Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Urban Planning: Development and Preservation

Buddha statute in Kamakura, Japan

Central Market in the middle of Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Cultural richness, beautiful environment, advanced technology, excellent public transportation system, large metropolitan cities and a vibrant economic society, are all in Japan and other cities in South Korea, and China. People truly experience living in diversified and all-in-one environment which make everyday life interesting and convenient. Just thinking about visiting a section of Tokyo, tourists will surprise to see various interesting places such as high-rise buildings, modern shopping centers and commercial districts, large public parks, museums, shrines and Buddhist temples, and sophisticated and busy train lines and metros throughout the city. These unique achievements in Japan is contributed by the hard works of Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, who establish and implement master plans for city planning and infrastructure development in Japan. The mission of this Ministry is to create a strong foundation through policies designed to support comfortable communities, vibrant economic society, everyday security, a beautiful environment, and regional diversity.

I. City Planning and Regional Development
The main task of City and Regional Development Bureau of the ministry is to promote the strategy of “Urban Renaissance” which has the meaning of revitalizing attractive and, energetic cities and building communities with diversity. However, making the cities more attractive and energetic with diversification is a challenging task which requires incentives and active participation of the private sector and the public. Basically, the Ministry encourages private initiatives in city development and re-development. To achieve the policy of promotion of urban renaissance, the Ministry has set out four supportive guidelines, namely 1) deregulation of urban planning;  2) financial support to private urban renaissance projects; 3) providing of public works necessary for private urban development; and 4) tax incentives. Furthermore, the City and Regional Development Bureau creates the policy vision for major cities and towns, and other natural sites in Japan by balancing between infrastructure development and natural environment preservation. For example, the Government prohibits construction of high-rise building in the area adjacent to cultural and historical sites to maintain the original landscape and value.

City Planning is required before implementing any development projects in order to establish controls and guidelines on urbanization. In this respect, the City Planning Law was adopted in 1968 to control urbanization works. This law introduces area division system which divides between urban promotion area (building activities encouraged) and urbanization control area (no development permitted). Furthermore, this law also requires the Government to have Master Plan, which involves land use control, planning of public facilities, and urban development projects, and district plans to be implemented by local governments. From my personal experience living in Odaiba area in Tokyo, I think that Japan has excellent city planning since the living environment is very enjoyable and also convenient such as beautiful parks, science museums, free space for exhibitions and shows, shopping centers, residential and international exchange buildings, and beautiful seaside views. I think this a unique feature that Japan have. So, all of these achievements has been a result of good city planning.

II.  Historic City Preservation and Restoration
Rapid urban development poses a serious threat to historic and cultural sites although development in general is viewed as good news for economic growth. In Japan during the 1960s, a large number of real estate projects were launched throughout the county, including Kyoto, Nara, and Kamakura which are historic cities. With growing concern over impact on the beautiful landscape of these historic sites, there were a lot of demonstrations and campaigns conducted by citizen groups against those real estate development projects. Population increase in these historic cities, especially Kamakura, also has resulted in deforestation and land development which pose threat to original landscape and historical buildings. Viewing these problems, Japanese government has adopted Ancient Capitals Preservation Law in 1966, Landscape Act in 2004, and Historic City Preservation and Restoration Act in 2008, to protect these invaluable areas by controlling the construction of building and putting height restriction in the preservation areas.

III. Conclusion
Urban and infrastructure development is very important for promotion of living standard and economic growth, but, at the same time, preservation and creation of beautiful environment must be promoted in order to ensure a joyful life and diversity. This balance also provides advantage to tourism industry to attract tourists to come so as to promote local economy such as the selling of souvenirs and provision of tourism service by local people. Policymakers should take into account the two things (development and preservation) when they develop master plan of city planning and urbanization. In this regard, Cambodia can also learn from Japan's experience in urban planning and development for Phnom Penh Capital City and other fast-growing cities nationwide to avoid problem of pollution, congestion, loss of green scenery and preservation areas and buildings, which have ecological and historical value for basic living of all residents and for tourism purposes. 


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