NEW DELHI: With cities growing at a rapid pace, a renowned environmentalist has said it would be a "disaster" if balance is not maintained between nature and construction activities as the builders were "selling" a high standard of life instead of quality.
"What the government's smart city initiative is, and what other builders and architects are actually practicing in Gurgaon or Delhi, is that they are not selling you quality of life. They are selling you standard of living.
"Standard of living means more consumption, more luxury, that's all it means. Forget about the rest, forget about nature, about the city, forget about the people living at the bottom," Vikram Soni, an environmentalist-physicist said.
Speaking at a panel discussion titled "100 years of re-imagining Delhi", organised by Delhi-based NGO Greha here, Soni said the young generation considers quality of life as an "elitist thing".
"Your health is not an elitist thing, you are dying! If you don't have the right mix, the right blend between nature and buildings, or natural heritage and built heritage, your city is going to be a disaster," he said, adding that city planners, architects and the government, were to blame for the damage.
The panel saw discussions on topics like urbanisation and its adverse effects on the public life with the theme -- "Challenging the Garden City Conceptualization of the City".
Agreeing with Soni, M N Ashish Ganju, architect and president of Greha, emphasised on the effects of urbanisation, and how the "paradigm shift" moved the focus from public health to mobility and transportation in the 21st century.
"In 21st century, the most critical factor which planners and architects pointed out was that this is going to be the age of mobility and great emphasis was put on traffic and transportation. Yet, if you look back before the 20th century we have had cities for millennia, and always cities have been predicated on the notion of public health," he said.
Ganju added that by the end of 20th century, the effects of the paradigm shift had become evident and it was clear that "the planet was headed for an ecological disaster".
"When people came to live close together, it became extremely important to safeguard public health. Unless we could have safeguarded public health, we wouldn't have been able to survive.
"Now, in the 21st century the city is no longer a product. It has become a process which is just enveloping the whole globe. It's very difficult to determine how to regulate it, especially if you have a firm belief in the market," he noted.
The session was also attended by architect and urbanist Mitu Mathur and Sandip Kumar.