I consider the energy crisis, which has come about due to the oil embargo by the Arab countries, as the greatest boon for human civilization. No amount of rational thinking could have awakened the blundering mankind from the folly of following destructive path towards extinction as did the sudden shock of deprivation of the oil. Man began to think of the alternative to oil. But with that arose some fundamental questions: (1) Do we have unlimited resources ? (2) What is wasteful expenditure ? (3) How should we conserve our resources ? (4) Can we build a stable civilization on consumerism ? (5) Do we have responsibility towards the coming generations ? it is because such questions are being asked, and answers found, that I consider, that the oil crisis or energy crisis was the greatest boon form human civilization. Although, the title of the paper wishes us to examine the pattern of human settlements only in the so-called developing countries, I feel, the matter fundamental, and is applicable to all countries, Developing, Developed, or under-developed. It is the key to survival which is the primary condition to progress. The special relevance for developing countries is that they should not repeat the mistakes which the developed countries have made in committing themselves to indiscriminate consumption of engery.
At the outset, I would like to lay down the criteria for the pattern of the Human Settlements in view of the Energy Crisis, and argue their validity later:
1. The distance between place of work and place of residence must be progressively reduced. The aim should be make it walkable within, say, half an hour.
2. The differentiation between villages and cities must be reduced and finally eliminated.
3. Nothing should be considered a waste, particularly biowaste, but a bye-product which is capable of further utilization for something else.
4. Renewable energy sources, Sun, Wind, Water etc. should be primarily utilized in the settlements.
5. Modern science and technology should be employed to centralize all productive activities so that all the human settlement units are small and self sufficient. The choice of technology should be appropriate to the purpose in hand. Technology should not be applied indiscriminately.
6. The word ‘PROGRESS’ should be defined. One definition could be the achievement of a state of life which makes man independent of any encumberances or services which, if cut off, make him helpless. There are, of-course, other definitions, but we should bring into focus the above definition and make man aware that this type of progress is the key to survival.
Now let us take the various criteria one by one.
(1) The distance between the place of work and place of residence…. The present position is that living and working are considered to be the “opposing” activities of human life. One is pleasant, the other unpleasant but necessary to provide for a living. no one seems to associate work with pleasure or as a part of ‘living’ process. Indeed one wants to get away from work to enjoy oneself. This was not always so, nor is it a God-made circumstance. Man used to work and live in the same place, and joys and sorrows of life went together with work and living. the segregation between work and living is entirely a bye-product of the exploitative use of science and technology which we call ‘Industrialization’. (I shall discuss ‘ Industrialization’ separately). It has resulted in progressively increasing the distance between the place of work and residence; so much so that in the metropolitan centres like Calcutta, Bombay and Delhi etc. the life would come to a stand-still should there be a breakdown in the means of mass communication – i.e. trains and buses. The answer sought at present points towards:
(a) Wider roads to take more traffic;
(b) More efficient and more frequent service of trains and buses.
Both these solutions are self defeating. They do not solve the problem, only ease it for some time. In fact, they ultimately result in the further aggrevation of the problem, which is manifested in (a) increasing the distance between the place of work and residence, and (b) making travel for work more hazardous, time consuming, and uncomfortable. All this results in wasteful (non productive) consumption of the Energy. it is therefore necessary to realize that no road can be widened beyond a certain limit, which means that every road has a certain maximum traffic carrying capacity. Similarly all means of mass communication – trains or buses – have a certain maximum traffic carrying capacity. In most cities this maximum was reached long ago, and the roads and the mass communication media are functioning under heavy stress. That is why there are so many accidents, and so many people travel packed like sardines or standing on foot-boards. Large number of people spend as much as 4 hours in travelling to and from the place of work for an 8 hours working day. 2 hours of travelling time is considered normal. Most of the travel is under extremely uncomfortable hazardous, and unhealthy conditions.
In architectural terms the effect of the cleavage between work and living is the creation of multi-storeyed offices and residential flats. They are misunderstood as progress and a solution to the problem of the high cost of land in urban centres. Unfortunately, like the traffic, the multi-storeyed development results in further rise in land costs, makes living and working dependent upon constant supply of mechanically controlled means of communication and services within the buildings, and seriously lower the quality of life as the children are denied natural ground level play space, and elders are deprived of social space, and everything is thrown out of gear at the failure of any of the mechanical devices.
