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Environmental protection in Germany and the specific role of spatial planning – An introduction

Dr. G. Werner and Florian Bemmerlein-Lux
c/o INTEGRATION environment & energy
Division ECODEC, Antenna Nürnberg:
Hessestr.4, 90443 Nuremberg, Germany
[email protected]

The following paper has been written by an author who has lived a substantial part of the last two decades in India and who has worked in the Indian environmental administration. He has been involved in advising and supporting an Indo-German project in the field of Technical Assistance in Environmental Capacity Building in environment. He therefore had the opportunity to compare environmental management in both the countries. The paper presented here has the main purpose of introducing the German system of environmental management with specific reference to spatial environmental planning to interested environmental experts from India. It will not advocate to copying anything from Germany or to export the system to any other country in the World. But it advocates learning from experience. To observe solutions developed and executed in other parts of the World is illustrative and helpful if confronted with the tasks to strengthen preventive environmental protection at home.

The article has been written as a rather subjective perception of developments in environmental protection in Germany. It is definitely not an carefully balanced academic paper but rather the attempt to highlight certain developments and their consequences by use of some striking and illustrative stories or examples. It does not attempt to be complete but to explain the main features of a system to an outsider. Many statements are judgmental statements of the author which may and can be viewed differently. The form was chosen on purpose to sharpen the understanding of the reader and to simultaneously entertain him with interesting historic developments.

Germany – Her Constitution and Administrative Set – UP

It is known that Germany dismally failed in some of her governmental forms. But since late Forties Germany has successfully demonstrated her ability of existing as a stable, democratic and peaceful country in Central Europe. Her constitution and her administrative set-up reflects the painful lessons learned from the past. 

Germany and India have many constitutional and legal features in common. Germany is a federal republic with some 15 States (of which 3 are City-States). Since India has ten times the population and area of Germany those States are much smaller that India’s. The States are politically strong and the legislation – like in India – is subdivided into national responsibilities (defence, air, water and rail traffic etc.), sole State responsibility (education) and concurrent responsibilities under which most environmental subjects are subsumed (except nuclear safety which is national subject).

There are in principle three levels of Government and administration:

  • The federal (national) level
  • The State level (again internally subdivided into a three-tier system)
  • The local (municipal) level

All three levels act principally independent from each other. Their work and their co-ordination is based on laws promulgated by the national or by the State assemblies. And collaboration and co-ordination between concerned governmental authorities is compulsory and the necessary procedures to be followed are relatively strict. All three levels have assemblies consisting of members elected in national, State or local polls. They are normally nominated by the political parties (“system of representative democracy”). These assemblies control their respective local, State or national governments. In this three-tier set the local (municipal) level is relatively strong. Local independence – the right of municipalities to govern their own affairs – has a long tradition in Germany. The municipalities became independent from the then still feudal hold in 1808. This 200 years of local independence is still noticeable today and municipalities are self-assured in their interaction with other institutions or with higher planning levels. Against their dedicated will nothing is possible.

Germany has also a long historic tradition of federalism. A real strong central state only existed under the Hitler regime. Even the imperial state (the Bismarck – Reich founded in 1871) under the Prussian Emperors was a federal union of independent sovereigns and cities. A national educational system for the primary and secondary level does not exist even today – here the limits of federalism are clearly indicated. So does the smallest German State: the city state of Bremen with a population of only 500.000 (five lakh) but with its own assembly, legislation, State administration etc. But as a consequence of the fascist disaster federalism will remain a prominent feature of Germany’s political system.

One has to understand the historic roots. Bremen had been independent since medieval times as have been many other German cities or regions. A striking consequence of this federalism has been a remarkable cultural and social differentiation found in Germany. A common national identity (beyond “rule the World”) a common national character only exists in fiction (in the novel “Der Untertan”: “The Vassal”) the German culture was – unlike in Great Britain or France – always dominated by regional influence. Germany is up till now characterised by regionally distinct socio-cultural milieus. It is this federalism not only moulding the German national character but also determining the structure and features the planning system that exists today.

Environment in Germany – A Brief Historic Summary
The term “environmental protection” is relatively new. Over centuries use and exploitation of natural resources was governed mainly by mankind’s agricultural activities; only in few urban centres “pollution” was existing. Each different use, exploitation or “pollution” was seen and eventually dealt with individually, not in the holistic way as we do today. Protecting mountain forests had nothing to do with managing disposal of night soil in a medieval city. But each society had to manage their environmental resources and failing to do so appropriately could and eventually did result in natural as well as social collapse. Many societies disappeared because their inability to use their environment wisely. Ecological systems in moderate climates are however mostly quite stable and consequently Germany – or better the region of central Europe – did not experience major man-made environmental disasters before the age of industrialisation.

