Urban Planning and Wellbeing conference brings Green Infrastructure to the fore

Professor Dr Mikiko Ishikawa from The University of Tokyo presented paper on ‘Methodology of green infrastructure planning toward sustainability of urban environment: Comparative study between Bhutan and Japan, during the international conference on urban development and well being which was held from 16-17 may 2019 at Zhichenkhar, Thimphu.

She discussed about the green infrastructure planning as a methodology to proceed the sustainable environment where she raised four important points of which the first was Environmental capacity to prevent water shortage problem and preservation of forest and agricultural land as well as other problems due to excessive development, watershed management has to be introduced.

Second was natural disaster prevention as with rapid urbanization taking place along the riverside’s and steep slopes, strong tendency of the frequency of rainfall has been accelerated due to climate change; therefore proper natural disaster planning should be prepared.

Third was biodiversity because although Bhutan is known to the world for its rich biodiversity, Thimphu city has been suffering from the destruction of wetland and riparian forest.

The fundamental issue is to solve how to enrich urban biodiversity.

Fourth was Cultural landscapes for which Mikikio said that fortunately, places around cultural landscapes in Bhutan have not been touched by urbanization.

She then addressed on the need for green infrastructure planning.

Dr. Mikiko Ishikawa said to The Bhutanese that, ‘Thimphu structure plan like any other cities has a master plan based on population and the kind of facilities it requires. Thimphu city was considered a very well planned city in 2004 but over the decade, urbanization has taken place at a rapid pace and there seems to be a gap between planning and reality in urban planning. Government report on urban planning states about sustainability of urban environment and that’s why I’m trying to propose a methodology for sustainable urban environment by using Green infrastructures ’’.

There are varied definitions for Green infrastructures across the globe but for Dr. Mikiko, Green infrastructure in simple terms mean ‘ Network of nature and man-made materials that will provide amenities and benefits to the people like ecosystem service, ecological biodiversity, provide enough water and preserve agricultural land for rice’. GI has been created based on the characteristics of nation, cities, and the needs of the society.

The discussion on GI is now increasing in all over the world, reflecting the increase of risks caused from the climate changes.

The methodology of environmental planning and design showing various examples implemented in Japan including the challenges faced by Kamakura city for establishment of GI as urban city and ways to create the platform for sustainability in the context of Bhutan was also discussed.

Dr. Mikiko added that, ‘In order to build a house or living environment, you have an option to either use Green infrastructures or Grey infrastructures (concrete) but people should now think about GI because it’s not just cost effective but also easy to maintain’.

Although, Green infrastructure is not the only solution to housing crunch, high rent, water shortage and natural disaster prevention it is one of the possible solution and it must be combined with other strategic plans as well.

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