye, & Geh, 2018). Without strong policies, dwellers might have financial difficulties to stay in their new settlements. In Dharavi, one of the methods implemented considered the choice of the inhabitants to either stay or relocate to a different locality (Menshawy et al., 2016). Several examples can be a starting point for the definition of a housing policy in a slum upgrading program (El-hadj et al., 2018), like:

  • Incremental housing development: encouraging micro finance is more adapted to unstable income and fosters self-construction from the inhabitants. The government and NGOs have a major role to play in encouraging skill development.
  • Sites and services programs: operate a shift from a total public provision of housing to public assistance in private construction.
  • Rental housing: this scheme provides flexibility in budget and location for the dwellers. The role of the private sector is predominant here, but the government should provide a legislative environment and incentives.
  • Social housing: it corresponds to prices adapted to lower incomes of inhabitants. It can be provided by governments and NGOs and requires financial, human and technical resources.
  • Housing cooperatives: these corporations owned by members through equity shares is adapted to the slum context because it enables the inhabitants to pool resources. The optimal size of a cooperative agency is one of the issues faced.
Monitoring and Evaluation

Evaluating the impact of the implemented policies can improve the methods used. Today, there is a lack of this kind of systematic and complete evaluation of every slum upgrading programme (Goytia & Dorna, 2019). The key principles of a programme evaluation can be summarised through the logical framework structure keeping in mind:

  • The Inputs: The policies implemented that operate within the various topics related in this article.
  • Outputs: can be an increase in the dwellers’ income, a better literacy rate or a drop in crime rates for example. To analyse these results, a strong database is advocated.

The programme Favela Bairrio in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil evaluated the impacts of the upgrading project on the quality of life of the inhabitants. They compared the initial objectives to the effective benefits, using data from the beginning of the project and data collected 10 years after through surveys. The subjects covered are the residents’ satisfaction, the benefits accrued to the population, and the level of infrastructure and services (Fiori, Riley, & Ramirez, 2000).

Social Policies

Community Participation

Top down actions and resources from higher institutions usually fail to generate local engagement and acceptance (Meredith & MacDonald, 2017). When relocating, building the project together with the inhabitants can help it correspond to their needs and avoid the failure experienced by several projects (Cavalheiro & Abiko, 2015)S. Patel, Sliuzas, & Mathur, 2015). Project managers can assess the level of community integration through the ladder of citizen participation. It characterises the degrees of popular integration in the decision making process (Arnstein, 2007). Few indicators used to ensure a proper community participation can be (Betancur, 2007):

  • Identifying leaders to facilitate the communication
  • Enforcing the links with NGOs and community organisations
  • Developing small community programs to negotiate on different topics, like, community legalisation of tenure, home relocations, etc.
  • Involve the community in project development, sub-contracting, administration and evaluation
  • Fostering citizen awareness and implication

The Kenyan program KENSUP also promotes subsidiarity. This principle focuses the decision making process at the lowest level possible. As an example, in Pamoja trust in Kenya, survey responses from the citizens living inside the area provide a more accurate source of information. Inhabitants know their neighbourhood well and can reflect reality on the ground (Global Land Tool Network, 2010). Decisions thus correspond to reality.

Figure 3 – Community participation in the Favela Bairro Program (UN-HABITAT, 2011)

Gender Sensitivity

In comparison with men, women tend to spend more time in their living neighbourhood and hence are more affected by a redevelopment program (Sunikka-Blank et al., 2019). An active participation of women in the decision-making process at all levels of conception makes the neighbourhood more inclusive. Property rights control should not primarily consider men as the default choice. In 2009, women were head of onethird of all Venezuelan households (Fernandes, 2011). In the Peru-vian programme of Commission for the Formalization of Informal Property, land titles were given jointly to wives and husbands (Fernandes, 2011).

Figure 4 – An open air market (Entsie, 2017)


In the Kibera slum of Nairobi, Kenya, 63% of residents feel unsafe in their neighbourhood, whereas 30% of them rate safety as a basic need (UN-HABITAT, 2011). As the major issue of safety requires much attention, in Papua New Guinea, the Yumi Lukautim Mosbi project tackles it through four pillars (UN-HABITAT, 2011):

  • Promotion of sport and youth engagement
  • Skill development and employment creation
  • Spread of urban safety feeling through stories and media
  • Community engagement
Access to Jobs and Economic Integration

The first point is to provide accessibility to the livelihood of the inhabitants. For example, one of the major objectives of the PRIMED programme in Medellin, Colombia, is to integrate the subnormal neighbourhoods to the rest of the city and give them access to the labour market. After its implementation, 91% of the residents stated they were better linked to the city (Betancur, 2007).

Similarly, another point is to promote economic life inside the slum neighbourhood. The Kojokrom market project in Ghana chose to build 8 sheds for the local market to improve working conditions of the vendors, thereby increasing their income. They negotiated with the banks to make the interest rates for the construction affordable for locals (UN-HABITAT, 2009). Kamna Patel underlines the importance of keeping informal continuities in the slum upgrading process (K. Patel, 2013).

Governments and NGOs are also major actors to foster skill development and capacity building within the slum population. This measure can have strong links with policies of households and infrastructure building and with community participation.

Read More

Self-Organisation in Amsterdam: Case-Study of Oostenburg


A city – a meshwork of players, comprises of people with common interests pursuing their lives in different ways. There are many unpredictable collaborations between the stakeholders to achieve their individual, commercial or political goals (Landa, 2000). These collaborations develop a pattern of connections based on the hierarchy in the society or the styles of interaction that define the community structure. Therefore, the focus of planners should be on implementing short-term, slight changes to adapt accordingly (Batty, 2011).The traditional Dutch approached planning with specific details. This included distribution of activities, spatial layout and even the visual appearance of urban blocks. The dense urban spaces left very little scope for redevelopment with lesser density and future projects. These cases can be seen in many city centres of Dutch cities having an evident mix of activities but limited scope for redevelopment.

However, Netherlands has also been trying to develop co-operation strategies among citizens, civic organisations, entrepreneurs, etc. for many years now (WRR, 2008). The new Structural vision of Amsterdam ‘Amsterdam 2040’ follows the old Dutch spatial planning approach, yet on many important points they have diverted from the previous structural plans. The emphasis in these cases is on addressing the social needs and concerns. The visual aspects are complimentary (WRR, 2008).

Organic planning (Buitelaar, 2014) focuses on creating conditions to allow diverse local initiatives for an incremental urban development. The stakeholders, here, are directly responsible in creating a demand-driven urban ecosystem (Rauws and Roo, 2015). Organic planning approaches a multi-layered view emphasising on inter-dependence between processes of different scales and different moments (Byrne, 2003). The multi-layers of an urban system can be broadly divided into three levels (Boonstra, 2015):

  • Macro – Society or neighbourhood
  • Meso – Network of established playersƒƒ
  • Micro – Group of independent agents

This new approach has brought interesting development strategies in many neighbourhoods of Amsterdam. This article takes the case-study of Oostenburg in Amsterdam and explores the development strategy of the local authority. The neighbourhood has an interesting approach to bring diversity in activities, avoid homogeneity or polarisation, encourage small-scale entrepreneurs and have temporary land uses to adapt to the changing socio-economic context. It emphasises on realising a coherent relation between social desires and spatial development through different approaches.

Oostenburg, Amsterdam

Oostenburg is one of the three (Oostenburg, Kattenburg and Wittenburg) islands in the northeastern part of Amsterdam. The island was built in the 17th century by the Dutch East India company for warehouses and a shipyard. Given the strong historical influence on its structure and planning, the municipality is taking special considerations for the conservation of the urban values. On the south-western side, four buildings of early 20th century, named after the architect Van Gandthallen, received the monument status in 2001 because it constituted “great historical, architectural and urban values” (Loos, 2014). After the collapse of the industries, the area went through a lot of clean up and regeneration. Although some parts of Werkspoor are still preserved, the island, however, lost its vibrancy with the decline of the industries and its locational isolation.

Figure 1 – Location of Oostenbug in Amsterdam.  Source – Urhahn, 2012 

Amsterdam’s dense urbanisation brings opportunities for growth in Oostenburg. The INIT building was built in 2000, it has the district’s wharf on the ground floor and offices on the upper floors. In 2004, real estate company Stadgenoot bought the Van Gendthallen buildings. For many years, many professional and cultural activities were hosted there. In 2008, Stadgenoot bought the remaining area of Oostenburg north except INIT and the south-western area.

