Standing roughly 250 km north of Delhi at the foothills of the Shivalik ranges, Chandigarh is independent India’s first planned city. Designed by Le Corbusier, the Union Territory (UT) was a pioneering experiment in urban planning and modern architecture. Unlike other cities — many are built without forethought or planning to check haphazard growth — Chandigarh is marked by uniform low-rise buildings and interconnected sectors with parks, schools, shopping areas, and walkways. Unfortunately, overpopulation, pollution and unregulated development have threatened to wreck the green lungs of the UT. On Tuesday, the Supreme Court (SC) took note of these unfortunate changes and pulled up the administration for “blindly” permitting apartments to mushroom in the city.
The SC’s observations are timely, and may help forestall Chandigarh’s descent into the urban nightmare that is a reality for other metropolises. Equally important are the court’s comments about the sorry state of India’s other cities, and its observations on what the urban policy focus of governments should be. The bench reminded the government that it is necessary “that a proper balance is struck between sustainable development and environmental protection”. The top court also noted that although legislatures had enacted laws to ensure the planned development of cities and urban areas, enforcement was poor and violations rampant. The observations come at a critical time when Indian cities face several challenges, many of which arise from short-sighted planning. It is imperative that the planning authorities take note and formulate ways to figure out a holistic road map to make our cities liveable.
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