Industrial development and consequently urbanisation in the last century lead to many new environmental problems. In Germany industrialisation started relatively late in the Sixties of the 19th century. It was accompanied by a substantial deterioration of the quality of life for the industrial workers. Environmentally related or caused diseases increased. Nutrition levels, life expectancy, even the average size of the poorer common man decreased (in fact it was the German Army alarmed by the decreasing size of their newly recruited soldiers asking the Government for improvements in occupational safety and sanitary conditions). By the turn of the century -after some 40 years of industrial development – those problems had been solved to some extend.?

Water quality was controlled to the extend of ensured safe drinking water supply. Child labour was effectively prohibited, occupational safety improved and the first steps of a modern social welfare system (health insurance, pension fund, invalidity insurance) were introduced in 1890. In 1906 the German city of Leipzig had the most modern sewage treatment plant in the World. In many fields of pollution control Germany was among the leading countries. The river co-operatives and their role in promoting treatment technology development in the Twenties and Thirties were as exemplary as were air quality management in the Ruhr District in the Fifties and Sixties. (see Box)

Apart from industrialisation growing national identity and pride expressed themselves as awareness to conserve and protect the beauty of the German landscape and its monuments. With developing tourism in the 19th century certain German landscape types (the Rhine Valley, the Alps, the Northern boglands etc.) were “discovered” and calls for their protection grew. The first environmental NGO´s started their agitation in the second half of the 19th century. But conservation and pollution control were effectively linked only after environment became an international issue in the late Sixties.?

The need for a fresh and far more comprehensive, holistic approach in environmental protection became evident in the late Sixties. The slogan of “spaceship earth” was an indicative expression for this. Drastically widening the scope from mere (industrial) pollution control towards a comprehensive understanding of environment as mans natural basis of existence was the call of the hour. This new understanding required also new administrative tools.

Germany did not follow the Anglo-Saxonian approach of banking on Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) as a procedure to comprehensively incorporate environmental considerations into the licensing procedure of projects. Although this was demanded by many NGOs or the academic sector the German environmental administration was rather reluctant. Even since EIA has been introduced quite recently by means a European Directive, it never played a decisive role in Germany as it did in US or Great Britain. This is to be seen in the context of the situation of the late Sixties. In particular in two fields Germany was at that time far more advanced than the Anglo-Saxonian states:

  • At that time Germany availed already an effective, elaborated and quite strict regulatory framework in pollution control that – without naming it environmental protection – nevertheless ensured a rather comprehensive incorporation of environmental considerations into planning and project licensing
  • In addition to that, the German administration availed with their elaborated planning system a tool not only for project individual (like EIA) but also for spatial co-ordination and integration of environmental considerations. To use the spatial planning system for comprehensive environmental management was considered the most promising approach and consequently pursued by the German environmental administration.

Therefore from the beginning the German environmental administration was well aware of the structural unsuitability of EIA within the German system. The shortcomings of EIA such as being an reactive instrument, coming only after the project idea is already very far advanced (and cannot be changed or sited elsewhere) or the lack of co-ordination in all existing EIA systems were only too obvious. Consequently the German environmental administration opted for further developing and using the existing (spatial) planning system as instrument to protect the environment in a comprehensive, holistic manner. As a consequence of this, environmental objectives play a predominant role in spatial planning.

A German Environmental Diary

1200 Protection of forests is effectively implemented in the high mountains (Alps) for protection against floods, avalanches, erosion and landslides. Severe penalties against defaulters.
1700 Forest cover and quality improves substantially primarily governed by feudal rulers in want of undisturbed hunting grounds
1850 Relative late begin of industrialisation in Germany (compared to Great Britain) 1860 Foundation of the first German environmental NGO preventing the destruction of a mountain top of national significance
1890 The last large epidemic disaster (cholera in Hamburg with 10.000 casualties)1900 Establishment of larger wilderness areas and protection of outstanding landscapes and natural monuments1900 The first river co-operatives with the task to manage river flow and quality are established
1900 Development of the method of bio-monitoring of water quality for water quality management purposes1920 Establishment of the first large regional planning association in the Ruhr District (SVR)1920 Development of the principle treatment technologies in the Ruhr and Emscher River co-operatives1960 Development of the German Air Quality management system in Northrhine-Westfalia1970 Formulation of a modern environmental protection policy (widening the scope from pollution control towards comprehensive preventive environmental protection)1971 First comprehensive spatial environmental resource and status assessment for planning purposes at State level (System Analysis Badenia) establishing for the first time the prominent role of agriculture as major source of pollution and ecological degradation1972 Development of instruments of ecologically based landscape planning (protecting and development of environmental and ecological functions of open spaces (agricultural and forest areas)1973 Introduction of a comprehensive spatial environmental planning approach including policy formulation, legal and institutional development and development of appropriate planning instruments at all planning levels (local, regional, State level)1974 Establishment of the first modern environmental information system at State level including all State authorities down to Taluka level1975 ?Legislation in environmental protection and pollution control practically complete

Environmental Issues Today
A visitor from India may be surprised: pollution and its control is not longer a major issue in environmental protection. The problems currently faced by Germans are different from those found in India. Industries are effectively controlled and their emissions and discharged effluents do no longer cause adverse environmental impacts. More strict production or emission standards would be technically unfeasible.