Decision Making Process

From 2004 to 2008, Stadgenoot made many unsuccessful plans to re-develop the area, primarily due to lack of clear vision for political and social development (Stadgenoot, 2013). These failed interventions alongside 2008 crisis made Stadgenoot re-strategise their development plan. Therefore, in 2011, Stadgenoot and the municipality eventually intervened with an ambition to create a mixed environment for working and living.

In the initial stages, the plan was to develop an open structure connected to the environment. Instead of developing a single master plan, the development plan was implemented in stages where the land is sold in small lots, individually. The sale and development of parcels, and investment in public spaces and facilities is taken care from the profits of the sale of previous parcels of land.

The focus was on creating a good outdoor public space and have limited vehicular access, by:

  • Visualising the yard floor as a unifying element and as a medium to promote pedestrian and bicycle movement
  • By avoiding traditional building block layout

In a general outlook, most of the outlines for the design and the program is fixed, but the island, on the inside, has a lot of freedom and flexibility for better spatial solutions. Through a series of products, a framework of rules for the development of the spaces were developed, this framework identifies four qualities of the island (Urhahn, 2016):

1. Island

Definite boundary made by the waterways, the railway embankment on one side and limited access gives the area a clear identity of an island.

Figure 2 – Quality 1 – Island (Source – Urhahn, 2012)

1. Connections through public spaces; 2. Limited vehicular access; 3. Orientation of the plots in line with the water around Oostenburg.

2. Liveliness

The mixed use ensures public movement and activities through the day, the public spaces of the island work as a unifying element and also becomes a utility space. The INIT and van Gendthallen buildings are capable of accommodating many exhibitions and manufacturing at once. Simultaneously, Stadgenoot wishes to provide houses for low-income groups in a limited area. The remaining plots will be sold to private owners to recover the break-even cost.

A higher plinth and plots’ grouping encloses the inner yards. This brings privacy in the inner yards and parks, makes it quieter and allows the owners to use it as per their needs & convenience. The limited traffic movement and open plinth of the INIT & van Gendthallen buildings makes the use of outer spaces possible.

Figure 3 – Quality 2 – Liveliness (Source – Urhahn, 2012)

1. Coherent design of the inner yards. The green space can have; 2. The areas marked in red are to be opened at the ground level and are preferred for public activities; 3. Around 2 levels Variation in height in relation with  the adjacent building; 4. Variation in height of around 1 level in relation to the adjacent building

3. Contrast

The neighbourhood has an industrial presence but also accommodates bars & restaurants. The architecture and activities are diverse.

To ensure contrast in activities and the architecture, the land owned by Stadgenoot is being developed in parcels. Size of the plots varies; the development plan suggests maximum width of a plot but does not put any restrictions on the depth. The plot width is coupled with the front orientation of the buildings. There is a lot of scope for variation in height, roof shape, activities in the plot, etc. The distribution of activities for the neighbourhood is fixed as 50% each (live-work). These areas are kept car free and will have spaces reserved for public greens in the centre of the parcel. There are at least three variations proposed for the height of the building. The proposed layout places a building of smaller height between two higher buildings to create visual contrast in the arrangement of the buildings and provide light and air through the cluster of the buildings.

Figure 4 – Quality 3 – Contrast (Source – Urhahn, 2012)

1. Small grain v/s large industrial plots; 2. Variation in lot width; darker – Max. width 24 m., lighter – Max. width 18 m.; 3. Variation in height of around 2 levels in relation to the adjacent building; 4. Variation in height of around 1 level in relation to the adjacent building; 5. Variation in roof shapes. Entrances (hatched) have a special roof shape

4. Toughness

The heavy industrial history and the rugged architecture gives a strong visual impression and an identity to the island. The older buildings in Oostenburg appear as a single block with simple but robust detailing. The activities opening on the yard floor worked as a unifying element.

The development plan follows the same line of visual appearance around the van Gendthallen building. The indoor and outdoor public spaces run into each other. The roofs of the buildings are decided on what fits best, they do receive proper attention and are not cut-off abruptly. Aiming for a higher level of interaction and liveliness, balconies on the side of the street are encouraged, especially if the side is waterfront. The buildings are more open towards the side facing the water.

Oostenburg is relatively dense and has limited scope for greenery. Hence, the users are suggested to develop green roofs and install solar panels. The industrial image is enhanced by the steel balconies, openness of the buildings and rugged style of architecture. These four qualities further has sub-categories (mentioned in figure 5) and bring forward a framework focusing on six key issues:

  1. Society: Implement mixed use and encourage adaptive re-use
  2. Mobility: Limited access for cars, focus on more soft mobility
  3. Material: Preserving the island’s historical significance
  4. Water: To reduce the water consumption
  5. Energy: Reduce energy consumption
  6. Biodiversity: Possibility to grow native plants in the dense urban area

Figure 5 – The four qualities and the sub-categories within the qualities. (Source – Urhahn, 2012; Gemeente, Amsterdam)

Van Gendthallen building offers temporary work spaces capable of adapting to different needs of different organisations. The offices in INIT building and nightlife in Roest is already active. This mix of activities makes Oostenburg capable of attracting public and keep the place active.


The land in Oostenburg is of high demand due to its location and proximity with the city centre. The sale of the plots in the first parcel began in 2017. Currently, sale of DIY plots in the 9th parcel is active and construction in 5 parcels is under-going (, 2019). The end of construction is stated to be around the end of 2020.

Figure 6: Parcel distribution in Oostenburg. The parcels marked in red are under construction, the areas marked in blue are upcoming projects. (Source –, 2019)


The outcomes of these cases manifests specific physical growth, urban form and morphological or functional patterns. It allows the urban systems to distribute the decision-making power to its diverse actors and avoid the dominance of a single actor (or activity). It’s tendency to self-organise the development safeguards the interests of the actors and maintains a dynamic socio-spatial nature (Boonstra, 2015).

The distinctions (agency, rules and physical order) in decision-making process carry out the transformation process in their own way. This results in a complex environment capable of selforganising itself through multiple interventions. The development plan has four design principles (Rauws, 2015):

  1. Small-scale sub-plans
  2. Incremental development strategies
  3. Carrying structures
  4. Loose rules

It is also important to understand that these development plans are highly contextual and depend on the level of interaction. The planners’ style of intervention and the style of mediation in this complex set-up depends on the context and the understanding of the social system (Tan, Bekkering, and Reijndorp, 2014). A good interaction among the actors can only come with a strong sense of community building. It may not be active and prevalent in every case. Therefore, such a solution can be implemented only after a deep understanding of the neighbourhood or the city. In absence of strong and dense pre-existing networks, taking an intervention like this can be too much work, even if the actors are skilful and committed (Uitermark, 2015).

From the case-study, it is also evident that the nature of organic planning is not entirely self-organising. It requires interventions at multiple levels to safeguard the interests of the actors. Therefore, the true role of the actors and the level of freedom they eventually enjoy while developing their spaces is always in question.

Read More

Urban Heat Island Effect – Causes and Remedies

Development in the urban areas causes changes in the landscape. Vegetation and open space is replaced by the buildings and infrastructure and the permeable surfaces get converted into impermeable surfaces. In a typical urban area, the surfaces are darker, impermeable and the vegetation is relatively lesser. The modified land surface in cities, compared to rural environments affects the storage and transfer of both radiative and turbulent heat (Parvantis, Stigka, Fotiadi, & Mihalakakou, 2015). The leads to a phenomenon where the heat gets accumulated due to the urban construction and other human activities leading to urban heat island (UHI) effect. The most noted observation about UHI effect is that the temperature of urban region is higher than the rural region (EPA, 2008). This difference can be as much as 2.50C during the summers (Akbari et al, 2001). The urban heat island phenomenon is caused by two factors:

  • intrinsic nature of cities (anthropogenic activities like vehicles, air conditioners, etc. along with buildings’ morphology, urban canopy, wind blocking, surface characters and land use planning forming the urban structure of a city)
  • extrinsic factors (climate, prevailing weather circumstances and the seasons)

Fig 1: Factors responsible for Urban Heat Island Effect. (Source – Osmond, 2017)

These factors increase the energy consumption in buildings in the effort of providing thermal comfort and results in increased air pollution, eventually leading to increased greenhouse gas emissions and negative impact on health of citizens of developing cities (TERI, 2017). It has been noted that 1o C rise in temperature leads to 2-4% increase in electricity consumption (Akbari et al, 2001). Urban flooding during heavy rains, traffic congestion along with higher level of air pollution, diminishing lakes, increase in temperatures during summer are some of the negative environmental impacts on a city due to rapid urbanization (TERI, 2017). . These environmental impacts are a result of the combination of Urban Heat Island and Global Warming effect. This article talks about the Urban Heat Island effect and explores the cooling strategies adopted by Sydney to reduce the impact.

