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‘Put people at the centre’

Sustainability is not just about changing switches or constructing green buildings; it is also about using resources equitably, says Aneerudha Paul, an architect, urban planner and director of the Kamla Raheja Vidyanidhi Institute of Architecture in Juhu.

mumbai Updated: Jun 05, 2010 02:21 IST
Vidya Balachander

Sustainability is not just about changing switches or constructing green buildings; it is also about using resources equitably, says Aneerudha Paul, an architect, urban planner and director of the Kamla Raheja Vidyanidhi Institute of Architecture in Juhu.

How would you define

sustainable development?

It means protecting the communities’ collective interests, of which is the environment is among the most important. Some believe it can be achieved through technological innovation alone. But we [at the institute] have been challenging this. It’s not just about changing switches or constructing green buildings but also using resources equitably.

How have you tried to

incorporate these principles in the redevelopment plans

within the city?

We helped the residents of Juhu articulate a neighbourhood plan that addressed the problems they were facing. For instance, Juhu floods very badly every monsoon, mainly because of a nullah (drain).

The BMC proposed concretising it, but that is the worst solution

because you’re not letting the water seep into the ground. We proposed that instead of levelling the

paths on either side of the nullah, they should be allowed to remain at a lower level. During the monsoons, these soil paths can absorb the runoff in half a day.

The plan also dealt with the need for footpaths, open spaces near educational institutions, and made suggestions about where to place bus stops or metro stations. We made a book out of it, and citizens are now using those guidelines to work with their corporators.

What can learn from our

own culture?

A lot of sustainable patterns are embedded in society that we’ve forgotten. For instance, we traditionally dry clothes in the sun, a much more sustainable practice than using a machine. The natural topography of cities is also geared towards sustainability, but we disturb it with bad planning. For example, there are many holding ponds or natural low-lying areas that collect the run-off from the rain in Juhu and in the airport land. But because of the inappropriate levelling of roads, the runoff is not allowed to flow into the holding ponds, which in turn causes flooding.

But isn’t change inevitable?

Yes, but you have to understand the sensitivities of a place before you redevelop it. We say, let the people decide when they want to change. Any redevelopment plan must be created in consultation with the community.