ECOLOGIC : Be aware of your rights to the city

17th-July-2019: Pavitra Sriprakash, Director and Chief Designer at Shilpa Architects Planners Designers writes a weekly column on Sustainability for The New Indian Express titled “ECOLOGIC”. This week she writes about Citizens ‘Rights to their City’ this world Population Day – population growth and city expansion.

Full article below: (Also available at The New Indian Express Website)

Be aware of your rights to the city 

World Population Day is celebrated on July 11 by the United Nations. On this day, advocates from around the world call on leaders, policymakers, grassroots organisers, institutions and others to help make reproductive health and rights a reality for all. The connection between the goals for Sustainable Development (UN’s SDG’s or Sustainable Development Goals) and world population are inextricably linked.

The UN’s main agenda on Population Day centres on women’s health and gender equality issues. Gender issues are key to the success of the remaining 17 SDG’s as outlined by the UN and remain a top priority for many countries across the globe.

The other obvious link between population and sustainable development strikes from the urban design perspective. Urbanisation and sizing of the city and its infrastructure is directly dependant on the population of cities and touches on the rural-urban migration that most Indian cities are witnessing today. It is a well-known fact that India is among the top in global population with latest numbers hovering around the 1.37 billion mark.

It is projected that the growth at 12 per cent annually will surpass China by 2028, when both countries will have about 1.55 billion people. Chennai has an estimated population of 4.9 million people, which ranks 6th in India. Chennai has an estimated population of 4.9 million, with an area that has grown from 176 square kilometres to 426 square kilometres after the 2011 expansion. The urban agglomeration, which includes the city and suburbs, has a population estimated at 9 million. This makes it the fourth most populous metropolitan area in India and the 31st largest urban area in the world. (Source:

Chennai is by far the most densely populated city in Tamil Nadu, with a density of 26,553 people per square kilometres. As someone who routinely tries to understand what spaces are required per person, I was curious to understand how many square feet (SF) per person the city allows for as we stand today. What this really means is that Chennai offers 405 SF per person in the city on an average. Bengaluru, on the other hand, offers up 667 SF per person. So this prompts the question: As a citizen what comprises this 405 SF that the city is offering me? What are my ‘Rights to the City’?

According to the UN’s New Urban Agenda, all people have equal rights and access to the benefits and opportunities that cities can offer. The vision of equality talks about the social and ecological function of land with the right to adequate housing as a component of the right to an adequate standard of living.

It is also to provide universal access to safe and affordable drinking water and sanitation, as well as access for all to public goods and quality services in areas such as food security and nutrition, health, education, infrastructure, mobility and transportation, energy, air quality and livelihoods. So there we have it — the quality of lives we have in cities is directly affected by population, density and infrastructure. Realise your value of being a citizen; while there are ‘Rights to the City’, there are basic civic duties on our parts as well.