Causes and Effect of Urban Heat Island

Due to the lack of green spaces and the effect of the intrinsic and external factors discussed above, surface temperature rises (Osmond, 2017). Natural surfaces absorb more radiation in comparison to man-made structures like roads and buildings having lower albedo. As a result, natural surfaces is always cooler than an urban surface. Evaporation from water releases energy and cools the surface temperature. As the heat capacity of asphalt and concrete is lower than other types of surfaces, the solar radiations falling on the built surface causes the air temperature to rise. Therefore, rise in surface and air temperature is directly proportional to the height of the built-up areas. Conditions of the available natural resources and the climate in the urban ecological system is affected by the increased surface temperature (Ningrum, 2018).

Fig 2: Differences between day-night surface temperature and air temperature in typical land use types. (Source – Osmond, 2017)

Urban Heat Island and Climate Change

Changes and development in radiative and thermal properties of urban infrastructure are causes of Urban Heat Island. Also, the functioning of a buildings has impacts on the local microclimate, for example, the rate of cooling at night is slowed down by tall buildings. The heating effect occurring in cities or specific areas leads to a change in the climatic conditions of the region leading to local climate change. Local climate change is different from global climate change; their effects are limited to the local scale and decreases as the distance increases. Global climate change caused by increase in sun’s intensity or greenhouse gas concentrations are not locally or regionally confined (EPA, 2008).

Adaptation and Mitigation Strategies

Urban areas need better development planning and a balance between social, ecological and economic factors. The correct ratio of built-up and open spaces, control over the growth of built-up areas, more sensitivity for the open spaces are few of the many things required. This can be done through spatial development planning associated with sustainable development and creating a comfortable urban environment. Some of the adaptation strategies can be:

  • Developing the green and blue areas within a city
  • Managing the growth of built-up areas of the buildings

Suitable areas can be developed by forming roof gardens or more trees can be accommodated in the streets as they are a better heat-stress suppressor (Ningrum, 2018). To mitigate the urban heat island effect, the thermal environment around the buildings should be improved by using material of lower absorptivity, larger thermal conductivity and higher reflectivity (Ningrum, 2018). Durable white roofing materials and cool coloured roofing available for coating, tiles, painted metals, and fiberglass asphalt shingles are being produced by manufacturers (Akbari, 2016). To directly reduce the energy use in buildings, shading devices, trees and cool-roofs should be installed more often. In addition to cool roofs, urban vegetation and higher albedo and emissivitypavements reduce the temperature of the surroundings by a few degrees (Akbari, 2016). For water drainage, many paving materials and paving surface technologies have been characterized such as coloured concrete, white topping, chip seals, permeable pavements and grasscrete. These cool paving technologies are currently used in many specific applications (Akbari, 2016).

Effective urban cooling in a city requires the correct strategy of cooling depending on the available factors, factors like the state of development, aspect ratio, sky view factor. Inner city/ CBD, inner and outer suburb areas have different strategies for urban cooling and should be carefully examined as per the character of the city before implementing. Local weather conditions and spatial configurations should also be carefully considered before the application of urban cooling methods. The urban context of the cities can be divided in three categories (Osmond, 2017):

  • Inner cities: Tall buildings surround the public spaces. Due to the shade of the buildings, urban surfaces are partially protected from the solar radiations. Therefore, in smaller public spaces like plazas, pedestrian open air malls, using high emittance cool-paving and building envelope treatments prevents ventilation and facilitates less heat storage.
  • Inner suburbs: Two to six storey buildings surround the public spaces and due to the shade of the buildings, public spaces are partially protected from solar radiations. Depending on the city’s latitude, solar radiations may also reach the public spaces. To complete the shadow over urban canyons or around plazas temporary and tree canopy shade may be used.
  • Outer suburbs: The development is low density in many cities and has a high sky view factor. Typically, in this urban form, areas comprise mainly of single or double storey buildings. The public spaces are generally not protected by the solar radiations by the shade of the surrounded buildings. Therefore, the main sources of shade in the plazas are tree canopy and shading structures.

Case-Study: UHI In Sydney

Intrinsic and extrinsic factors

Summers in Sydney are typically hot and humid. Highest monthly mean temperature of the city is 25.9 degree Celsius and daily sunshine during summers is of 7.1 hours on an average. With the maximum monthly mean rainfall of 117 mm, rainfall in summer is slightly lower than in autumn but higher than spring and winter (Osmond, 2017). The studies suggest that the Urban Heat Island Intensity (UHII) ranged from a mean of about 2-4o C and average daily peaks of 7o C (Parvantis, Stigka, Fotiadi, & Mihalakakou, 2015). Sydney increasingly experiences the UHII due to its numerous urban development projects (Sharifi & Lehmann, 2014). It is estimated that the combined effect of Global Warming and UHI will increase the temperatures by 3.7o C (Argüeso, Evans, Fita, & Bormann, 2014). The temperature in the urban areas ranges between 1.1o to 3.7o C as compared to the rural areas (ranging between 0.8o to 2.6o C), the UHII is much bigger during the nights (Parvantis, Stigka, Fotiadi, & Mihalakakou, 2015).

Suitable Urban Cooling Strategies

Depending on Sydney’s intrinsic and external factors, suggested strategies are more effective (Osmond, 2017):

  • When the relative humidity in Sydney is high, the effect on outdoor thermal comfort by evaporative cooling and surface water will be lower. Central Sydney and eastern suburbs benefit from regular sea breezes in the summer afternoon improve the cooling effect of water. Misting fans for temporary cooling at pedestrian scale is pretty effective.
  • Sydney usually receives high level of UV radiations and solar intensity during summer. Thus, the best suitable strategy is shading and increased tree canopy especially in higher density urban region.
  • During most of the summer days, maximum temperature stays below 30 degree Celsius but surpasses 35 degree Celsius on some occasions. To radiate the urban heat away, the best practice is to use the high emittance paving. While addressing storm water management, permeable paving is a good option for urban cooling as Sydney has an average annual rainfall of 1221 mm.
  • In low pedestrian and car traffic areas, especially in the CBD area, high albedo paving is a possible urban cooling strategy.

Fig 3: Summary of different cooling strategies suitable for Sydney


Humans are the main contributor to the urban heat island effect and solely responsible for the intrinsic factors of the urban heat island effect. Insulated buildings design and changes in human behaviour can reduce the energy consumption utilised to cool the indoor environment at the expense of heating up the outdoors. Climate responsive building designs can be really useful in minimizing the use of air conditioning by reducing the indoor temperatures during heat wave (Osmond, 2017).

The energy efficient measures such as increased level of insulation in roofs and walls, appropriate orientation, increased shading and application of reflective painting on the building envelope can develop better heat resistance in a building. The integration of these design techniques and adaptation in existing and new building designs could effectively reduce air conditioning and increase the indoor thermal comfort of the occupant.

Read More

Providing Accessibility to Low-Income Neighbourhoods: Case Study of Metrocable in Caracus, Venezuela


Accessibility talks about the ability of connecting two places physically and socially. The translation of this definition highlights various aspects of transportation systems (Bosetti, 2018; Social Exclusion Unit, 2003):

  • existence or availability
  • location
  • safety
  • reliability
  • affordability
  • adequacy (for disabled people for example)

These criteria are some good indicators for accessibility, however, they are not exhaustive (Handy, 1994). Each individual have different needs and transportation systems must be adapted to the overall context of the area or region it is being implemented in.

The most vulnerable neighbourhoods like rural, peri-urban, urban peripheral, remote and deprived areas are most impacted by lack of public transportation and accessibility (Bosetti, 2018). In most cases, the lower income groups of the population are most affected by lack of accessibility, therefore, providing accessibility is a matter of equity (Venter, Mahendra, & Hidalgo, 2019). This article will discuss the case study of Caracas, Venezuela, where cable-cars link the San Agustin neighbourhood with the rest of the city. This project has a strong emphasis on the integration of the transportation system with the surrounding urban environment.