Obviously, therefore, the solution does not lie in making means of mass communication more efficient, but in removing the causes which made long distance travel by energy consuming means between places of work and residence necessary and every increasing. This will not only save energy but will also (a) save time, (b) reduce pollution of environment (c) create greater efficiency because people will not waste their energies in unhealthy travel (d) reduce accidents and (e) improve quality of life. This approach to solving problem is ‘PROGRESS’ in the right direction. The Architects should realize this.
(2) The differentiation between Villages and Cities:- In the beginning there were only human settlements, and they were small. The size of a settlement depended upon the capacity of the surrounding land to support a certain population. The very basis of the creation of cities has been the creation of a seat of power irrespective of whether the power vests in (1) The Cleargy (2) The King, (3) The Merchant or (4) The Bureaucrat. The growth of cities is simultaneous with the growth of the concentration of power. Let us have no illusions about freedom in the modern age.
Our lives are much more controlled by the powers that be than the lives of people in the earlier ages.
The cities are seats of power and are based on consumerism. The villages are places of production and exploitation. The only productive activity in the cities is industrial activity. Every effort to take the industry to the villages is frustrated because the nature of industry developed is such that it is dependent on other industries and on commercial activity for marketing. Such facilities are available only in cities – and bigger the cities the greater the facilities. But on the other hand, the industry is becoming destructive of the quality of life, consumer of the sources of energy, and producer of pollution. Indeed industrial areas have become synonymous with dirt, filth, squaler, over-crowding, and general environment of depression and tension.
What is worse is that the distance between villages and cities is increasing.
The population in cities is increasing, but there is no place for people to live, hence slums are growing; the village population is declining – proportionately. In their expansion, the cities swallow the surrounding villages.
What is the bearing of this expansion on Energy Crisis? The bearing is that the goods have to travel longer and longer distances from the place of production to the place of consumption. For example, formerly milk could be had at your doorstep through a person who travelled on foot or on bicycle. Now the milk supply of Delhi comes from as far as Pathankot and Bombay. The powdered milk used in Calcutta is produced in the milk plants of Punjab. Milk itself is first collected from the villages, then goes to chilling centres, then to processing and bottling plants, then to distribution centres and then to consumers. Although this milk appears to be clean and healthy as it is properly bottled or packed, it is no more healthy indeed less than the freshly drawn milk from the udders of a cow. Same is true of practically all other products particularly the ones on which our lives depend – namely meat, fish, poultry, vegetables and eggs etc. it has happened because all production of the nutrients has been pushed out of the cities in the name of bygene, cost of land, and proper order. It is declared (though not by God’s order) that such activities are not fit for cities. If anybody suggests that a patch of open land in a city should be used for growing vegetables, or rearing cows he would be considered to have gone out of his mind. But the same patch of land is turned into a lawn would be considered graceful. Nobody denies the grace of a lawn, but, a lawn is several times costlier to maintain than growing vegetables. Vegetables are eaten, grass is burnt producing further pollution.
The point that needs to be appreciated by architects particularly and others in general is that the open spaces in the cities as green lawns cannot be maintained. They are dusty and filthy, and under intense pressure to be exploited for building activity. It is in this context that I suggest that such activities of the village as have bearing on providing us essential nutrients should be brought into the cities so that they can be supplied to the consumers fresh and do not have to travel from one place to another and become stale and consume essential sources of energy unnecessarily. Please understand that vegetables growing look as beautiful as grass. This is suggested not at the cost of playing spaces.
There are other bye-products of this proposition namely;
1. The wastes can be recycled and not burnt;
2. Employment can be found to a number of people on the spot and they will not have to travel to other places for earning a livelihood;
3. Pressure on converting the open space into buildings will be reduced as the open space shall be put to productive use;
4. Technology will be applied more effectively as the experts study and live in the cities. It takes a long time for the new knowledge to trickle down to the villages.
It has also toe be understood that to support a certain population say ‘A’, a certain area of land say ‘B’ is required. As the population ‘A’ rises, the quantum of land ‘B’ does not rise. The gap is bridged by the application of new knowledge which is only available in the cities. The city dweller does not go to the villages. Why should then such activities in which application of new knowledge is essential be relegated to the villages? They should be encouraged to be in the cities. This will keep the density of population in the cities under control, reduce unnecessary travel and movement of goods and reduce pollution to environment. I am well aware that this process of ruralisation of cities may not be easy to do in the existing urban centres. But the cities are expanding. The basis of expansion should be that the expanding areas are not only self sufficient in production of nutrients and creation of jobs, and recycling of wastes, but that they should be supplier to the existing portion of the cities. In other words the expansion of cities should not burden the existing frabric of the cities but should be designed to relieve the pressure on it – of production, of movement, and of job opportunities. This will automatically bring down the energy consumption.