In-house environmental management has been successfully implemented in most, if not in all industries. Environmental costs have been economically as well as technically internalised. An effluent is not considered waste but part of the products produced. Treatment technologies have advanced tremendously during the last three decades both in terms of degree of treatment efficiency as well as in terms of cost reduction. A development spearheaded no longer by the river co-operatives but by the industries themselves. Discharged BOD from a common effluent treatment plants are currently less than 5 mg/l. And even with all those efforts Germany like most other countries spends less than 1.5% of her gross National Product (GNP) on environmental protection. That means that society spends more on cigarettes or cosmetics than on its environment.

But unsolved environmental problems still exist and will require the quest for new solutions. Among them – apart from global environmental problems such as depletion of ozone layer or global warming – are the following:

  • The “feminisation of waters”: caused by discharge of hormones and enzymes from animal husbandry or human consumption (the “pill”) aquatic fauna has been severely affected and altered: there are river stretches found where 90% of certain species (e.g. fishes) are female. Future consequences are unknown as are possible remedies.
  • The “Waldsterben” (“forest mortality”). Air pollution has over the years caused a drastic change in soil properties and ecology with the consequence that vast parts of German forest are severely damaged or even destroyed. Only 30% of all forests remain unaffected. Fertilising with lime (from the flue gas de-sulfurisation plants) is applied but the trend continues. Germans do have a special relation with their forests and “Waldsterben” is felt as a emotional pain by large parts of the population. A major cause are acid rains: ironically success in dust precipitation of flue gases has made the emitted pollution more acidic (due to the lack of alkaline fly-ash).
  • Controlling non-point application of chemicals (fertilisers, pesticides) in areas with intensive agricultural use. Practices of agricultural subsidies within the EU makes it often difficult to deal effectively with this issue.
  • Continuing ecological depletion and degradation: Caused by intensive use – particular agricultural practises – the ecological as well as landscape diversity has been declined over the last century, a process still continuing. Of higher plants 35% are red-listed as are 50% of birds and 85% of amphibian species. 70% of habitats are in danger of extinction. (the process of ecological degradation of forest diversity could be successfully reversed during the last decades)
  • The “first flush” in a treatment plant after a longer dry spell. Such waters are often heavily contaminated by the run-off from sealed surfaces. These peak-loads put heavy stress on the biology of the treatment system. Remedy: increasing storm water retention capacities today already considered during the planning stage (lay-out plan)
  • Indoor-pollution. The extensive use of chemicals in construction and interior outfit of buildings (wood conservation, wood-chip boards, laminations, glues, panels, insulation etc.) has resulted in increased indoor contamination. This complex is up till now not comprehensively understood even if the use of the most harmful substances has been banned. Till now allergies – eventually caused by indoor pollution – are on the raise.
  • Conversion of lands into human settlements. Consumption of lands for further human settlements is still high, leading to ecological depletion. Drastic reduction of land consumption is one of the main focal areas in achieving Agenda 21.
  • The lack of political will to effectively implement a preventive environmental policy (which runs sometimes against economic interests). Although Germany is among the leading countries in concept development of preventive environmental protection (particularly in the field of environmental spatial planning) there is an obvious lack of political will to implement such concepts. As elsewhere in Europe the tendency is rather to first create an environmental problem (and to make a handsome profit out of it) and then to clean up the environmental mess (and to reap an additional handsome profit). Typical example is the so called “green dot” found on each German packing material: the consumer has to pay for sophisticated packing of all goods and then additionally for its recycling. This however, is so badly managed that it is very costly (again to be paid by the consumer) but not at all environmentally sound (intelligent declaration of packing materials and their separated collection is lacking or poorly managed). However, the political will to regulate the use of packing material in an environmentally sound manner is lacking. Another area are the agricultural subsidies granted by the EU. The EU subsidises sheep husbandry in Ireland with the effect that this is only feasible by causing severe overgrazing. Instead of scrapping such subsidies the EU opted rather for laying up large programmes for the ecological rehabilitation of those lands affected by overgrazing (but continuing those subsidies).