The Metrocable Project

The San Agustin neighbourhood

This informal neighbourhood was built on the city’s hillside without any recognition from the municipality. Lack of education, violence and other social issues conduce in the isolation of the area from the capital city (Moberg, 2012). Hosting 38,000 inhabitants, it is also one of the poorest neighbourhoods of Caracas (Caracas Alcaldia Mayor, 2006), a city where social segregation through income level is integral (Lizarraga, 2012) at the same time, unequal conditions related to urban mobility and accessibility. Deregulation and privatization of the collective transport induced the emergence ofa disorganized and disarticulated sector. As this “rancho” was not indicated on the city’s official maps (Moberg, 2012), no transportation system was provided either. Uncoordinated and expensive private operators forced the inhabitants to either walk or restrain their mobility (Lizarraga, 2012).


The municipality of Caracas decided to build a new highway crossing the heart of the neighbourhood and destroying many places of habitat. At this instance, in July 2003, Urban Think Tank, an architectural agency, protested against this project (Urban Think Tank, 2011b) and the coordination between architects, planners, experts and locals brought cable car system as the best solution to serve the area (Urban Think Tank, 2011a). The major asset of cable-cars is that its construction is not as intrusive as other modes of transport. Only a few dwellings were destroyed during the construction of the project. Those destroyed were relocated in households integrated to the infrastructure. The stations’ designs were also subject to consultation with inhabitants, each building was studied to fit the needs of the locals (Urban Think Tank, 2011a).


The line, inaugurated in 2010, has 5 stations across San Agustin, and is connected to Caracas’ metro line. It has a capacity of 1200 persons per hour in both directions (Sokol, 2010). The cable car system enables to cross two physical obstacles: the hill, and the highway, both cutting the neighbourhood from the rest of Caracas and its transportation systems.

Figure 1 – representation of the Metrocable route (Moberg, 2012)

Impacts on Accessibility and Quality of Life


Before the implementation, inhabitants mainly commuted on foot (Caracas Alcaldia Mayor, 2006). In average, they would walk the equivalent of climbing 39 floors a day only to reach the transportation systems (Moberg, 2012). After the implementation, the metro can be reached within 10 minutes from the highest cable-car station. Inhabitants become connected to a 54km network of rapid and reliable transport system. Metro, buses and Metrocable are managed by the same authority, Metro de Caracas, and are under the same tariff system. Inhabitants of San Agustin, through the Metrocable, now have access to healthcare, education and public transportation (Moberg, 2012).


Each Metrocable station situated on the hill is integrated in the surrounding urban system and provides additional services. The objective is to create hubs for social and community activities. Each station has two levels: one for the transportation and the other for different facilities at each station for all the people living around. These facilities operate from the profits of the Metrocable (Moberg, 2012). These services have been determined in cooperation with the inhabitants and respond to local needs, for example:

  • Station Hornos de Cal: contains a school, a schoolyard and a healthcare centre.
  • Station La Ceiba: provides numerous facilities like police station, library, information centre and supermarket. An additional sports ground in the station is linked with the surrounding gymnasium.ƒ
  • Station El Manguito: the construction of the station integrated households through the ‘substitución ranch por casa’ programme. Destroyed shacks were replaced by secure social housing structures connected with technical and hygienic facilities (Urban Think Tank, 2011b).

Figure 2 – Plan of La Ceiba station (Moberg, 2012)

As the Metrocable transport system creates mobility, The new facilities integrated to the project limit the need of mobility, points of interest are brought closer and reduce the need to travel.

The infrastructure has other positive effects on the life in the neighbourhood. According to the project’s architect Alfredo Brillembourg, “Residents have begun using the station roofs to advertise their businesses and crime rates have dropped relatively because of the higher visibility of the Gandolas” (Sokol, 2010). The Metrocable has now become a part of the district and its identity.


The project is inspired by the pioneer project of the cable car in Medellin, Colombia. This one is effective in its own ways mainly because it managed to link an isolated neighbourhood with the city (Bocarejo et al., 2014). It inspired many other cable car projects, like in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. However, the Brazilian project is a considered a failure because it was settled too rapidly pre-visioning the Olympic Games and the inhabitants were not associated with the project. Currently, the infrastructure is not used as it should be and doesn’t serve the needs of the locals (Broudehoux & Legroux, 2019).

The strength of the Metrocable in Caracas is its integration with the rest of the neighbourhood. The infrastructure provides accessibility to the rest of the city for the locals, but also contributes in enhancing the quality of life. After its first implementation in 2010, three other cable car lines followed, allowing the neighbourhoods of Caracas to be more integrated and interconnected.

Read More

Impact of Urban Morphology on Social Life: Case Study of La Duchère, Lyon


Buildings and public space morphology strongly impact the living communities. Social interaction is one of the major design elements in urban planning. Apart from providing a living space for the inhabitants, housing should also offer spaces for public life to incubate. Building such neighbourhoods is a challenge with no perfect solution. However, in the late 90s, the outline of an ideal emerged (Urban Task Force, 1999). This ideal advocates compact and interconnected neighbourhoods, a mix of use and a variety of housing types, detailed below:

  • Interconnected neighbourhoods: Any urban unit is always in interaction with its environment. Pedestrian friendly areas are advocated because they encourage sustainable and inclusive mobility network. However, it doesn’t mean cars should be moved out of the city. Despite their negative impact on quality of life, they are essential to deliver complete mobility solutions (Congress for the new urbanism, 2001).
  • Compactness: With the objective of preserving the natural land, it is essential to favour use of brownfields and reuse built areas. It enables connecting amenities inside and outside the neighbourhood. Neighbourhoods should have a discernible centre and defined borders, enabling citizens to quickly identify how the city can support social life (Urban Task Force, 1999). The proximity of inhabitants and activities is a way to enhance involvement in the community, through more interactions between people.
  • Mix of use: Linking mobility with mixed land use reduces the burden on the transportation system (Urban Task Force, 1999). A mixed land use makes the neighbourhood more attractive and liveable. It improves the level of social interaction within the area.
  • Housing diversity: Just like mixed land use, a broad range of housing types is essential in creating a sense of community. At the same time, it is necessary to allocate tenures for social housing. It attracts people of diverse ages, ethnicities, and incomes (Congress for the new urbanism, 2001). Thus, interaction between different parts of the society, enhanced by compactness and mix of activities, leads to an enriched community.

However, things were not the same in the 50s. In this period, France faced a nationwide housing shortage. In 1946, there were 5 million inhabitants without proper housing facilities (Fourcaut, 2010), slums began to develop in cities’ outskirts and the city centre dwellings suffered hygiene and sanitary issues. The urgency for the need of housing infrastructure started rising. The French government responded to this crisis by building rapidly and in large proportions (Fourcaut, 2010). The newly created neighbourhoods had all the necessary equipment: schools, shops, public services and places of worship. It corresponded to the ideals of modernity of the time, and the comfort provided contrasted with the former living conditions of the inhabitants (Hersemul, 2016). This article analyses the impact of the urban form of these constructed buildings on the inhabitants and their social relations. It explores the case study of La Duchère in Lyon, France, a housing project representative of this category. It is currently in a state of flux, implying a concrete transformation of its urban morphology.

La Duchère

The preferred form of buildings in La Duchère is that of long and high buildings. In addition to high density, these buildings have an economic benefit to construction. The crane is installed on rails and builds housing along a straight line, following the “Crane Road Technology” (Bachelet, Bres, Djirikian & Lot, 2006). The road network is similarly structured around a North-South breakthrough within the neighbourhood. The urban form of the entire neighbourhood is therefore determined by this criterion of simplicity. The urban block disappears to favour an operational framework. The high density of buildings free up spaces to integrate vast public spaces. This is how the traditional street disappears, as the road frame remains on the periphery and circumvents the set it without entering it.

Figure 1 – How the shape of buildings determines public space. (Allain, 2014)

The Decay of a Social System

The response of inhabitants to these buildings is heterogeneous. Some of them boast larger, airy and bright housing, especially compared to previous insalubrious housing (Dagues, 2019). On the other hand, critical voices raise, concerning the same kind of housing projects in France.Promiscuity is deplored, while public spaces are vast but empty (Tchernia, 1960). These testimonies started bringing about considerations that quickly highlighted the weaknesses of the urban construction of the district. Public spaces are omnipresent on the ground, but remain empty and little invested by the inhabitants, whose high up habitat is not connected to these spaces (Urban Task Force, 1999). It was then realized that the buildings, through their morphology, eliminated the relationship with the street (Urban Task Force, 1999). These features are representative of a specific architecture regarded as overwhelming cubic and monotonous blocks (Tchernia, 1960).

