The imperceptible stakeholders- Including the natural world within the urban realm

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Submission Summary
Urban animals are an integral part of the Indian society, both culturally and religiously. The natural world sustains us and the non-human species play a critical role in its wellbeing. Yet the development models for our cities have always ignored these ever present ‘imperceptible stakeholders’ and have prioritized economy over sustainability. This has resulted in global issues like climate change and loss of ecological diversity. Quenching the thirst or hunger of people and animals is considered to be an essential deed and is widely celebrated in many parts of India. From our festivals to the daily rituals, the idea of mutualism has always existed. In an ever transforming and evolving society, it is critical to hold on to the values that helps us sustain our planet. Each and every living being deserves clean and accessible water, food and shelter. The coexistence of the human and natural worlds is what many of the sustainable development goals (SDG) set up by the United Nations (UN) point us to achieve, for a better future of the planet. As urban practitioners, we seldom plan and design for the ‘imperceptible stakeholders’ who are fundamental to the everyday life of our societies. It is critical for us to work with the nature and to be more accommodating of it within our cities. Jaipur, the first planned city of India, by its design had included nature as a strong part of its urban realm. Higher rates of unplanned urbanization since the 1990s has led the city to sprawl manifolds. The urban densities have increased by 41% and the natural greens are reduced by 27%. This new growth has created many conflicts in between the humans and the non-humans. But at the same time the urban animals, trees and other non-human species are loved and even worshipped by the people. This research analyses these strong cultural roots that ties humans with nature. The aim is to come up with a replicable urban design policy framework and guidelines that can help create sustainable and inclusive urban environments. This is done by developing an informed contemporary understanding of the socio-ecological systems of the city of Jaipur. Strategies are formed at city level, locality level and for the urban fringes. The framework proposes inclusion of urban forest corridor networks housing urban animals which also creates an open space structure by linking various low-income group communities to their workplaces. Animal welfare centers are to become a part of the mandatory social infrastructure. The urban fringes are to provide sanctuaries for the stray urban animals who will also help to create healthy forests by fertilizing the soil. New cultural roots can be generated by making the non-human life also visible within the public realm. By understanding our interdependencies with the natural world, we can create cities where the imperceptible stakeholders of today can be the legal citizens of tomorrow. Keywords- Urban animals, urban forests, ecosystem services, socio-ecological systems, sustainable development goals
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5: Uniqueness and connectivity. Al-Baraha: unlocking urban futures
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School of Planning and Architecture , New Delhi

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