Major German Contributions in the Field of Environmental Protection

  • Effective Forest protection in the high mountains (Alps) for protection against floods, avalanches, erosion and landslides introduced and effective since medieval times
  • Establishment of river co-operatives, independent from the environmental administration, with the task to manage river flow and water quality, and an organisational model still relevant after hundred years
  • Development of the “classic” treatment technology spearheaded by the River Co-operatives
  • Development of the most dense but extremely cheap water quality monitoring system (mainly based on bio-monitoring; 5.000 monitoring stations are controlled by one single person)
  • Development of modern planning tools for spatial environmental planning for urban as well as rural planning: successfully incorporating environment into spatial planning, using spatial planning to protect environment as well as to use environment to strengthen spatial planning
  • Development of Landscape Planning as the ecological spatial planning system to restore and maintain the ecological balance of all rural lands which are predominantly under agricultural use
  • Development of a comprehensive system of regionalised air quality management focussing on “hot spots”
  • Effective rehabilitation or restoration of water quality of large lakes (Bavarian lakes)
  • A “feudal” based hunting legislation with the effect that even in densely populated Germany large game (deer, boar etc.) is still abound

Spatial Environmental Planning in Germany
A typical German has a certain understanding of the terms “planning” and “plan”. For him it usually means spatial planning and a plan is normally thought of as a map which depicts spatial objectives or directives. This is understandable considering the predominantly federal history of Germany (see above). A system of comprehensive central planning (programme planning) at national or State level has never existed not even under the Hitler regime. Top-down planning experience is limited in Germany to few technical tasks. The national authority is limited to the traffic including national highways, waterways and air traffic regulations.

For a planning scientist the main feature of spatial planning in Germany consists of its perception primarily as conflict co-ordination theatre. Consequently, spatial planning is also called co-ordinative planning (in contrast to sector planning). The role of planning is not to ensure co-ordinated implementation of plans. Implementation -as far as spatial plans are concerned – is neither the purpose not the end of a plan. The plan itself is a platform wherein the demands for land from different social groups has been co-ordinated , balanced and finally agreed in a form of a sound integrated concept which is accepted within the society. In other words, the spatial plan represents the social consensus how the land should be used. Therefore the plan is finally politically approved by the responsible assembly (a municipal master plan is approved by the town parliament; the regional plan by the Regional Assembly and the State development plan by the State parliament). The role and function of a plan is to serve as guidance for development. A good plan has to offer sufficient development alternatives (sites) for all possible development options that may arise within the next 10 – 20 years. Such concept is identical with the strategic plan concept within the Indian spatial planning system as proposed for the new planning legislation.

Spatial planning i.e. planning the use of lands has its longest tradition at the municipal level. The municipal right to plan has been existing and exercised for some 200 years. Municipal planning is uniformly executed in Germany, guided by a federal law (building code). Practically the entire area of Germany – belonging to some 15.000 municipalities – is covered by municipal master plans. Normally larger municipalities prepare their own master plans. A master plan depicts existing and proposed land uses for a period of 10 – 20 years to come. Important the clause that the municipal area is subdivides into “coloured” and “white” areas. The former are those where human settlements development exists or will be developed. The “white” areas are the predominantly rural areas, designated to remain rural. In such areas only agricultural related and infrastructure development is permitted. This powerful instrument of “white” areas allows effective control of urban sprawl. Actual development has to be based on the master plan and is detailed in individual lay-out plans. As elsewhere at this planning step the final lay-out of buildings, roads etc. are fixed.

Evolving of (spatial) planning at higher planning levels started from the municipal level in a bottom-up process. Industrialisation with its mushrooming urbanisation clearly showed the need for co-ordinated and integrated spatial planning beyond and above the local level. Consequently, in 1919 the first Regional Planning Association was established in the Ruhr District, then the largest industrial region in Europe. Important to note that the organisational form chosen was that of an association – members are mainly the municipalities and talukas – and not a centralised governmental authority. This Regional Planning Association (SVR) has been very successful in guiding settlements development in Germany’s largest industrial area since its inception. Till today growth of the main cities in the Ruhr District has been effectively controlled and they are separated by larger, regional green belts (width between 5 – 10 km) acting as buffers and providing the needed open space for recreation. This organisational form of planning associations – basically a bottom-up approach – has been repeated throughout the country (it was for the first time inaugurated for water management; see box). Regional planning at district level was introduced some 30 years back. Regional plans are prepared for several themes and are guiding the further detailing of plans at the municipal level. In addition regional plans have the function to further detail the State level plans. Since regional planning is executed by planning associations which are composed mainly of the municipalities and talukas of the planning region (normally the district) they have direct influence on the results of this planning level.