Figure 2 – “massive cubic and monotonous blocks” (GPV La Duchère, 2018)

Figure 3 – Relation with the street between a high building and an urban block

The zoning method is privileged in the neighbourhoods of French housing projects built during the 50s (Fourcaut, 2010). The functions are clearly separated in areas of work, housing, traffic or recreation. This form of urbanization, even with high density, is not conducive to socialization. The inhabitants meet less new acquaintances and have fewer close relations (Mouratidis, 2018).

In addition, green spaces are also rare in La Duchère, despite its direct proximity with the Vallon Park. It is an underutilized asset that is totally cut off from the neighbourhood due to the disruption by the massive buildings. Prior to the time of construction, this rupture is also present between the district of La Duchère and surrounding neighbourhoods. There are very few connexions amongst the inhabitants despite being close to each other spatially. Due to the north-south road breakthrough, there is a scarcity of east-west traffic preventing any dialogue with surrounding areas, particularly because of the real rupture in the urban space created by the “barre des 1000”, long tall buildings extending from north to south.

Figure 4 – A neighbourhood isolated from its surroundings (GPV La Duchère, 2018)

A Physical Renewal

The proximity of the buildings gives a perception of many social interactions. However, they are limited to the corridor or the building. While for any suburban neighbourhood, the spatial environment of social interactions can be easily expanded (Grafmeyer, 1998).

From the observations, a common objective emerged. The goal is to recreate a new scheme of social relations by physically transforming the neighbourhood. In 2001, Le Grand Lyon launched the “Grand Projet de Ville” at La Duchère, a large-scale operation to revitalize the troubled neighbourhood. A steering committee of stakeholders at national, regional and local level was composed to determine the political orientations for the project. It was coordinated by “Mission Lyon la Duchère”, an organisation created to coordinate citizen participation and maintain a coherence. In the meetings, groups of citizens express their needs and aspirations for their habitat and control if the commitments are respected. Finally, the realised proposal of neighbourhood regeneration is assigned to different organisations. A team of 3 architects designs the urban transformation and an urban planning society, SERL, coordinates the tendering process.

Figure 5 – The renovation project (GVP La Duchère, 2018)

The choice to demolish “barre des 1000”, the numerous transformations of the buildings and public spaces impacted the neighbourhood’s morphology. By doing so, three modes of development came forward:

  1. Replacing 15-storey buildings with mediumsized buildings (maximum of 7 floors) helped in recreating the lost relationship with the street, while maintaining a similar density. More openings are now created towards the street, in contrast with the former buildings that only had few main entrances leading to parking space. Seeing the street from the window makes it possible to consider one’s dwelling as part of the urban space and in relation with its other inhabitants (Urban Task Force, 1997). Through this, social interactions are expected to be no longer limited to the corridor or the building.
  2. The newly created urban blocks integrate the public green spaces within them. This design intervention has two functions:
    • First, the urban space becomes more permeable for the surrounding natural spaces that become a part of the neighbourhood and provides a better quality of life for its inhabitants.
    • While being located inside the islets, these places are now accessible to all. A buffer space between the public and the private sector works as a place of exchange to favour more social interaction. Inhabitants canhave different levels of privacy and thus, have different opportunities for diversified social interactions.

Figure 6 – The transition in perception from private to public space (Google Maps, 2019)

3. New habitat forms are more heterogeneous, in order to overcome the monotony criticized by the inhabitants. The coordinating organization “Mission Lyon La Duchère” launched numerous architecture competition for each block, leading to a myriad of architectural styles. They clearly make a rupture with the brutalist and functionalist architecture of the former long buildings. The scale of the neighbourhood seems more human and pleasant.

Figure 7 – Diverse architectural forms (GPV La Duchère, 2018)

The transformation of the image of the neighbourhood also promotes a diversity in the interactions. One of the major issues of the rehabilitation was to ensure a broad range of social profiles within the inhabitants. The neighbourhood decreased its affordable housing share from 80% to 55%. New services, like a gymnasium, shops and café-restaurants were also accommodated. The project now invites enterprises to establish their businesses in the sector. Office buildings are built next to the living places. This way, the neighbourhood is more dynamic, and people have reasons to go out in the street.

To support this new dynamism, a spacious plaza at the centre of La Duchère has become the heart of citizens’ life. Adding urban furniture like stairs and trees help in making it a pleasant place, at all times even when it is empty. Streets organization was also enhanced. By eliminating the rupture created by the “barre des 1000”, east-west traffic lanes emerge. They form a physical link with the surrounding neighbourhoods and helps in limiting the social isolation suffered by the housing project. The pedestrians now have a choice of different paths to access, each offering a different experience of the neighbourhood. This enables the public spaces to encourage more interaction between the people, buildings and services.

Figure 8 – Evolution of public space (GVP La Duchère, 2018)


The transformation of the district of La Duchère now lasts for 16 years and is expected to end by 2025. This project has been carried out over a long term in order to perceive the impact of the urban project on the social functioning of the district. The first analysis draws a positive assessment, as in 2014, 67% of the inhabitants thought that the quality of life has been significantly enhanced (GVP La Duchère, 2018). The last parts of the project must complete this development in order to achieve a real success.

This neighbourhood was a pioneer in 1958 for the new French housing policy. In 2018, it is pioneering innovative urban forms. These initiatives are inspired by many projects all around the world, and can inspire many others. The case of La Duchère is useful for cities struggling with social issues in some neighbourhoods, or seeking for any urban transformation. It is already possible to analyse the consequences of urban transformations, and to see to what extent it is applicable to another context.

In any case, those neighbourhoods, deeply and voluntarily transformed, must be subject to a constant interest, as understanding the habitat in its social context is essential to ensure sustainable development of future urban spaces.

Read More

Towards Better Air Quality: Case study of London’s LEZ


Noxious air quality and its long-term effects on human health has been a growing concern for many years now. WHO estimates that outdoor air pollution is responsible for 29% of all deaths and diseases leading to lung cancer. It also has an impact on brain and heart diseases, and on reproductive system (WHO, n.d.). The air pollution is more dangerous for infants, children and the elderly. In London, the inhabitants lives in an area exceeding World Health Organisation guidelines for air quality (TfL, 2019). More than 9000 people die every year in London because of air pollution (GLA, 2017). It has been found that the most deprived areas and the lower-income dwellers were also the most exposed places to air pollution (Kelly, 2011). It shows that tackling the issue of air quality relates to tackling various other linked social issues, such as social inequalities for example.

Air pollution is today characterised by the presence of specific components. The World Health Organisation identified the most harmful pollutants before editing guidelines to limit their concentration. They are:

  • PM for Particulate Matters, categorised by the size of the particle (PM10 is particles with a diameter of less than ten micrometres (μm)).
  • NO2
  • Ozone and sulfure dioxide

London is mostly concerned by the PM and NO2 pollutants (GLA, 2017) (AEA, 2003) where the road transportation has a major role to play. Half of the NO2, PM2,5 and PM10 emissions are produced by the vehicles on the roads in greater London (GLA, 2017). In 2008, the city had the worst outdoor air quality in UK and one of the worst of Europe (TfL, 2008). Moreover, the authorities always had the obligation to work towards EU quality norms whose first policies on the subject were launched in 2005 (European Commission, 2017).

Since the 2000’s, the number of Low Emission Zones (LEZ) initiatives in Europe has increased, with leading cities in Sweden and Italy. In September 2017, there were 227 LEZ in 12 countries in Europe (Ademe, 2018). The principle idea is to tackle the traffic congestion on roads and performance of the vehicles. These two factors are responsible for a greater part of the air pollution in our congested and dense cities. On similar lines, the London city hall decided to implement a Low Emission Zone (LEZ) as the key action to tackle its issue of rising air pollution. The LEZ enforces exclusion of the polluting vehicles from a zone including the city. Through the interventions, emissions are projected to consequently reduce and incite people and companies to buy modern and cleaner vehicles. This article explores the case study of the LEZ in London and looks into their interventions and regulations taken by the authorities to regulate the issue of increasing air pollution in London.

The London Low Emission Zone

The analysis of London’s air quality in 2003 showed that emissions were already decreasing due to better performing new vehicles. The objective was to accelerate this trend in order to reach WHO’s guidelines faster, and to ensure every area in Greater London achieve it (AEA, 2003). To do so, the Low Emission Zone was introduced in 2008. Two policies were to be implemented through the LEZ:

  • decrease in the number of vehicles on the road
  • modernisation of the fleet in order to reduce individual emissions.

