Envisioning the Role of the Urban Planner

If you ever looked at some of the “best planned” urban cities in the world, you’ll notice two things — they covered smaller areas and were not positioned for dynamic growth. Unfortunately, back then, urban planners did not contemplate cities as dynamic creations for the future, with the potential need to expand their horizons to surrounding regions. Right now, we see this happening now and then, but haphazardly, through the extension of city limits by the urban planning authorities.

Aerial Photo of Carrer de Roger de Flor, 4, 08018 Barcelona by Shai Pal on Unsplash

Regarding cities lauded for urban planning, look at Copenhagen, US, and Chandigarh, India, for example. These are two small cities — Copenhagen spreads across 179.8 sq. km, and Chandigarh spans 114 sq. km. I call them small because if you look at how far and wide some metros stretch, you’ll know the difference.

Delhi is about 1,483, Bangalore 741, and Mumbai 603.4 sq. km. Likewise, New York is 783.3 sq. km, and London is 1,572 sq. km. So, ensuring sustainable growth in Copenhagen or keeping Chandigarh green is much easier than doing the same at major metros. Yet, this is necessary because we live in times of climate change and high pollution rates, making it inevitable for urban planners to ensure sustainability and greenery and plan potential interventions well in advance.

Urban planning is not a one-off task, so one should do it effectively. There is a sheer need for a data-driven approach. So, the urban planner must have access to the necessary data to form a vision to build a scalable and manageable city. One cannot be just the good old draughtsman who plans a static map for the next 10 years.

Currently, the urban planner needs to address the region’s pressing issues, which can be identified by leveraging AI and big data. For example, if there is a region with a high number of patients suffering from respiratory disorders, it is clear that the place needs better air quality. So, connectivity and expansion to surrounding low-saturated areas can be the focus.

Photo by Nirmal Rajendharkumar on Unsplash

Likewise, suppose there are frequent reports of water-borne diseases in an area. In that case, measures can be planned to improve connectivity there so that people can find jobs outside the region and relocate while the authorities fix the core issues. According to the WHO, 80% of the diseases are water-borne and mainly caused due to toxins discharged through industrial waste. These issues and many more can be tracked through medical and drone data connected to an AI. With that said, here’s a quick word about what an urban planner expects.

The Urban Planner’s Diary

Back in the day, the urban planner was more of a drawing draftsman who sketched out a beautiful city with connectivity and public places, but that was it. Look at Chandigarh; Le Corbusier designed it with what was best in the 1950s — grid street patterns, 30 low-density sectors for 1,50,000 people, and 17 high-density sectors for a population of 3,50,000 people.

 Photo by Yadwinder Singh on Unsplash

Although Le Corbusier is highly lauded for his farsightedness, the population of Chandigarh in 2011 crossed a million and is now a victim of wild growth, encroachment, and dumping. The reason is the absence of a mechanism that identifies the trouble areas in an automated and unbiased manner, leaving the sole task of fixing the problems to the authorities.

With pandemics and climate change rocking the world, the urban planner’s emphasis must shift from convenience to the health and well-being of the citizens. This requires ad hoc planning, which is impossible without reliable and credible real-time actionable data, which is critical to plan, frame, and implement civic interventions as and when required.

Urban Planner in 2022

Traditionally, urban planners focused on convenience, growth, and development, but that era is long gone. With over 56% of the world’s population living in urban regions, there is a two-fold responsibility on urban planners to ensure sustainable development and pave the way for future expansion.

 Take a look at Bangalore, which is being strategically developed by the respective authorities to design corridors in the East and now North to make the surrounding regions valuable. Although the city faces connectivity issues, the development is all-round and will be connected through well-placed metros shortly.

Such strategic growth is essential across the globe to prevent saturation and to protect the citizens’ rights, such as their right to an adequate standard of living and the right to live with dignity. However, as the population grows and horizons expand, administrative complexities exist. Still, those challenges can be easily tackled through drone data connected to a powerful AI for predictive and post-implementation analysis. Let us now discuss the need for it.

AI to Plan Civic Interventions

Photo by KAL VISUALS on Unsplash

When we say that around 56% of the global population is living in urban regions, we need to understand two things clearly — 44% is still living in rural areas, and family farms in those regions produce up to 80% of the world’s food. So, whether it’s equal opportunity for those living in the rural areas, countering food inflation, or ensuring economic growth — there is no denying that connectivity is essential.

Then again, the authorities have limited resources, but the planning commission is clear about its long-term and short-term goals. Connect the two, and we have phased growth that contributes to the nation’s overall economic development. To get there, the urban planner needs to know which areas to focus on, and that’s possible through AI’s predictive analysis. The demand for crops, the growing regions, and the potential to lower prices after eliminating intermediaries can be easily figured out using AI.


We live in a world where few cities look developed and well planned because the rest are not. It is a sad state of affairs, and the only way to change the status quo is by adopting a need-based approach through AI-based predictive analysis of what the citizens need and what they might need shortly.

If we cannot have a proactive approach to earth and make it a better place, who are we to talk about colonisation on Mars? However, if we got this right, it would provide sufficient insights to maybe build the first man-made colony in outer space with better growth prospects than we have on earth, a half-destroyed planet due to haphazard growth and overexploitation of natural resources.

Article Written by Pooja


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