The need for State level planning emerged relatively late, mainly at the end of the Sixties and also in connection with the emerging environmental discussion. At the early seventies a spatial structural policy had been promulgated at the national level and State planning legislation had been promulgated based on a national framework law. Relevant spatial plans are however developed at State, regional (District) and local level only.

The national level is not directly involved in the process of spatial planning, indirectly insofar as the national level has promulgated framework legislation and provides general development principles. But their transformation into plans is carried out at lower levels. The national level has only broadly identified those regions in the country where plan-guided development is urgently needed.

One characteristic feature of regional and State planning is the predominance that environmental objectives have gained over the decades. Here Germany took a lead to use the mutual dependencies between spatial planning end environmental protection. Some 40 years back it was understood that spatial planning is a powerful instrument to protect the environment and, simultaneously environmental spatial objectives could be useful to strengthen the effectiveness of spatial plans.

Environmental objectives play a dominant role even in the federal spatial planning framework law. Often half of all spatial development objectives are expresses as explicit environmental objectives or related to them. The general objectives of incorporating environmental considerations into spatial plans include:

  • use of the land according to its natural (environmental) suitability in a way that the use is not adversely affecting its natural conditions and/or its natural functions on a sustainable basis;
  • restoration, rehabilitation or sanitation of lands and land based natural resources already degraded by human activities;
  • preservation of ecologically sensitive and important lands respectively ecosystems with the effect that their functions for nature as well as society are sustainably preserved.
  • preservation and/or management of land based natural resources such as water (e.g. groundwater)

This is carried out within the German spatial planning system which consists of mainly three levels:

  • State level planning (in State level Plans or Programmes)
  • Regional (District) Planning (in Regional Plans)
  • Municipal Planning (in Master Plans and Lay-Out Plans)

All plans at all levels have in common:

  • They provide development potential and direct its development in an environmentally compatible manner
  • Implementation is not a direct part of the plans; their main function is development guidance
  • All plans are thoroughly co-ordinated vertically (within the spatial planning hierarchy) as well as horizontally (with all concerned sector plans and programmes) following the counter-current principle (simultaneous co-ordination bottom-up and top-down)
  • The upper planning level guides development at lower planning level while the lower planning levels provide input into the plans development at higher planning levels
  • All plans summarise the socially accepted future demand for land and resources identified in a democratically organised process involving all social groups and the general public

The German experience of connecting environmental management with spatial planning is an interesting approach towards a preventive environmental policy. To study this approach might be also illustrative for environmental experts from other countries.

Leaving the Management of the Wholesomeness of a River to a Co-operative – A Bold, Innovative Approach to Manage Water Resources Introduced 100 Years Ago still Working Effectively Today

Germany 1900. Since 1860 Germany had developed her industries at an ever increasing pace. At the turn of the century Germany was poised to overtake even Great Britain, then the industrial powerhouse of the World. (She eventually did) As everywhere, this development was regionally differentiated. The largest industrial region in Europe emerged in the Ruhr-District, in western Germany, abound with abundant coal resources. But the environmental impacts were severe. Since coal was mined in collieries and the seams mined out were left to collapse the surface gradually lowered. At some sites up to 20 m. Natural drainage was interrupted, large inundated areas developed as ponds and lakes. Often overnight. And into those waterbodies untreated effluents and sewage was discharged affecting the production of drinking water and causing frequent epidemic disasters. Comprehensive solutions were needed since by the turn of the century more than half of the Ruhr District was left without natural drainage.

At that time Germany was still ruled by its Emperor, the society still half feudal. But the solution finally implemented was revolutionary. Instead following the traditional approach, instead of prescribing standards to be enforced by the imperial administration a totally new approach was conceptualised and finally put into a new organisational form. A river co-operative was established by imperial law. The main idea was to leave comprehensive water quantity and quality management to the users. They were to be organised in the form of a co-operative composed of those discharging effluents but also simultaneously to those depending on water use. They included the industry as discharger of effluent and users of process water, the municipalities as discharger of sewage and provider of drinking water as well as other users (commercial shipping, fisherman, water mills etc.) Membership was compulsory for all groups either directly using water or affecting its quality.

Objective and task of the co-operative was to restore and maintain the wholesomeness of the total riverine system (entire watershed including all tributaries) and included:

  • Defining and detailing of water quality management objectives
  • Managing river flow in such a manner that all uses remain possible throughout the year, even in dry spells
  • Managing river quality so that hygienic safety and drinking water production could be maintained in a sustainable manner
  • Direct siting of water polluting activities (industries etc.)
  • Identifying fees to be paid by the members of the co-operative for all necessary operational expenses to do the job
  • Manage its own affairs without interference from the bureaucracy to achieve the objectives promulgated by the law
  • Whether to have one central treatment facility or many decentralised ones, whether to rule and control by standards or procedures or only by mutual consent among the members was left to the co-operative to decide without external (governmental) interference. This concept turned out a path towards success.