The proposal for a Low Emission Zone came directly from the Mayor Transport Strategy and the Mayor of London in 2006 (Wilson, 2006). The scheme is now managed by Transport for London (TfL). Moreover, the London Local Air Quality Management (LLAQM) agency was created in 2016. It monitors air quality in each borough in the capital. Their role is to declare the places exceeding limit values, ensure an Action Plan is in place and updated, and annually report the monitoring.


In 2008, the data below gives an idea of the situation before the implementation of the LEZ. All indicators are above the WHO limits. The objectives of the London LEZ are as following (GLA, 2017):

  • Reduce exposure at priority locations such as schools, and tackling inequalities.
  • Compliance with UK and EU limits concerning air pollutants.
  • Reach WHO guidelines by 2030. These are more ambitious than EU limits because they concentrate solely on the health issues and do not emphasise on the environmental aspects.

Source London : (Wood, 2015)
In all the data analysis, figures are expressed in annual mean concentration (μg/m3) rather than in emissions (tonnes) because the aim is to evaluate the impact on population’s health. To compare data from different sources, the best choice is the annual mean concentration. There are 2 figures for the data for London. The first correspond to a background measurement station (Bk), and the second from a railway station (RS), far more exposed.


Figure 1 – Boundaries of the London Low Emission Zone

The LEZ covers all local roads in Greater London, Heathrow airport and parts of the M1 and M4 motorways (Ellison, 2013). It operates at all times of the year and cars and motorcycles are not included in the scheme. There are 3 main interventions taken under the LEZ:

Euro Norms for Vehicles Performances

The criteria of vehicle compliance are based on Euro norms, or European Emission Standards. These are labels characterizing a vehicle’s emissions of PM and NOx. The higher the number, the more restrictive the norm. A small synopsis has been explained in figure 2. The implementation of the LEZ follows 4 stages. This incremental process attempts to reach the initial goal without generating a crisis for the vehicle users because of restrictions.

Figure 2 – The 4 stages of the Euro norms

It was noted that the London LEZ has a national impact as a large proportion of the national fleet comes to London at any given time (AEA, 2003). The indicators are fixed in a way to find a balance between costs to industry and the impact on air quality. A last Stage 5 was added to reach Euro IV norm for NOx for the bus fleet of London. The main objective is to become the first zero-emission bus fleet in Europe.

Surveillance and Economic System

In order to control the access to the LEZ, TfL installed a CCTV surveillance system at multiple locations in London. Fixed or mobile cameras can read license plates and create a database of the violators. This information is then compared to the database from different organisations that identifies each vehicle in Great Britain. TfL reported a acceptance rate of over 95% for every phase of the implementation (Ademe, 2018). In 2008, It was predicted that this monitoring system would cost ₤50 million and each year, the running costs would be ₤80million. It was also predicted that the system would also yield ₤5 to ₤7 million through fines and entry taxes (TfL, 2008). Users can pay to enter the LEZ with a non-compliant vehicle, providing a daily fee from £100 to £200. Infractions are punished by a fine from £500 to £1000.

Congestion Charge Zone

The municipality also settled a Congestion Charge zone in 2003 to enter in the central London area. It operates from 7am to 6pm during weekdays. Every vehicle, except motorbikes, disabled drivers, electric vehicles and collective transport, is affected and must pay a £11.5 daily fee to drive within the zone. The objective is to reduce congestion and pollution in this area. In comparison with the previous year, the traffic reduced by 27% and cycling in the area increased by 66%. Moreover, all the net revenue is spent on improvements of public transport across London (TfL, 2019). The objective is to favour a switch to public transport, well-developed in this area.

Other Policies Promoting Better Air Quality

The LEZ has significant impacts on the air quality in London. However, it is not sufficient and is integrated with various other policies. Recently, London implemented the first Ultra-Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) of the world in the central area of London. It replaces the former T-charge (toxicity charge), and will operate within the same boundaries at all times of the day. In this area each vehicle are required to be of specific norms. The standards are:

  • Euro 3 for two-wheeled
  • Euro 4 for petrol carsƒƒ
  • Euro 6 for diesel cars
  • Euro VI for heavy vehicles.

The vehicles not meeting the emission standards will have to pay £12.5 for light vehicles, and £100 for heavy vehicles. This fee is in addition to the congestion charge that operates in the same area. Its boundaries are proposed to be extended in October 2021 to the northern and southern circular roads of London (TfL, 2019).

Since 2008, many other initiatives have also emerged. Transport for London launched a Freight Quality Partnership to set up a dialogue with freight industry, local governments and environmental groups. Good construction logistic practices, cleaner technologies and night-time deliveries are some of their projects to limit the impact of freight delivery on air quality (AQAP, 2008).

The Energy Master Plan of London also plays a role in air pollution reduction. An important part of emissions is due to residential heating and the use of bad quality fuels, for example 37% of NOx emissions (GLA, 2017). Implementing and promoting a decentralised energy network tackles part of the issue. Here, the local authorities provide heat and power demand locally and can therefore control the origin of this energy by privileging cleaner energy production systems (GLA, 2017). This is also a way to regain a local control on the polluting sector. This contribution is vital as a great part of London’s air pollution comes from its outer borders (Walton, 2015).

This last observation underlines the necessity of collaborations for national and European policies to tackle air quality issues. London authorities relies on data and information provided by the Convention on Long-Range Transboundary Air Pollution adopted in 1979. It has been ratified by most countries of Europe and North America and identifies specific measures to be taken by parties
to cut their emissions (UNECE, 2018).

Evolution and Impacts

The graphs below present the decrease in concentrations of pollutants in the air after 8 years of implementation. There is a considerable reduction due to the direct impact of the LEZ policy. However, we can qualify this assessment by looking more closely at the different graphs. The WHO objectives in roadside or inner London is yet to be achieved and there hasn’t been any significant changes in the levels of PM2.5. The most polluted areas still lack in providing proper quality of life to inhabitants. This amelioration might not be only due to the LEZ implementation. Many factors have to be taken into account, however we can reasonably think that the impact on road transport has been significant.

Figure 3 – Trends in NO2 in London – 2000 to 2016

Figure 4 – Trends in PM2,5 in London – 2004 to 2016

Figure 5 – Trends in PM10 in London – 2004 to 2016


Air pollution in India is a major crisis and needs immediate attention. A similar intervention or other innovative solutions can help in significantly reducing traffic and concentration in pollutants. However, the context in Indian cities is completely different than in London, and this solution must be studied before any implementation in order to adapt it to the local situation.

The experience of the Low Emission Zone in London shows that city-scaled pragmatic action lead to concrete results. However, a LEZ alone is not sufficient to reach the WHO’s requirements. Many efforts still must be done on other sectors such as industries, housing or non-road transport. Moreover, it is important to note that improving the air quality and reducing the pollution is a global concern. The upcoming challenge is to gather these various ambitions into collective action from the cities, the governments and the international agencies.

Read More

Urban Food Systems: Case Study of Baltimore Food Policy Initiative


A highly urbanised world puts tremendous influence and demand on the food systems, affecting their management, functioning and performance (Fang et al., 2017). The diet of the people and the style of production and distribution of food affects its accessibility, affordability, the related job opportunities, etc. Currently, the cities lack relevant data and empirical analysis on food systems (Fang et al., 2017). The lack of data leads to lack in understanding issues and prioritising relevant projects and programs. Inefficiency of policies leads to inequitable access to food leading to creation of food deserts.

An area where inhabitants have low access to affordable and healthy food is referred as a food desert. The definition and the way to measure it varies. Some focus on the number of stores within a specific distance (Hendrickson, Smith, & Eikenberry, 2006), and some other emphasise the quality of food available (Cummins & Macintyre, 2002). The John Hopkins Centre for a Liveable Future, designates an areas as a food desert if (Biehl et al., 2017):

  • The distance to a supermarket is above ¼ mile
  • The median household income is at or below 185% of the Federal Poverty Level.
  • Over 30% of households do not have a vehicle available.
  • Healthy Food Availability – The average Healthy Food Availability Index score for all food stores is low.

In 2017, 12.5% of the population of US didn’t have proper access to healthy and affordable food (Feeding America, 2019) mainly because of 2 reasons:

  1. The lack of financial resources (Breyer & Voss-Andreae, 2013).
  2. Supermarkets and groceries lacking accessibility due to higher logistical cost (Walker, Keane, & Burke, 2010). Testimonies and case studies show people travelling 1h to reach the first affordable supermarket (Butler, 2018).

