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5th September 2023 (10 Topics)

Disasters put focus on cities’ ‘carrying capacity’


The Centre proposed before the Supreme Court forming a 13-member technical committee to evaluate the “carrying capacity” of 13 Himalayan States.

What is the need?

  • Frequent landslips leading to deaths and destruction had led the Supreme Court to moot a re-evaluation of the load-carrying capacity of hill towns and cities.
  • Significantly, these states have faced flash floods, landslides, and acute water shortages in the past, especially in popular tourist destinations. 
  • In March 2021, the National Green Tribunal had directed all state governments to undertake carrying capacity studies of ecologically sensitive areas.

What is carrying capacity?

  • The carrying capacity of an area can be defined as the “maximum number of population that can be supported by the environment of that area through optimum utilisation of the available resources”. 
  • Factors Influencing Carrying Capacity:
    • Terrain
    • Water availability
    • Waste management
    • Resilience of local communities

Are hill stations not prepared?

  • Master plans for most Indian cities — including hill stations —are not prepared based on their carrying capacity.
    • Master plan finds mention in the Urban and Regional Development Plans Formulation and Implementation (URDPFI) guidelines notified by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs in 2015.
  • It should be an integral part of city and town planning, especially in hill states.  

Why carrying capacity is out of focus?

Although carrying capacity has been taught in planning schools, it has rarely been used by urban planners while planning for cities’ development. It is due to:

  • Economic Imperatives: Tourism generates substantial revenue for these regions, making policymakers hesitant to limit tourist numbers or impose stringent regulations.
  • Lack of Planning: Hill stations often lack comprehensive development plans that consider environmental sustainability and carrying capacity. This lack of foresight exacerbates the problem.
  • Lack of manpower: There is an acute shortage of experienced urban planners in the states.
  • Political Considerations: Political interests and pressure from the tourism industry can sideline discussions about carrying capacity and environmental concerns.

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