In fact three river co-operatives were established since the industrialised Ruhr District is traversed by three rivers (Ruhr, Emscher, Lippe). Interestingly, a different primary function was designated to each river: the Ruhr should provide drinking and process water for more than 6 million people and for the largest industrial region in Europe, but also recreation facilities in the upper watershed. The Emscher mainly acted as main receiver of discharged effluents and sewage and the Lippe was used mainly for industrial process uses. Even when river pollution in Germany was at its peak, the author used to swim safely in the Ruhr (occasionally swallowing a gulp of water without any harm).

During the past hundred years this organisational model has been a tremendous success. It has been repeated in many parts of the World. And for many decades the three river co-operatives have been the leading institutions in the development of treatment technologies. The Emscher Brunnen, the Imhoff Tank, the first treatment of a whole river as early as 1929 (Karnap treatment plant) are known to every civil engineer in the World. And the wholesome watershed management of the Ruhr is exemplary for example combining water management with development of recreational regions. Incidentally it was also the Ruhr District where for the first time regional planning was successfully established including establishment of the regional planning authority (Regional Planning Board of Ruhr District (SVR)) as early as 1920.

Innovative solutions for comprehensive environmental management successfully initiated already hundred years ago. Still effectively functioning today and even today an interesting model not to be copied but to be understood as an interesting strategic organisational approach to manage environmental quality. Not only in Germany but world-wide.

The Need for, the Functions of and the Organisation of Environmentally Compatible Zoning as the Main Instrument in Environmental Planning (Indian Context)

India’s prominent environmental problems are often perceived as related the environmental medium of water. Water plays a predominant role in India’s spiritual, cultural and social heritage. As might be expected in such a large and diverse country geographical and seasonal distribution of precipitation is extremely uneven. It ranges from the western deserts to places with the highest recorded rainfalls in the world. But most parts of the country receive sufficient rain for at least one crop per year, however, not necessarily for water extensive crops such as rice or sugar cane. And parts of the regions of India receiving not sufficient rainfall for at least one rainfed crop – mostly situated in Rajasthan and the Deccan – can be irrigated. Water management is thus indispensable and historically up to date rates high on the agenda of prominent socio-economic tasks. Consequently, Water Pollution Control Boards were the first environmental authorities established in the country. And the Ganga Action Plan was the first large environmental rehabilitation program.

This focus on water and its management has eventually put an issue of even higher importance somehow in a second line. This issue is scarcity of land resources. India is by application of international standards already today a densely populated country. Population density at present stands at 280 capita per square km. Since inevitably some areas are unfit for habitation the actual population density is even higher. In the Gangetric plain where 45% of the total population lives population density shows an increase from the west to the east, from some 400 per square km in Punjab and Haryana to 800 per square km in West Bengal (well continuing into Bangladesh, the former East Bengal). This west-east gradient coincidences with an increase of precipitation also from west to east. There is no doubt that India’s population will double within the next generation, even with all birth control programs effectively in place. That means that eventually by the year 2030 the population density in the Gangetric plain will be in the range from 800 – 1600 per square km. In developed countries this figure would qualify larger parts of the Gangetric plain to apply for the specification as “agglomeration area”.

The consequences of this situation are obvious. Managing quantity, quality and use of the limited water resources on a sustainable basis is an important task in environmental protection. Using the scarce land resources wisely according to their natural suitability and their functions for nature as well as society will be doubtlessly an even more important environmental task, however not yet fully perceived as such.

Land scarcity is additionally aggravated by severe and extensive land degradation. Roughly one seventh of the total area are declared “Waste Lands” and the establishment of an Wasteland Development Board shows the seriousness of the problem. Land degradation eventually caused by soil erosion, salinity or water logging also affects arable lands. While the statistics vary it must be assumed that a considerable part of arable lands – estimates go as high as 50% – is affected by some sort of degradation. Actual forest cover has declined over the years and stands at present at less than 15% of the total area.

Considering the high population density and consequently the need to put all arable lands into use biological diversity is increasingly under threat and natural ecosystems are more and more confined to the remaining forests including vast mangrove forests in the Sunderbans, and to preservation areas such as National Parks. Large game has disappeared in many parts of the country, more and more species have become redlisted and the stress from overgrazing and overuse endangers the flora particularly in the hills and mountains while in the lowlands natural vegetation has all but disappeared.