This proposition should sink in the minds of the architects as ‘PROGRESSIVE’ which it is, and with this in the back of their minds they should work.
(3) Nothing should be considered a waste:
God conceived of nature on the principle of self renewal. All forms of life sustain on renewal. Energy also sustains because it is constantly being re-furnished. But the cities of man are the biggest producers of ‘waste’. We thought we had hit the jackpot when the water carriage system or the flush system and sewage system for the disposal of human waste was introduced in the cities. Travelling through the small sewers, then to bigger sewers, and through huge sewers, where does this waste go? Either into our rivers – polluting them, or into the open land surrounding the cities. That there are sewage disposal plants – which is essentially oxidation of the waste matter and allowing the so-called foul air to escape into the atmosphere – does not change the fact that the waste is looked upon as undesirable matter and should be got rid of.
Every city spends a lot on waste disposal – having refuge camps, collection by trucks and then disposal on the outskirts. As the boundaries of cities increase the distance of disposal increase, and so does the nuisance of the collection and movement of wastes through the cities. Needless to say that these systems of waste disposal frequently break down resulting in huge dumps of wastes collecting within the cities causing pollution nuisance and disease.
I have already said that grass which is grown in the lawns of the cities is burnt – so are the leaves fallen from the trees. The wastes in the fruit and vegetable markets of the cities are other big problems of disposal. All these things are a problem because they are conceived wrongly. EACH ITEM OF ORGANIC WASTE IS A POTENTIAL SOURCE OF ENERGY; is either a food for someone else, or is convertible into useful manure and fuel. Waste, therefore, should be ‘scientifically’ handled with this in mind.
In the previous paragraph regarding ruralizing the cities, I have mentioned that such rural activities as are concerned with providing perishable nutrients should be brought into the cities. That is based on recycling the wastes produced by growing vegetables and rearing animals. Into this system can easily be built the useful disposal of the human organic wastes. Human excreta, Animal excreta can all be converted into methane and tenure. There is no reason why it should not be done in our cities. It will be done much more efficiently. There will be no more smell of this process than there is of refuge dumps which are inevitably there in all cities. Indeed there need not be any obnoxious smell at all. I have the experience of inspecting one process of converting human excreta into methane gas in the P.G.I. of Chandigarh, found there was no smell around the area. The smell is of methane gas. If it is properly trapped then there is no smell, and no flies and no nuisance. There is thus not only no waste of energy, but a useful by-product which can solve the problem of cooking fuel or converted into electricity and used for public utilities.
So much for the organic waste. What about the Industrial waste. So far the industrial production has been on a linear principle, which means that raw materials are converted into saleable materials, and all the bye-products are considered wastes if they are not competitively saleable. Thus disposal of industrial wastes has been a great problem. Rivers, Lakes, open ground around industrial areas have been polluted by industrial wastes, Around sugar factories one smelled mollases for miles until commercial use was found for mollases by converting it into spirit. Smoke is still a very great problem. Of late considerable work is being done to convert industrial wastes into useful products. This work should be done more vigorously. No industry should be allowed to be establishes until it is developed on a cyclic principle. Progress should not be misunderstood as blindfold plunge into exploitation of whatever comes in our way. Progress is created by judicial choice of the activities which are useful to the mankind.
(4) Renewable Energy Sources – Sun, Wind, Water should be utilized … Formerly, besides muscle power, wind and water were skilfully employed by man to do the work for him. Wind mills water mills, and sails were common features and they were beautiful. With the invention of steam engine, and later, internal combustion engine, the natural non-polluting sources of energy were abandoned. Coal mining and then oil exploration become major enterprizes. Unfortunately the oil or coal mines are not unlimited or renewable sources of energy, yet their rate of consumption has been going up geometrically. Not only have we been exhausting our stores reapidly, but also we have been polluting our environment.
The argument advanced has been that by the time we exhaust our supply of coal and oil, the atomic energy will take over. This is quite probable. But again we are running two risks:-
1. The energy sources will be further concentrated in a few places so that like the oil crisis, the uranium or similar atomic fuel crisis can upset the supply of energy.
