EDITORIAL: Urban planning

While sustainability should be the approach while implementing the urban development plan, policy makers must focus also on developing regenerative cities

The government has said it is drafting a long-term urban development plan for the newly formed 185 municipalities across the country. According to the Ministry of Urban Development (MoUD), it has started initial works to prepare the 20-year plan to enhance the situation of municipalities, and for that it has divided the total work into two phases — in the first phase, it will prepare the plan of 90 municipalities and in the second phase, development plan for the remaining 95 municipalities will be prepared. Since the newly declared municipalities lack basic infrastructure, the government is preparing a plan for 20 years, based on which detailed works would be completed within the given period, according to officials. The MoUD has said its plan will include some details like central government’s investment over 20 years, necessary infrastructure for the municipalities, the possible size of the population and status of the government services in the municipalities. Most of the newly-formed municipalities are lagging in terms of basic infrastructure and the local bodies have not been able to construct the infrastructure. The central and local governments, hence, will work jointly for the development of infrastructure, according to the MoUD.

Once the government starts implementing its plan, the country is likely to see rapid urbanisation. Urbanisation does have the potential, if carried out in a well-planned manner, of creating opportunities for a better life, bailing people out of poverty and acting as the engine of growth. But simultaneously, it can have pitfalls. This could result in eco-degeneration, leaving the cities without green spaces. Failure to ensure proper public transportation system could result in rising pollution. While sustainability should be the approach while implementing the urban development plan, policy makers must focus also on developing regenerative cities. Due consideration must be given to develop resource-efficient cities with low carbon emission and adequate greenery. Focus must be also on regenerating soils, forests and watercourses. With the rapid urbanisation comes population rise, which together can enhance disaster risks. Disaster risk management should be yet another area the policy makers should pay proper heed to.

Rapid urbanisation also can breed inequality, putting a spoke in the growth wheel. Hence, the new urban centres should evolve as more inclusive cities, ensuring that all the people can reap equal benefits of urbanisation. Spatial inclusion providing affordable necessities such as housing, water and sanitation; social inclusion guaranteeing equal rights and participation of all, including the most marginalised; and economic inclusion, creating jobs and giving urban residents the opportunity to enjoy the benefits of economic growth are critical components of overall urban inclusion. According to United Nations, more than half of the world’s population now lives in cities, and this proportion will continue to increase rapidly to reach 70 per cent by 2050. And Nepal is not an exception. More and more people will soon

be moving to and living in the cities, for which the government must start working on proper urban planning. Inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable cities are the need of the hour.

Social evil

Child marriage is a serious social evil in the Tarai region due to age-old tradition and culture. Many parents, rich or poor, want to get their children married young well before they reach 18 years of age. According to law, a person below 18 years of age is considered a child and getting him/her married below that age is illegal and punishable by law. But the law does not apply in most parts of the Tarai districts. A report from Bara district states that child marriage is very high, especially in Dalit community.

Nationwide, 29 percent children are married off before they reach the age allowed by law. Effects of child marriage are countless. A child who is forced to marry young suffers from physical and mental growth. S/he is deprived of educational opportunity and ultimately, both the sexes suffer due to the traditional practice. In order to bring an end to this practice, the local level governments must come up with plans encouraging those communities to send their kids to schools. The government’s positive intervention is a must to discourage such ill practice.