Monday, March 22, 2010

New urban planning approach for developing countries

Hohoe, March 22, GNA - A new urban planning design that would transform cities in developing world in the 21st Century was presented in a study issued at the opening of the United Nations Fifth World Urban Forum in Rio de Janeiro Brazil on Monday.

The design, funded by the International Institute of Environment and Development and the UNFPA, involves flexible building designs that allow residents to expand their homes upwards (vertically) by up to three floors.

The new design, which promises a brighter future for millions of the world's poorest urban citizens, is detailed in study and multimedia collection.

Its launch coincides with the opening of the United Nations Fifth World Urban Forum in Rio de Janeiro, where governments, academia and NGOs would discuss solutions to the challenges of urbanization.

Among those challenges is the question of how best to increase urban population densities as populations grow and land prices rise.

In many cities in Asia and elsewhere, governments are keen to force these poor communities into high-rise apartments so that the land they currently occupy can be developed into condominiums and iconic building to attract foreign investments.

Mr Arif Hasan, an architect and visiting fellow at the IIED and lead author of the new study, said in promoting such a vision of modern world-class city, international financial institutions and city planners are failing the poorest communities and ensuring that those who are meant to gain the most are instead the biggest losers.

"This is a bold alternative to either unplanned informal settlement or relocation that brings the benefits of high density in a way that communities control and prefer," he said.

Experience also shows that population density in apartment blocks continues to grow leading to uncomfortable crowding as families grow but have no extra space to occupy and as formal communities are divided and restructured other social problems such as drug abuse and debts emerge.

"A motor mechanic cannot run a business from the fifth floor apartment nor can a fishmonger," says Mr Hasan.

The research shows that when poor urban communities are left to their devices they tend to grow their dwellings incrementally according to their household needs and abilities to pay.

Mr Hasan said without proper planning and supports "growth is not as efficient as it could be, as it could lead to congestion and lack of space for future expansion."

He studied four communities in Karachi, Pakistan, and hypothetically re-designed them to see what densities could be achieved if the necessary planning and support were in place.

The study showed that if incremental growth was planned and managed aesthetically and sustainable instead of being an ad hoc process then the result would be not only the necessary high densities but also better social and physical environments.

"For this to happen, houses need decent foundations that can withstand future building of additional floors but these only increase the initial cost by 15 percent," says Mr Hasan.

"Communities need support, including design advice and the financial and technical means to plan for upwards expansion as their families grow," he said.


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