2. The pollution of the environment is going to be further aggrevated. The damage may be irreversible.
Sun, Wind and Warner are the cleanest and everenewing sources of energy. The utilization of sun and air can be easily incorporated in the design of buildings and other man made equipment. Let us research is being done on utilizing solar energy, but most of it is directed towards creating some type of solar cells in which solar energy can be stored. There is nothing wrong with that. But simultaneously such knowledge as is available should immediately be applied to the buildings. For example:-
1. In urban design most of the buildings should be designed to have South orientation. This makes for the most efficient Dassive use of solar energy;
2. Solar panels should be incorporated in the design of buildings. Solar panels can largely meet the requirements of hot water in all the buildings.
3. Tall buildings should have a wind mill as part of the design. Thus wind energy can easily be converted into electrical energy and partly meet the energy requirements of the building;
4. Right across the country there are pylons built to carry electric wires. These pylons could also have a wind mill on top of them and the electricity generated through the wind mills could be fed into the electric grid which the pylons carry;
5. Fast-moving devices like trains and utilize the wind energy for air-conditioning the trains rather than utilize electricity or oil to operate their compressors.
To make these measures effective an energy utilization agency should be created which should examine all building projects to ensure that full utilization is made of the natural sources of enrgy in accordance with the present state of knowledge. Further research on solar and wind energy and its application to the buildings should be intensified.
(5) (Apply Science & technology to decentralize productive activities).
So far science and technology has been utilized in such a manner that it has caused concentration of activities and of human settlements, It is not because there was something intrinsic in the application of science & technology to cause concentration. This become clear if one inspects any factory. One finds that it is a repetition of the same machine many times over in the same preferences. The machines could have been at hundred different places owned by different people, yet they would do the same work equally efficiently. It is the desire to monopolize the become of science which has caused the concentration of activities. Concentration of activities has led to the concentration of people near the place of activities, and that in its turn has generated more activities then more people. this is the genesis of the phenomenal growth of our urban centres.
This in itself would not have been so bad had this process not produced the following results:
1. Excessive differentiation in the activities of mankind. This is considered progress. People are called specialists. But in fact people are reduced to the status of a machine.
2. Excessive travel just to reach the place of work and then to the place of residence.
3. Excessive movement of goods from the place of production to the place of consumption. This is particularly dangerous for the perishable items of food. This has lead to preserving the food articles leading to the lowering of their nutrition value.
4. These points have been partly examined under the heading of ‘Differentiation’ between the villages and cities. Here I wish to examine the effect this process has had on the principles of planning the cities:
5. The planners now think that the planning for cities is entirely different from the planning for villages, although both are centres for human settlements;
6. The planners have developed differentiated approach to planning creating exclusive zones of exclusive activities, e.g. industrial area, commercial area, cultural area, residential area, recreation area. These areas have become like holy cows in the mines of planners – not to be violated under any circumstances;
7. Efficiency is measured in terms of speed and quantity and not in terms of ‘adequacy and aptness’. Thus automation and avoidance of manual labour are considered progressive.
8. Application of the available technology irrespective of human and social consequences has become the aim justification of planning. Thus since it is ‘possible’ to provide lifts or elevators, why not build vertically; since it is possible to air-condition a building and artificially illuminate it why not build so that one does not have to depend on natural light and air- i.e. basements and inner room which do not open to external environment.
9. Efficient transport system has become the battle cry of technology and planning. One looks upon the ideas of monorails, underground railways, moving walkways as essential components of planning the human settlements without realising that they are only solution for bad planning and indiscriminate or cancerous growth;
10. Every problem is considered and solved independently without really going into the genesis of the problem. Thus if there is too much traffic on roads, widen the roads; if there is inadequate water supply, bring water from whenever it can be found – 50 or 100 km. away, if there is shortage of power, generate more power through the available technology; etc. Human problems particularly of settlements are not considered In an integrated manner.
The purpose of all this narration is only to suggest that whereas science and technology are good tools in the hands of man, they should not be used to over power or stunt the very man who created them. Man is conceived in the totality of being. Man is not a machine. Man thinks, perceives, meditates, philosophises, creates, works, exerts,…. ,and does many other things simultaneously. No action of man is isolated, whereas a machine functions in isolation. Let us not apply the logic of machine to man. Man wants to perceive and comprehence the totality around him. To out him in a channel which amounts to getting up in the morning, catching a bus or train to the place of work and spend one to two hours standing, then spend 8 hours in a factory or a typing pool, then the journey home in the same system of transport – tired and hungry and then to sleep to repeat the same routine next day is hardly human. Why should work, living, recreation, production and all not be within easy walking distance so that one can easily be where one wants to be. This is possible with the use of modern technology, and it is imperative if we want to conserve energy.