The consequences of this development, which happened more or less uncontrolled over the past decades, are severe. They are felt in cities as well as urban areas as deterioration of the natural but likewise socio-economic living conditions. In cities they are felt as overcrowding and congestion, lack of sufficient water supply, unhygienic living conditions, air and noise pollution from nearby pollution sources or extensive commuting need, to name a few. In the rural setting they express themselves differently and include increase of natural disasters such as floods and periods of water scarcity, increasing scarcity of fuel and fodder, deterioration of soil fertility or loss of formerly abundantly available natural assets for free use by the rural populace. These conditions pose serious economic and health stress to the weaker sections of the populace not in a position to compensate such conditions by means of additional income. And from health statistics is known that morbidity and mortality is often predominantly related to environmental factors. Many migrants moving into the sprawling urban slums have been forced to by ecological degradation.

Other countries with more lands available such as Burma or Malaysia might be in a position to be more lax in such a situation. But for India with her high population density and increasing population pressure, planned, rational and best use of the limited resources of lands in accordance with their natural and environmental properties with the objective to keep natural resources and functions intact will be indispensable prerequisite for sustainable development.

For India with her high population density and increasing population pressure, planned, rational and best use of the limited resources of lands in accordance with their natural and environmental properties with the objective to keep natural resources and functions intact will be indispensable prerequisite for sustainable development. Based on these considerations and aware of their legal mandate to protect the wholesomeness of India’s environment the environmental administration of the country had launched a program towards environmentally compatible, sustainable development by means of environmentally compatible zoning.

Up to date those agencies in charge of planning and regulating land use performed their task without proper incorporation of environmental considerations ultimately leading to the situation outlined above. They lack the necessary environmental competence and expertise and hence the needed instruments for this task. Zoning categories ensuring the environmental soundness of a plan are non-existent or in need of detailing. The environmental administration of India, represented by the Ministry of Environment and Forests and the Central Pollution Control Board has therefore developed s suitable instrument for incorporating environmental considerations into land use management. This is based on a zoning concept and might be called “Environmentally Compatible Zoning Concept”.

Zoning is a legalised and institutionalised form of land use management. It entails geographical delineation and classification of lands into several categories (“zones”) by a duly authorised regulatory agency with the effect that for each of the different zones their use is regulated. Regulations normally include provisions that certain uses must take place, permits for certain uses, that may take place, regulations regarding the execution of those uses as well as prohibition of other uses not allowed to take place. To become effective such regulations should be fixed and enforced irrespective of the land ownership or tenure, irrespective of whether the landholder is private, corporate or public. Independence of land use management from ownership is vital prerequisite for effective land use management.

Environmentally compatible zoning is envisioned to pursue the following principal objectives:

  • Use of the land according to its natural (environmental) suitability in a way that the use is not adversely affecting its natural conditions and/or its natural functions on a sustainable basis;
  • Restoration, rehabilitation or sanitation of lands and land based natural resources already degraded by human activities;
  • Preservation of ecologically sensitive and important lands respectively ecosystems with the effect that their functions for nature as well as society are sustainable preserved.
  • Preservation and/or management of land based natural resources such as water (e.g. groundwater)

This task of environmentally compatible zoning is the mandate of different groups of institutions resp. authorities within the country. Successful and effective implementation will require co-ordination and co-operation between them. In particular the following institutions need to be involved and incorporated into such combined efforts:

  • Authorities, whose mandate is to regulate land use with a coordinative purpose from a comprehensive point of view such as municipalities and other spatial defined entities or planning Boards (authorities in charge of coordinative planning)
  • Authorities, with a specific, sector mandate to regulate land use for specified areas, i.e. agriculture, forestry etc. (authorities in charge of sector planning)
  • Authorities, in charge of environmental protection, not availing a specific mandate for spatial planning and land use regulation of but with the overall responsibility for restoration and preservation of environmental quality and with the specific environmental competence to guide environmentally sound land use practices (environmental authorities in charge to restore and preserve environmental quality)

Suitable legal instruments for environmentally compatible zoning exist under the Forests and Wildlife legislation and for some of the larger conurbation with comprehensive master plans. The environmental legislation (Environmental Protection Act; Environmental Protection Rules) entails regulations governing closing or limiting industrial development in designated areas at district level. Some areas have already been gazetted. That leaves some 3/4 of the total area of India without proper regulative instruments. Considering the abovestated pressure on land resources and the consequences of unregulated use gradual evolvement and implementation of environmentally compatible land use management will be indispensable precondition for sustainable development in India.

