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Garden City Movement: The Meaning, Issues and Solutions

The Garden City movement is a visionary approach to urban planning aimed at reconciling the benefits of both city and rural living. Sir Ebenezer Howard pioneered this movement in the late 19th century. At its core, a garden city is a meticulously planned urban community designed to integrate extensive green spaces, parks, and a diverse mix of residential, commercial, and industrial zones. The garden city movement was sought out to address the challenges of the Industrial Revolution, like overpopulation, unsanitary conditions, and urbanization. The garden city movement embodies several key principles like green spaces, planned layout, mixed landuse, sustainability, community engagement, transportation planning, and quality of life.

Garden City Movement
Plan of Garden city by Howard (Image Credits: wikipedia.org)

About Ebenezer Howard

Ebenezer Howard (1850–1928), a British urban planner, stands as the visionary founder of the garden city movement. Concerned about the social and economic challenges wrought by rapid industrialization, Howard’s influential work, “Garden Cities of To-morrow” (1902), outlined his innovative vision for balanced, self-sufficient communities. At the core of his philosophy was the “Three Magnets” theory, emphasising the attractions of town and country living as well as a harmonious blend of both in the form of a garden city.

Garden City Movement
Image Credits: wikimedia.org

This theory laid the foundation for practical application, thus establishing the first garden city, Letchworth, in 1903, followed by Welwyn Garden City. These magnets are:

1. Town Magnet:

The town magnet represents the attractions of an urban lifestyle, including job opportunities, cultural amenities, and a bustling social environment. It encompasses the advantages of city living without the typical drawbacks, such as congestion and poor living conditions.

2. Country Magnet:

The country magnet symbolises the appeal of a rural or natural environment. This includes the tranquillity, open spaces, and connection with nature that are characteristic of rural living. It encompasses the desire of people to enjoy the benefits of countryside living while still having access to urban amenities.

3. Town-Country Magnet:

The Three Magnets Theory (Image Credits: archdaily.com)

The third magnet, the town-country magnet, is the heart of Howard’s garden city concept. It aims to combine the positive aspects of both urban and rural living. In a garden city, residents should experience the benefits of a vibrant town atmosphere with green belts and open spaces that provide the amenities of the countryside.

Garden City Movement
Aerial view of Letchworth (Image Credits: archdaily.com)

Howard’s urban planning principles, promoting green spaces, mixed land use, and comprehensive community planning, continue to shape modern discussions on sustainable development. Despite challenges in widespread adoption during his lifetime, Howard’s legacy endures, with his ideas influencing urban planning globally and contributing to the development of planned communities that prioritise social equity and a high quality of life.

Comparative Analysis of Chandigarh and Bengaluru as Garden Cities

Chandigarh

Masterplan of Chandigarh (Image Credits: townandcountryplanninginfo.com)

Chandigarh is known as a garden city primarily due to its meticulous planning and abundant green spaces integrated into the urban fabric. Chandigarh was planned by the renowned Swiss-French architect Le Corbusier in the 1950s, who emphasised the harmonious blend of urban development with nature. The city’s layout is based on a grid system that allows for efficient land use and the incorporation of extensive green spaces. Chandigarh is home to a significant number of parks and gardens, including the Zakir Hussain Rose Garden, Shanti Kunj, and the Rock Garden. 

These green spaces are not only aesthetically pleasing, but they also provide residents with recreational areas and a connection to nature. Sukhna Lake, in the city, not only enhances the city’s beauty but also serves as a popular spot for leisure activities, contributing to the garden city ambiance. Chandigarh also features wide tree-lined avenues and boulevards, enhancing the city’s green character. The planning in the city involves community engagement and participation, fostering a sense of ownership and pride. The city’s design reflects a deliberate effort to provide a high quality of life for residents while preserving and celebrating nature.

