Envisioning Eco-scapes for Healthy Urban Environments: a future to indemnify the past through passive measures

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Submission Summary
India globally ranks 3rd and 1st for the percentage of Diabetic population and annual death rate due to Type 2 Diabetes respectively (Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation, 2019). Similar physical and physiological health conditions have crept into the lives of urban residents across the globe, which is a matter of concern. The urban environments have been proven to be responsible through the encouragement of sedentary lifestyles, neglect of ecological resources, social exclusion etc. leading to fatal health challenges such as Hypertension, Obesity, Typhoid (State of Health of Delhi 2019) in the planned and unplanned neighbourhoods of Delhi. Envisioning for a future of health positive Indian cities, the research establishes fresh grounds of connections between space and illness, through an understanding of active and passive urban contributors to health, and the need for cities to reconsider the effect of the built and unbuilt environments on the residents rather than depending on health infrastructure. The focus on health in city planning in India can be dated back to 1956, with the engagement of the Ministry of Health with the Town Planning Organization to create the Interim General Plan for Greater Delhi. A U.S.A-read team of planners, headed by Albert Meyers, planned neighbourhoods such as Lajpat Nagar, Defence Colony, Patel Nagar, for the large influx of refugees post-partition, based on borrowed international standards. This top-down approach of creating uniformly planned health-centric neighbourhoods in terms of infrastructure and morphology has not been efficient enough due to neglect towards the non-uniform contexts they were placed in. International frameworks, such as the European Healthy Cities Network (WHO) has been successful in establishing healthy environments, by providing neighbourhood centric solutions, acknowledging the socio-economic groups. Also, authors like Cecily Maller and Dr. Howard Frumkin has delved into qualitative meanings of ‘Healthy Urban Environments’ and ‘Public Health’ respectively developing conceptual frameworks regarding the impact of physical, social and service environments on health. In the Indian context, there exist visibly diverse neighbourhoods, ranging from densely populated bastis housing low-income groups to the sparsely populated neighbourhoods housing high-income group which directly translates to the morphology and lifestyles of residents, leading to varied kinds of health problems. While most of these neighbourhoods meet the quantitative standards of the Master Plan, concerning the number of Mohalla Clinics, open-built ratio etc, certain unwritten aspects have still lead to deteriorated health. The research aims to enhance the health of individuals and the community as a whole through the upliftment of active and passive contributors to physical, social and ecological health, using urban design interventions focusing on the middle and upper-middle-income neighbourhood of Nizamuddin and Jangpura. The research on enhancing Public Health through Urban environments has gained momentum globally in recent times, with legislative bodies involving ecologists, transport planners, sociologists and other related experts, to make manuals applicable on different scales. Not limited to addressing today’s health and ecological concerns, Healthy Cities shall be a way of living for the Indian population. This cohesive understanding of individual, community and environment to understand and make more-than-human Healthy Urban Environments is exactly what the Indian cities have the potential to exhibit.
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2: Well-being and health. Al-Fereej: caring for living conditions
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PhD in Urban Planning student
University of Southern California

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