On Habitat Planning

UNDP, during post-tsunami reconstruction, was proposing to develop “Habitat Development” guidelines. Some of the guys even toyed with the idea that we could participate in the process. It led to some ruminations ….

Habitats happen. Habitats develop – over time, over years, over decades. They are developed by the people who inhabit these habitats – they add, modify, take away, build, renovate, restore as per the needs that are felt in a given context, in a given time. It is hence not necessary that a response that was appropriate in a given time, in a given context, with a given community will be appropriate in another time and another context, with another community.

Hence, habitat development is a contradiction. For it cannot be “developed” or “created” at one shot, as a response in reconstruction.

However, a habitat development approach can be taken up. It would mean that the response is appropriate in the given time and in the given context with an eye for future expansions and modifications. (and hopefully with learnings from the past).

Habitat approach can only be a holistic response – a response that comes about when there is a deeper, greater understanding of the environs of the habitation – the land, its undulation, the water resources, the vegetation, the peoples, the lifestyles and patterns, the relationships between humans and humans, between humans and the environment, between humans and animals.

Are there givens in such a circumstances ? Can we say that response X, Y, Z is needed to make the habitat most suitable ?

How does one establish guidelines under such circumstances ?

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