Nepal’s Urban Planning Aims for Affordable Green Housing | RUPSON | Dr. Jibgar Goshi

With jibgar-joshiNepal’s current Three Year Plan focusing on the environmentally friendly public buildings and green housing for the poor, urban planning is now a scheme needs to put a heavy focus on. Poor cities hold more potential and opportunities for green business as the sustainable construction and green development in general as they tend to have low energy demand.

Although there is no green building project being specifically included in the Government’s plan, there are attempts to enhance eco-friendly buildings within their urban planning through building system regulations as a whole. According to Dr. Jibgar Goshi, the President of RUPSON (Regional and Urban Planners’ Society of Nepal), various possibilities of green buildings in Nepal also exist due to its long tradition of sustainable architecture as shown by the medieval towns. He also shares more insight on the Nepal’s current urban condition through the following exclusive interview with AsiaGreenBuildings.com.

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It is predicted that soon enough, non-environmental friendly urban development will be unable to thrive. With that in mind, what is the current status of the green city planning projects and policies in Nepal? What are the most recent changes?

For poorer cities with low energy use, it is relatively easier to promote the concept of green city and green building. With the consistent failure of conventional land use plans in the form of master plans, Nepal introduced integrated action planning (IAP) for towns and cities. This approach is highly popular among the municipalities. IAP generates two types of planning tools mutually integrated to address the need to promote sustainable development. The first is multi-sectoral investment plan (MSIP) that covers all the projects to satisfy the present needs of the people and the second is physical and environmental development plan (PEDP) that helps to sustain the ecological base of the city. Municipalities are required to prepare their periodic plans; and PEDP is their key building block.

Land pooling projects have helped to improve the urban environment. They provide infrastructure and service in a sustainable way. Upgrading of traditional towns like Bhaktapur is also in line with the sustainable development pathways. However, the duplicability of such concepts depends on whether they conflict with the market forces or not. For instance, the experience of Bhaktapur is not transferable to Kathmandu metropolis.

There are a number of eco-villages and healthy cities projects. The national policy has underscored the need to maintain balance in natural and cultural environment. Environment improvement programs have been implemented in several cities. The negative environmental and social impacts of uncontrolled housing and have been identified as a major challenge. The current Three Year Plan has focused on the development of safe, cost-effective and environment-friendly public buildings and housing for the poor. The goal is to mitigate the adverse effects of human activities and development works through the encouragement of the concept of green development.

Nepal has been in a transitional phase for long. One of the consequences of this has been further concentration of activities in the Kathmandu Valley. The development here is due to the concentration of the wealth as well as the stagnation in the outlying areas. Most of the activities of the political parties take place here and with this, the expenditure of the government has increased. The infrastructure and service conditions have not however met the growing demands. Failure to meet the increasing demand for infrastructure and services has led to incremental type of projects to somehow ease the crisis. This means initiatives on green development are presently lacking.

Among the urban planning projects in Nepal, are there any green building projects included? If not, how big is the probability for those kinds of projects to happen in Nepal?

There is no green building project specifically included among urban planning projects in Nepal. However, attempts are made in making any urban planning project environmentally friendly through regulating the building system as a whole. There are various possibilities of green buildings in Nepal due to its long tradition of sustainable architecture as shown by the medieval towns. These towns consume low energy; and are compact settlements with efficient use of land resources. They are cohesive as well as inclusive.

Urban planning practices in Nepal have invariably been based on sustainable approaches. Hardly had there been any conflicts of interests created through huge investments based on modern development. In fact, due to poverty and primitiveness, most unsustainable constructions were resisted persistently. It is only lately that modern constructions in the form of high-rise apartment buildings cropped up. However, these new developments are also presently facing crisis showing the relevance of the concept of green development. The neglect of environment has also made them economically infeasible.

What are the economic and social benefits of having environmentally friendly buildings both for individuals and companies?

There are many. For instance, they help to achieve not only ecological but also aesthetic harmony between the structure and its ambiance. They increase building efficiency and their use of resources, like water and energy. They also have less adverse impact on human health and the environment over the complete life cycle of the building — location, design, construction, operation. maintenance and demolition. They help to alleviate the negative impact of human activities on environment. Otherwise, curtailment of GHG emission has also become an economic necessity. Resources are becoming scarce for companies to sustain and a shift to green development is the only solution. Last but not least of all, this goes without saying, but the environment is both a means and an integral part of the social goods. Green building helps to save the environment in order to enhance the social good.

In your opinion, what are the main threats that blocks green buildings development – and green technology in general – in Nepal?

Being a very poor country, Nepal’s economic prosperity depends on the relationship with its big neighbors, India and China. Despite their spectacular economic growth, these countries are increasingly facing challenges in promoting green development and green buildings because of their rapid economic growth. This means these countries while helping Nepal in her pursuit for economic development will view Nepal as a convenient place to pass on more polluting activities and goods. This will impair the existing traditional potentials for green development in Nepal.

What’s more, Nepal is a low GHG emitter. As such, it is more concerned with adaptation to the consequences of climate change; and adaptation measures do not have to be environment-friendly. this sort of policy gap encourages a shift towards unsustainable life styles and behavioral changes and undermines the value of green development and green buildings.

Another threat is, the normal course of transformation of a primitive economy to a modern one has never been a sustainable one. With ever-increasing shortfall in urban infrastructure and services, the government is trying to cope with the emerging challenges by any means. This has become a major threat, as crisis management strategies are unlikely to be adequately sustainable.

What is the general vision of sustainable development, particularly regarding green buildings?

In my mind, green building is a powerful tool for sustaining the sustainable development pathways. Sustainable development is the development that integrates the growth, equity and environmental dimensions of development through a process of balancing these components with reference to the stage of development of a nation at a particular time through good governance. Given the poverty level, the vision of sustainable development for Nepal is economic growth and prosperity with due considerations to equity and environment so as to enhance the ability to sustain the economic growth for a longer period. One effective way of addressing this is to focus on green buildings where equity and environment are simultaneously addressed without having to lose anything as regards to economic growth.

The vision of sustainable development is to ensure sustained development through the integration and continuous balancing of the goals related to growth, equity, and environment through the promotion of good governance led by the people. Green building is an effective tool that has a potential to promote growth and equity without having to impair environment.

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