As people tend to make food choices based on the availability in his/her surrounding areas (Furey, Strugnell, & McIlveen, 2001), food deserts have a high impact on the inhabitant’s health. Being far from a supermarket or in an inaccessible environment favours an unhealthy diet (Moore, Diez Roux, Nettleton, & Jacobs, 2008)(Rose & Richards, 2007) resulting into obesity and hypertension. Food desert is also a matter of inequality. Morland et al. showed that in the US, poorer neighbourhoods have more small corner grocery stores. Smaller shops are more likely to offer lesser choice and lack fresh and healthier products (Laska, Borradaile, Tester, Foster, & Gittelsohn, 2009; Block & Kouba, 2007).

Food deserts exemplifies strong impacts of spatial environment on social issues. In the early 2000’s, it was often neglected in urban planning practices due to many speculations like considering it as an issue in the rural areas, etc. (Pothukuchi & Kaufman, 2000). However, it is rather important to understand that cities need to implement policies in order to have a positive impact on food accessibility. This article will focus on the case of the Baltimore Food Policy Initiative, in the USA. It shows different methods they used to obtain concrete results concerning food security and food deserts in Baltimore.

The Baltimore Food Policy Initiative

Food insecurity

Food insecurity is the inability to provide “access to all people at all times to enough food for an active, healthy life” (USDA, 2018). Food deserts are identified based on two indicators: the food insecurity rate and the Healthy Food Availability Index (HFAI). The collection of data enables the authorities to draw an overview of the food desert and food insecurity problems in Baltimore. They measure accessibility as well as quality of the accessible food.

In 2015, the food insecurity rate in the US was 13.4%. In comparison, Baltimore city was at 23.2% (Feeding America, 2019), and 23.8% in 2014 (Biehl et al., 2017).

Figure 1 – Baltimore City’s food deserts. (Misiaszek, Buzogany, & Freishtat, 2018)

The HFAI is derived from the Nutrition Environment Measures Survey for Stores. It is calculated by awarding points regarding the availability of healthy food options like products containing whole-wheat grain or proteins (Misiaszek, Buzogany, & Freishtat, 2018). It ranks from 0 to 28.5, and a higher score indicates the presence of healthier food. The table provides data on the city of Baltimore. We see that even though supermarkets present a higher HFAI, the majority of the city’s stores are around 9 and present less possibilities for residents of the surrounding neighbourhoods.

Figure 2 – Healthy Food Availability Index Findings (Misiaszek et al., 2018)

Origins of BFPI

From the early 2000’s, various individual efforts started taking place in Baltimore to tackle the food insecurity (Santo, Yong, & Palmer, 2014). To bring these stakeholders together, the mayor of Baltimore launched in 2009 the Baltimore Food Policy Task Force and released a list of recommendations as a roadmap for action for a healthy and sustainable food system (Santo et al., 2014). In 2010, this led to the the establishment of the Baltimore Food Policy Initiative (BFPI), a new intergovernmental collaboration. The Food Policy Action Coalition puts together as much as 60 Baltimore stakeholders (NGOs, farms, universities, businesses, hospitals, residents) with the objective to drive a concrete implementation of recommendations (Santo et al., 2014; City of Baltimore, 2018).

The objective of the Baltimore Food Policy Initiative is to “improve health outcomes by increasing access to healthy affordable food in Baltimore City’s food deserts” (City of Baltimore, 2018). Its actions can be parted in 3 axes:

  • Bring together a wide spectral of different actors in order to share information on food security subjects, and advise the city’s work on it.
  • Designate Resident Food Equity Advisors (RFEA). It is a group of citizens who represent all the city’s districts, and have an influence on the choices and policies (City of Baltimore, 2018).ƒƒ
  • Coordinate academic and research institutions work, who collect, analyse and disseminate data. The partners are John Hopkins Centre for Liveable Future, Bloomberg School of Public Health, and different universities (Swartz, Santo, & A. Neff, 2018).

To lead these actions, the BFPI adopted the Healthy Food Environment Strategy to have precise priorities (City of Baltimore, 2018). They cover

  • Actions on supply: increase the number of (City of Baltimore, n.d.) stores and the quality of food proposed
  • Actions on demand: promote nutrition assistance and address food accessibility
  • Promotion of alternatives: promote grassroots initiatives (with the help of RFEA) and urban agriculture.

BFPI acts at a local level, even if it can advocate on policies at state and federal level. They work with organisations in order to improve practices, and change regulations at the city level.


One of the city level policies is the personal property tax credits policy. Renovation or location of new stores in Grocery Store Incentive Areas give access to an 80% credit on furniture, fixtures and equipment over 10 years. The Grocery Store Incentive Areas have a covers large portions of Baltimore (Figure 3), it concerns (City of Baltimore, 2018):

  • Food deserts
  • The zones situated within a ¼ mile distance from a food desert
  • Zones that would be a food desert without the presence of a supermarket

Figure 3 – Map of the Grocery Store Incentive Areas

Stores can qualify for the tax reduction only if a significant part of their sale is dedicated to fresh fruits and vegetables (City of Baltimore, 2018). The BFPI also launched the Homegrown Baltimore programme. The objective is divided in 3 components:

  • Grow local – Promote urban agriculture
  • Buy local – Link producers and consumers with farm markets and make arrangements between farmers and schools, institutions and universities
  • Eat local – Provide education and incentives to promote consumption of locally produced food

For example, a partnership with the Managerial and Professional Society enables their employees to earn 250$ on participating in CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). In a survey held in 2014, 85% of the participants agreed that participating in CSA has motivated them to eat more vegetables. However, this programme still has a relatively lower impact concerning only 120 city employees (BFPI, 2015).

At the city level, BFPI also legislates health vending machines, food trucks, hoop houses and animal husbandry. Simultaneously, BFPI has also cooperated with the Maryland state and at federal level. For example, their influence led in the adaptation of the SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) to make it more sustainable for small businesses and increase the number of stores proposing this option. SNAP is a supplement to food budget for low-income families that encourages the purchase of healthy food. SNAP programme has lowered food insecurity by at least 18% for its participants (Mykerezi & Mills, 2010).

Some indicators give an overall idea of the impact of the BFPI policies in the city of Baltimore. The Feeding America website indicates that in 2017, 21,3% of the Baltimore citizens lived in food insecurity, compared to the 23,2% in 2015 (Feeding America, 2019). BFPI were a part of the Milan Urban Food Policy Pact and received an award in 2016 for their use of intergovernmental collaboration.


The majority of these policies concentrate on adapting the offer. Accessibility, affordability and diversity are essential to enable everyone to consume healthier food. However, this is not sufficient, and policies for health and food security must also act based on demand. Concerning health issues, studies show that it is more efficient to act at the household level by improving the nutritional quality of the diets in comparison with the neighbourhood level by providing a supermarket or a store (Ver Ploeg & Wilde, 2018). BFPI proposes to focus on local solutions such as food assistance, targeted food price subsidies, or nutrition education. Use of behavioural economics is also been used to improve sales of healthy products in small retail stores (Mancino, Guthrie, & Just, 2018). These are new solutions to explore and involves various actors. The example of Baltimore illustrates how cities can have an impact on the reduction of food deserts. It affects the inhabitant’s health through the enhancement of their quality of life.

Read More

Public Open Spaces and Sustainable Development Goals

Coherence of SDGs with Public Open Spaces: Targets, Actions and Benefits

Public spaces, the heart of urban areas, are the key part of building inclusive, healthy, functional and productive cities.  They can act as strong tools in sustainable development by providing environmental, social, economic and health benefits to the city. Public Open Space help achieve safe, inclusive, resilient, and sustainable cities and have been identified as a specific target under the 11th SDG. The data sheet here represents the potential of public spaces to contribute to several sustainable development goals. The inner most circle in the wheel shows the SDGs related with public spaces. The middle circle represents the specific targets of the respective SDGs that can be achieved through public spaces development. The outermost circle shows the benefits on the basis of three categories of public spaces markets, open spaces and streets. The suggested actions to obtain these results are shown outside the wheel connected with the respective SDGs.

Reference (2019). SDGs .:. Sustainable Development Knowledge Platform. [online] Available at: [Accessed 7 Jan. 2019].
Daniel, K. (2016). Public Spaces: A key tool to achieve the sustainable development goals. HealthBridge.