Garden City Movement
Aerial View of Chandigarh (Image Credits: chandigarhbytes.com)

Bengaluru

The city of Bengalure was historically full of lush green landscapes, with numerous gardens, parks, and lakes. This natural abundance contributed to its reputation as the “Garden City of India.” Along with that, it enjoys a moderate climate throughout the year, making it conducive to the growth of a variety of plants and trees. Its expansive green spaces and horticultural wealth, like the Lalbagh Botanical Garden, have played a significant role in the city’s garden identity. Cubbon Park, another prominent green space in Bangalore, contributes to the city’s garden character. The park features landscaped gardens, walking paths, and numerous varieties of trees. 

Map showing the green belt in Bangalore (Image Credits: assetyogi.com)

The city’s streets are often lined with trees, providing shade and adding to the overall greenery. This feature contributes to the aesthetic appeal and environmental friendliness of Bengaluru. Various government initiatives have aimed to maintain and enhance the city’s green spaces. These efforts include tree-planting drives and conservation programs. Sadly, currently, unplanned development and increasing population are putting pressure on green spaces, highlighting the ongoing struggle to maintain the city’s historical green character as it is slowly becoming the “Silicon Valley of India.”

Garden City Movement
Green Belt in Bangalore (Image Credits: daily.jstor.org)

Comparative Analysis

1. Planning and layout

Chandigarh stands out for its deliberate planning, contrasting with Bangalore’s experience of rapid growth. The planned layout of Chandigarh reflects a cohesive vision, while Bangalore grapples with the implications of rapid urbanisation.

2. Architectural Evolution

Chandigarh’s architectural unity is a result of intentional design principles, while Bangalore’s architectural landscape has evolved dynamically, reflecting the changing needs of a growing city.

3. Green Spaces

Chandigarh’s intentional inclusion of green spaces has contributed to a garden city experience. In contrast, Bangalore faces challenges in preserving its greenery amid the pressures of urbanisation, highlighting the ongoing need for sustainable practices.

4. Sustainability

Chandigarh integrates sustainable practices into its design, aligning with the Garden City movement’s principles. Bangalore demonstrates government initiatives for greenery but faces sustainability challenges due to rapid growth.

5. Nature and Technological balance

Chandigarh strikes a balance between nature and technology through deliberate planning. Bangalore grapples with balancing its historical garden city identity with the demands of being a global technology center.

6. Tourist Attractions

Garden City Movement
Jan Marg in Chandigarh showing the green belts and wide roads (Image Credits: wikimedia.org)

Chandigarh’s garden spaces and architectural landmarks are major tourist attractions, contributing to the city’s identity. In Bangalore, green spaces like Lalbagh and Cubbon Park are not only local attractions but also integral to the city’s historical character.

The comparative analysis highlights Chandigarh’s intentional planning, innovative features, and emphasis on cultural enrichment. Bangalore, while historically a garden city, faces challenges arising from rapid economic growth, technological advancements, and cultural diversity, requiring ongoing efforts to preserve its green identity.

A road in Bengaluru showing development and planned green spaces along the sidewalks (Image Credits: pinterest.com)

Why are Garden Cities degrading in India?

Several factors contribute to the degradation of garden cities in India:

1. Population growth in India contributes to the degradation of garden cities through unplanned urbanization, increased housing demands, and strain on infrastructure, sacrificing green spaces and disrupting ecosystems.

2. Absence of Comprehensive Urban Planning can result in a chaotic urban landscape, compromising the quality of life for residents and hindering the sustainability and aesthetic appeal of cities.

3. Lack of Infrastructure Development in India, leads to traffic congestion and no access to sanitation and defecating facilities.

4. Environmental Degradation brings environmental challenges such as air and water pollution, which can impact the sustainable aspects of garden cities and threaten green cover, biodiversity, and water bodies.

5. Commercialization means increased commercial activities and the growth of industries, encroaching upon planned residential and green areas, altering the intended balance of the city.

6. Insufficient Maintenance of Green Spaces, parks, and public infrastructure leads to the deterioration of the overall quality of life.

7. Lack of Effective Policies and Enforcement Mechanisms hinders sustainable development, threatening the aesthetic and environmental qualities of these planned cities.

Garden City Movement
Urbanization (Image Credits: jstor.org)

How to turn any city into a Garden City?