if the source of energy is a wind mill or a biogas plant in your locality it is comprehensible to all. If it goes out of order, you or someone near you can do something about it. But if all your energy supply comes from an atomic plant located one thousand kilometres away, and if something goes wrong with it, you can do nothing about it. You just wait or protest till someone far from you does something to set it going. If you milk supply is from the cows kept hygienically near your place of living you feel sure that milk will come to you. If a cow falls ill, you or someone near attends to it. But if the milk supply comes from a milk plant which collects milk from many places and then sends it to various distribution centres via milk tankers, and one of the tankers stalls on the way, you just do not know what to do about it.
Technology does not mean concentration. One can equally or more efficiently organize small units of production and recycling near the place of human habitation so that most of the things of human use are made available near by and most of the job opportunities are also there. The community can then experiment further in better organization, utilizing of resources, generation of energy, and recycling of wastes for the benefit of all. As long as the unit is comprehensible it can work. Comprehensibility is to be measured by the normal walking capacity of man.
A study has been done by me on this basis in which I have shown that it is possible to create self-sustaining human settlements with the application of modern technology which provide for job opportunities to approx. 70% of the families, have a density of population more than 100 persons Per acre, and grow all perishable items of food i.e. vegetable, meat, and milk on the site, and recycle all wastes. It has been further shown that this can be achieved while providing adequate educational, health and recreation facilities also along with the place of habitation. It is this approach to planning which will stop the burden from growing on our energy-consuming devices which have to be employee to keep our cities going, which produce a lot of usable waste to dispose of which more energy has to be consumed.
To have an attitude to planning in conformity with the laws of nature will produce greater satisfaction.
(6) “The word Progress should be defined. It could mean a state of independence from any encumberances…..” what is ‘Progress after all? Progress is to be achieving a life of fulfilment. But the fulfilment cannot be just partial or for a few. It is to be total and for all. The energy crisis is one of God’s methods to remind the mankind just that. Unfortunately ‘Progress’ has been associated in the minds of man with ‘Power’, ‘Speed’, and “material acquisition”. None of these attributes, liberates man from encumberances. Indeed to hold power one needs more power, to obtain higher speed one needs to always move faster, and acquiring material wealth leads to acquiring more and more. In all cases one becomes slave of the acquisitions. A man becomes helpless if his automobile fails, or the telephone does not work, or the Government falls.
This is not to suggest that man was a happier animal in the jungle. Man has made a lot of progress and overcome many obstacles in his struggle for survival, and acquired new knowledge which give him confidence. But that does not mean that all applications of knowledge are progressive. In fact man is now on the brink of destroying himself through his knowledge. It is high time one takes stock of what one is doing. The lesson is quite clear, but it does not seem to sink into the minus of the modern man. One always hopes that technology will find a solution to all our problems – like multi-storeyed building, etc. the point to realize is that this approach to solving problem of human settlements is self-defeating. Multi-storeyed buildings create demand for higher buildings. Fast travel generates demand for faster travel. Indiscriminate energy consumption creates demand for more and more energy.
So far it was not the province of an Architect to think of such matters. His job was to design buildings, or houses, or block of flats etc. according to a given brief. His expertise lay in creating aesthetic appeal and efficient function. Like all others, and Architect also became a victim of the logic of machine in his thinking. He enhanced the process of differentiated planning and created technical ghettees. This has got to change – if only for survival. Nothing seems to work or has any influence on our thinking until our very existence is endangered. We are in that danger now. We can save ourselves. Not by returning to the jungle. But by going ahead, by judicious application of the knowledge which man has acquired and creating human settlements which are not self-destructive as the modern cities are, but self-sustaining, and conductive to conserving our resources, and providing sustenance to all, and freeing man and all other life from man-made encumberances in which he is at present trapped.
My recommendation is that each state should initiate a project of human settlements in conjunction with its fastest growing city with the following criteria for planning:
1. It should be as self sustaining as the modern knowledge of science can make it:
2. It should utilize as much sources of renewable energy as possible;
3. It should not WASTE anything. Everything should be utilized to the ultimate;
4. It should generate enough job opportunities so that most of the people (say 70% breadwinner) do not have to go elsewhere for earning a livelihood;
5. It should be non polluting;
6. It should have all the essential amenities for health, education and recreation.