Read More

Potential of Urban Agriculture under Transmission lines: Case-Study of Agro Garden in Navi Mumbai


Urban agriculture as a concept is often employed to address social and environmental sustainability in cities. The activities involve producing, processing and distributing food and other agricultural products complimented by recreational, educational and social values additions. The importance of urban agriculture is increasingly being recognized by international organizations like UN-Habitat and FAO. Urban Agriculture helps in:

(1) Enhancing urban environmental management (Environmental Sustainability)

  • Sustainable land management method.
  • Greening and cleaning of the city by turning derelict open spaces into green zones.
  • Productive reuse of urban wastes by turning them into a productive resource.
  • Contribution to Urban Ecology by improving microclimate and providing habitat to biodiversity.
  • Reduces the risk of groundwater pollution, while also sequestering carbon in the soil.
  • Reinventing the human relationship with nature through environmental awareness.

(2) Turning urban challenges into opportunities (Economic Sustainability)

  • UA is an exceptional public involvement based solution, which works as a complementary strategy to reduce urban poverty.
  • Create sufficient formal employment opportunities for the poor.
  • UA contributes to local economic development, poverty alleviation and social inclusion of the urban poor and women in particular.

(3) Functioning as a Platform for social integrity (Social Sustainability)

  • UA is a multitasking activity, which requires active and passive public participation at different stages for its success.
  • Contributes to Urban Food security and nutrition. Locally, seasonally grown food is richer in flavor and has more nutrients.
  • Communities involved in UA manifest higher social integrity as they work towards common good, which eventually bestow them with higher quality of life.
CIDCO’s Policy for lands below Transmission Line

To encourage public participation in land development and management, CIDCO in 1998 came up with a policy for allotment of land falling under Power Corridor (MSEB) and land falling under Service Corridor. Certain parcels of land under Right of Ways (RoW) for power transmission line cannot be termed as developable land as per the provisions of Navi Mumbai Disposal of Land Regulation, 1975 and have been disposed-off for its potential utilization. This innovative policy allows to utilize such underutilized land parcels on Leave and License basis for development of gardens/nurseries/farmlands at a nominal rent of Rs. 100/- per annum. It keeps these lands free from encroachment and develops greenery to create an ambience for recreational activities and relaxation. Moreover, transmission lines passing through the nodes make undevelopable and unaffordable urban land available for neighbourhood to cultivate. Total 168 plots were leased out to different communities/ trusts/societies, where Urban Agriculture and allied activities turned out to be most sustainable utilization.

This article discusses a pre-eminent example of urban agriculture on land below power transmission line in Navi Mumbai. This project works in line with the objectives of CIDCO’s policy and also serves a greater purpose of achieving environmental, economic and social sustainability at community level. The case studies are analysed on three aspects:

  • Economic Sustainability
  • Environmental Sustainability
  • Social Sustainability

CASE STUDY – Agro Garden by CBD Residents’ Agro Society

Plot no. C-13 | Sector- 9 | CBD Belapur

CBD Resident’s Agro Society, a non-profit organization established as Citizen’s Effort for protection and conservation of sensitive eco-system came up with an idea to create a multipurpose public space on the foothills of Valley Park. This park is capable of inculcating community farming and gardening culture along with raising environmental sensitivity amongst the citizen. It also keeps the land clear from encroachment. The park covering nearly 1 Ha (9507 Sq.m.) barren patch of land falling under power transmission RoW is being transformed into a fertile terraced farm and garden.

The Agro Garden is broadly divided into 4 segments: Vegetable garden and Orchard, Butterfly Park and Botanical Garden, Senior Citizen Park and Children’s Playground. Rest of the peripheral area is kept intact with natural vegetation. Each segment serves a critical role in this sustainability model.

Image 1: Satellite image of Agro garden showing of Multi-purpose Segments


Activities like horticulture, agriculture, awareness drives, socio-cultural events and educational tours performed in the Agro garden creates activities and gives a local flavour to this transformed urban space. Through multiple uses of different segments and overall benefits gained through them safeguard the social, economic and environmental sustenance of the community.


Figure 1 – Activities in the four zones of the Agro Park and the economic model

Organic fruits and vegetables are produced in Vegetable Garden and Orchard; nature trails and informative walks are organized for children and nature lovers at Botanical Garden add meaning to spaces. Butterfly Park, Senior Citizen Park and Children’s Playground possesses multipurpose behaviour of space which apart from daily activities are suitable for cultural events too.

Economic Sustainability

The garden balances the social activities and the revenue generation through its financial sustainability model. Moreover, the garden provides employment to the agricultural workers deployed in Agro Garden. The self-sustaining model of the Agro Garden reduces the load of financial contribution on the member residents, this makes it easier for them to voluntarily contribute towards development of the garden. The revenue is generated from educational tours, vegetables and fruits sales, renting spaces for socio-cultural events, entry fees, donations, etc. If the expenses for the year are not recovered, society members contribute the remaining amount for maintenance and development.

Figure 2: Model for recovery of expenditure

Environmental Sustainability

The actions to preserve the environmental sustainability works around four parameters, each of them having their own contribution, they are:

  1. Land transformation: Habitat creation and restoration: Combined efforts has transformed this unfertile land into a fertile and productive resource. The botanical garden provides a favourable niche for the survival of rare species of plants. Successful habitat restoration for birds and reptiles has been done there. The botanical garden houses species of host and nectar plants, which provides food and shelter to almost 30 butterfly species. The butterfly park successfully contributes in habitat creation.
  2. Composting: Urban waste management and manure production: Neighbourhood residents convert their household wet waste into compost and reduce load on municipal landfill.
  3. Organic Farming: Reduce food footprint and provide healthier food: Cultivation of seasonal fruits and vegetables with organic farming techniques has been the most popular venture. Community farming in a city helps in reducing food footprint of a neighbourhood. To economize on water, the society has developed independent water source by digging a well and irrigation is done by means of sprinklers and drip irrigation.
  4. Conservation Education: Environmental awareness and conservation, eco-tourism: Students, enthusiasts and researchers visit this garden to observe botanical wealth and butterfly lifecycle. It encourages environmental awareness and eco-tourism.Children, elders and educational trips promotes sensitivity towards conservation of natural heritage.

Image 2: Vegetable farming on stepped terrain

Image 3: Organic vegetables purchase by nearby residents


Environmental Awareness Programmes like Basant Utsav are organised by the Agro Society. These programs spread environmental awareness amongst citizens of Navi Mumbai through various workshops on topics like, eco-friendly domestic waste management, sheet mulching, vermi composting, bonsai, kitchen garden, snake protection and awareness, plant and flower show, nature trails, etc.

Social Sustainability

Public participation plays a vital role in Agro Park’s social sustainability initiatives. The public participation takes place on two levels explained here:

  1. Passive Public Participation by contributing towards judicial use of the public space and enabling multipurpose use by bringing diverse population together: Events organized in Agro Garden attract people from different parts of the city, they come together mostly for learning and recreation. Community gatherings and social events serve dual purpose of revenue generation and social integrity. Within the garden, there is also a dedicated space for senior citizens.
  2. Active Public Participation by:
  • Encouraging Functional Participation in groups to meet predetermined objectives related to a project after major decisions have been made.
  • Encouraging Interactive Participation in joint analysis, development of action plans, and formation or strengthening of local institutions.
  • Mobilizing Participation by taking initiatives independent of external institutions to change systems. They develop contacts with external institutions for resources and the technical advice they need, but retain control over how resources are used.

Image 4: Botany expert Dr. Bhagwat participating in one of the nature trails

The participation of public in decision-making and maintenance creates a sense of unity and responsibility towards community development and nurtures social integrity. Combining the multiple initiatives and citizens’ contribution together works forward in upgrading citizens’ quality of life.


Case-studies like these apprehend that urban agriculture is beyond growing the food; it also creates recreational, educational and employment opportunities to the urban population. It also contributes by using under-utilised lands below transmission lines. Urban agriculture solves dual purpose of environmental sustainability and enhancing quality of life of residents under Smart Cities initiative, it also addresses Smart City feature of preserving and developing open spaces in sustainable way. Surprisingly, some of the activities and features proposed in Langley Urban Agriculture Demonstration Project report are already being practiced at Agro Garden and KKVP Nursery cum Information Centre by virtue of public interest.

For urban agriculture to flourish, public action groups seek encouragement and support from the local government. City’s municipal corporation and the planning authority can support citizen action groups through functional reforms such as assuring long-term tenure, performance based assessment and incentives, promotion of events and awareness programmes organized in such projects citywide. Encouragement can be sought by making more land resources available to the communities in neighbourhood with simplified procedure for lease application and renewal. Leasing the plots to citizen in adjacent neighbourhoods is beneficial as the accountability for maintenance and benefits enjoyed remains with the community.

Read More