To make environmentally compatible land use management effective the following conditions must be met:

  • Effective legislation
  • Suitable regulations to specify and detail legislation
  • institution(s) with a clear mandate to approve, regulate, implement and control sector and coordinative plans
  • Effective implementation and control

The functional differentiation of the tasks follows the following internationally acknowledged principles:

  • The framework legislation is normally prepared at ministerial level and enacted by the parliament (Centre; State). Such laws regulate at least the purpose of the law, the subject and contents of such plans, the functional and institutional responsibilities for plan preparation, implementation and compliance control; the responsibilities of the planning authorities, the legal status of plans in its own right and in relation to concerned other laws, plans or measures and legal provisions in case of non-compliance or violations;
  • Technical rules and regulations are normally prepared by competent technical authorities and promulgated as rules by the competent ministries usually with the status of by-laws;
  • Preparation of plans is normally carried out by legally duly authorised technical authority such as Town and Country Planning Departments whose work is supervised either by a higher technical authority or by an authorised parliamentary body;
  • Approval of such plans with the result that they become effective is normally done either by the responsible parliamentary body (e.g. local parliaments etc.) or with a hierarchically higher supervisory authority, often within the next higher planning level;
  • Implementation of the approved and as such effective plans is either carried out with the authority in charge of plan preparation, by regulating the plans and measures of other authorities and by regulating the activities of individuals and legal persons;
  • Compliance control with the stipulations of enacted plans is normally routinely carried out by the plan preparing and implementing authorities and additional subject to auditing of hierarchically higher positioned authorities or parliamentary bodies. Severe violations of plans has normally to be dealt with by duly assigned courts

Planning the use of resources such as land or water in the sense of providing a commonly acceptable framework for their allocation and use is executed within a system hat is horizontally and vertically differentiated. Here horizontal differentiation is understood as the subdivision into the different sectors such as forestry, water resources, land resources and the like. Within the administration this is reflected in its departmental structure. The vertical differentiation of planning levels means that planning is executed at different spatial (geographical) levels starting from the national level on the top down to the regional and local level at the bottom. The hierarchy of spatial administrative units here defines the levels: the Centre, States, Districts, Talukas, and Blocks down to Municipalities and Panchayats.

Each planning level has specific tasks to fulfil. And the vertical relations between the different levels are not only top-down but also bottom-up. The hierarchically higher level provides a framework, guides and co-ordinates the work of the lower level, which details and executes those guidelines. The lower level substantiates specific local demands and local development potentials of importance and ensures their incorporation into the plans prepared at the higher level.

This means that with each step the plan becomes more detailed and concrete. Likewise the decisions to be based upon a plan become more detailed by descending within the planning level, by increasing the scale of a plan. For example granting NOC for site clearance cannot be based on the results of the Siting Atlas alone. Further detailing, verification and ground truthing has to be carried out in a larger scale. A suitable scale for decisions such as granting NOC for site clearance for a identified, delineated site and or detailed investigations of environmental impact risks is the scale of 1:50 000.

The Main Issues in Environmental Planning
It was intensively discussed and agreed upon, that “Environmental Planning” should not be the task to be implemented by a specifically authorised institution but within the existing planning system of India, partially in need of further strengthening.

“Environmental Planning” could be thus defined as the system of plans, programmes and measures established with the objective of planning use and protection of natural resources and incorporation of environmental and ecological objectives into sector plans and programmes such as industrial development as well as coordinative, integrative plans such as town plans or regional plans.

As per the Environment (Protection) Act and Rules the environmental administration has to play an instrumental role whereas the role of Pollution Control Boards needs to be specified.

Major tasks of environmental planning
Preparation of environmental sector plans such as air quality management plans or water quality management plans. This task is an explicit mandate of Pollution Control Boards as per the Acts.

  • Preparation of plans with a specific single purpose such as the Zoning Atlas as well as integrative coordinative environmental plans for example as he environmental component for a municipal master plan or a regional plan.
  • Co-ordination with implementing agencies, in charge of implementing coordinative as well as sector plans, securing the mandate for the environmental administration to become an active participant of the planning process with the objective of incorporating environmental considerations into such plans
  • Development of suitable approaches, methods and instruments such as plans, programmes standards and rules.
  • Development of guiding principles and strategies to strengthen environmental planning and to strengthen implementation of environmental objectives
  • Designing and proposing of instruments and procedures for horizontal and vertical co-ordination and co-operation within institutions concerned with sector and coordinative planning tasks with the objective of strengthening environmental planning
  • Conducting research and development
  • Promoting the idea of and the need for environmental planning within the administration, social groups like the industries as well as the general public
  • Collecting, collating and publishing spatial data of environmental importance

Strategies in environmental planning

  • Trying to establish spatial environmental objectives prior to other plans and projects
  • Creating facts by evaluating natural assets and sensitivities (a designated “red” area has importance even if not legally binding)
  • Using such environmental plans except for mandatory plans as “soft” planning tools
  • Trying to be technically better as other planning authorities
  • Always securing the co-operation with implementing authorities