Strategic Urban Environmental Planning is an important tool to address urban environmental issues in a systematic and planned manner. Cities in developing countries face myriad urban environmental problems. Commonly known as the Brown Agenda, these include lack of sanitation, lack of adequate solid waste collection services, water pollution from untreated municipal and industrial wastewater, indoor and ambient air pollution, contamination of soil and land from improper disposal of solid and hazardous waste and so on. It is important to address these problems for meaningful improvements to be achieved in enhancing urban livability in cities of developing countries.
Urban environmental problems are generally very complex in nature due to their multi-sectoral nature. Air pollution owes as much to use of unclean fuels (in houses and industries) as to vehicular pollution, only exacerbated by traffic congestion. Poor sanitation is a result not only of poor drainage systems but also of dumping of solid waste in drains. Further, especially in larger cities, urban environmental problems span across multiple jurisdictions, such as collection, transportation and disposal of solid waste or water pollution in rivers traversing through several adjacent cities and towns. There are other problems that hinder proper urban environmental management, which include lack of adequate knowledge (data and analyzed information) on urban environmental problems, poor institutional capacity for planning as well as managing urban environment.
Towards Urban Environmental Strategies. Addressing the complex urban environmental problems, in order to improve urban livability through Urban Environmental Strategies (UES), involves taking stock of the existing urban environmental problems, their comparative analysis and prioritization, setting out objectives and targets, and identification of various measures to meet these objectives. This is followed by the preparation and appraisal of alternative packages, the reexamining of the urban environmental objectives (to ensure that they are affordable and achievable), preparation of financial packages for the UES, preparation of concrete action and implementation plans for the selected urban environmental objectives, and the institutionalization of the UES. The process does not end here, but is pursued through monitoring and evaluation of the implementation process (for which urban environmental management indictors are necessary), with feedbacks leading to the updating of the UES based on implementation experience.
Strategic Environmental Assessment
Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) is a decision-aiding tool which complements the process of strategic planning with: (i) a solid assessment of environmental and other issues; (ii) a well structured public and government debate on these issues; and (iii) a mechanism to take the results of the above assessment and debate into account. In other words, SEA is a toolkit in itself to improve information, participation and transparency in strategic planning. The main concern in SEA is always with environment, but it is often used to assess social issues as well. Increasingly, its usefulness has been found in the inter-relationship among environment, social and economic issues. Thus, it is a tool which supports and complements strategic urban environmental planning.