1. Comprehensive Urban Planning

A master plan that emphasises green infrastructure, incorporating parks, gardens, and green belts into the city layout, is the first step in the process. This plan should allocate specific zones for residential, commercial, and industrial areas, ensuring that overcrowding is prevented. To maintain the application of the commissioned plan, enforcing strict urban planning regulations to prevent encroachments is a mandate. These city plans need to be equipped with the latest needs and demands to avoid choking in the future.

2. Develop Infrastructure

Invest in and upgrade infrastructure to support the growing population, which means facilities like transportation, utilities, and public services. Integrate smart city technologies for efficient resource management and infrastructure development, such as sensor-based systems for monitoring air and water quality.

3. Environmental Conservation

Strict environmental regulations to curb pollution and protect green spaces can promote the liveability of a city. Establishing effective waste management systems, like recycling and composting facilities, or implementing water conservation measures, like rainwater harvesting and efficient use of grey water, are a few examples. Elocution of awareness drives and programmes amongst the youth, like in schools and colleges, can be conducted.

Image Credits: natnavi.com

4. Community Involvement

Encouraging community participation in urban planning and decision-making processes can result in cohesive thoughtfulness amongst citizens. Collaborative efforts like tree plantation drives, neighbourhood clean-ups, and other environmental initiatives can be done at a micro and macro level. This establishment of community initiatives for the maintenance and preservation of public spaces and green areas will be like small steps towards building a green city.

5. Government Schemes

Strengthen governance mechanisms to ensure effective implementation of urban planning regulations and environmental protection measures. The government can provide incentives for businesses and residents to adopt eco-friendly initiatives, which will create a supportive policy framework for a greener city. Foster transparency and accountability in local governance to address corruption and inefficiencies.

6. Preservation of Cultural and Architectural Heritage

Develop and implement strategies to preserve the cultural and architectural heritage of garden cities; this will promote tourism and, hence, increase the capital of the city. This promotion of responsible tourism can, in turn, help to maintain the unique features of these cities.

7. Green and Sustainable Development Initiatives

Encourage sustainable development practices, including green building designs, energy-efficient technologies, green roofs, and water conservation measures. Implement green belts and buffer zones to protect existing green spaces and promote biodiversity. Implementation of policies to prevent the conversion of these areas into commercial or residential zones is essential for maintaining the city’s green character. Encouraging and incentivizing green building practices promotes sustainable construction.

8. Sustainable Transportation

Developing a robust public transportation system that reduces reliance on private vehicles can prevent traffic jams, air pollution, and a waste of time. Pedestrian-friendly pathways and cycling lanes covered with trees encourage eco-friendly commuting, contributing to reduced traffic congestion and lower carbon emissions.

9. Public Awareness and Education

Increase public awareness about the importance of preserving green spaces and maintaining the unique characteristics of garden cities. Educate the community about sustainable living practices and the benefits of a balanced urban environment. Integrating environmental education into school curricula promotes awareness from a young age. Conducting workshops and awareness campaigns on sustainable living practices ensures a well-informed and environmentally conscious citizenry.

10. Promotion of Local Agriculture

Encouraging community gardens and urban farming promotes local food production within the city. Integrating green spaces for agriculture contributes to the city’s sustainability and resilience. Initiatives like urban farms, green corridors or farmers’ markets can be viable for a harmonious urban environment.

Future of Garden City Movement in India

The Garden City Movement and its impact on the cities in India hold promise amid the evolving landscape of urbanization. With a growing emphasis on sustainability and quality of life, garden cities are likely to witness continued innovation in urban planning and development. Initiatives such as the Smart Cities Mission in India exemplify a commitment to incorporating technology for efficient infrastructure and services. Cities like Chandigarh and Jaipur, with their planned layouts and green spaces, serve as inspiration. The Garden City Movement shapes the future of cities that integrate eco-friendly practices, smart technologies, and community engagement, creating urban environments that harmonise with nature while meeting the needs of a rapidly urbanising population.

Content Writing And Research By: Ar. Ishita Jindal

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