Physical Planning and Environmental Degradation

Physical planning is the key component of the urban development initiatives and sets the boundaries that any detailed project must adhere to through the legal and technical guidelines that should be followed. Urban transformation and renewal must be developed as a proactive element of physical planning as it provides a practical and sustainable means of preparing for future urbanisation. In a broader sense, physical planning can be described as the set of actions aimed at improving the Physical, Social and Economic welfare of a place and its dwellers.

This entails the organization of land uses so that people enjoy the highest achievable degree of efficiency in resource utilization, the functionality of places and aesthetic quality. What are the main concerns of Urban Planning, therefore, include spatial orderliness, aesthetics of the urban places, the efficiency of operations in the social, economic and another arena, and most importantly, man’s well being?

Environmental degradation can be described as the deterioration of the environment through depletion of resources such as air, water and soil; the destruction of ecosystems; habitat destruction; the extinction of wildlife; and pollution. Environmental degradation can also be defined as any change or disturbance to the environment perceived to be deleterious or undesirable

One major component of environmental degradation is the depletion of the resource of fresh water on Earth. Approximately only 2.5g% of all of the water on Earth is fresh water, with the rest being salt water. 69% of fresh water is frozen in ice caps located on Antarctica and Greenland, so only 30% of the 2.5% of fresh water is available for consumption. Fresh water is an exceptionally important resource, since life on Earth is ultimately dependent on it. Water transports nutrients, minerals and chemicals within the biosphere to all forms of life, sustains both plants and animals, and moulds the surface of the Earth with transportation and deposition of materials.

Factors Leading to Environmental Degradation


With the turn of the century there has been a surge to living in urban areas. This has resulted in rapid deforestation all over the world. The demand for more space to provide housing accommodation, to build roads and railways, to harness forest resources, to clear land for pasture and mechanized farming.

The increase demand for wood being used for timber and for various other reasons. Deforestation causes major environmental problems the most important being the carbon -oxygen balance of the atmosphere. The roots of trees hold on to the soil and prevents soil erosion. Deforestation results in loss of top soil.

Gas Exhaust from factories and auto-emissions

One of the foremost reason that causes pollution is the exhaust gas emitted from factories. The main air pollutants are sulphur dioxide, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxide, ozone and lead. The highest concentration of lead in the environment come from a variety of chemicals including gasoline, paints, ceramics, batteries etc.

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Carbon monoxide emission from automobiles has caused hazard to human health. Human beings are faced with health challenges as they breathe air in their living environment. The breathing in of carbon monoxide has caused reduction of oxygen in take by man; because when carbon monoxide is breathed into the lungs, it sticks to the haemoglobin thereby preventing oxygen flow.

This affects the transportation of oxygen by the blood which causes suffocation in man. The cluster of automobiles on roads and streets globally has posed health challenge. Hence this research is focused on finding solution to the effect of carbon monoxide CO on human health.


Technocentrism is the concentration of all activities on technology including industries. Around 1760 the world entered into a new era of industrialization. Environmentalists are of the opinion that the rapid pollution of air, water and land is the result of this rapid industry oriented lifestyle.

Physical Planning and Environmental Degradation

Most of industries like mining, paint and chemical industries are more prone to affect the environment because they release particulate matter, which is known as Respirable Particulate Matter (RPM); these particulate matter not only pollute the air but is inhaled by city dwellers. This air when inhaled affect the lungs and harm the entire respiratory system.

This is the main causative factor of asthma and lung cancer among the urban population. Even new born are vulnerable to this. The electric powerhouses emit fly ash which causes lung congestion and pollutes water bodies. This causes the most direct harm to humans. particulate matter can come from indoor pollution, aerosol and cooking on the roadside in open ‘choolahs’. Cottage industries like making leather bags also cause pollution by releasing chemical waste in the neighborhood.


There has been a tremendous surge in private vehicles in recent times. The more cars the more the rate of pollution causing smog. This is a health hazard affecting the eyes and causing conjunctivitis. Smog is the result of vehicular pollution, and Hydro-Carbons released from engines are the cause of lower level ozone that is harmful to humans.

Environmental impact of transport on environmental degradation is significant because transport is a major user of energy, and burns most of the world’s petroleum. This creates air pollution, including nitrous oxides and particulates, and is a significant contributor to global warming through emission of carbon dioxide. Within the transport sector, road transport is the largest contributor to global warming.

Environmental regulations in developed countries have reduced the individual vehicle’s emission. However, this has been offset by an increase in the number of vehicles, and increased use of each vehicle. Some pathways to reduce the carbon emissions of road vehicles considerably have been studied. Energy use and emissions vary largely between modes, causing environmentalists to call for a transition from air and road to rail and human-powered transport, and increase transport electrification and energy efficiency.

Unplanned Construction

With the influx of population from the rural areas to the urban a new activity called real estate has come up. Their only intention is to convert any available space to high rises. To maximize their profit, they are carrying out unprecedented construction activities that are being carried out right now. Wetlands are being filled up disturbing the ecology of the city and its fringes.

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This has created the urban heat island effect, making the urban areas warmer that the outskirts, trapping solar radiation by concrete and cement, and concentrating pollutants. As most of the vegetative cover is removed to make space for construction, exchange of heat is not possible. The constricted circulation of air, traps pollutants increasing the rate of air pollutants.

Population Explosion

The global population has experienced an unprecedented growth from 1 billion in 1800 to 7 billion in 2012. Life expectancy has increased with advanced medical science and so the population is expected to keep growing, and experts have anticipated the total population at 8.4 billion by mid-2030.

This sudden sharp increase in the relative numbers of a population is referred to as the population boom. It has created a number of environmental issues including food and lodging but alarmingly increase in the amount of waste that is generated every day.

Arbitrary Landuse Policies

Proper use of land resources can mitigate a number of environmental issues, failure to execute land management policies can lead to land pollution and degradation of the worst kind. Extraction from the land as in mining leaves them unusable for habitation and cultivation. Exhausted mines prove that the natural resources are fast dwindling and leaving a piece of land that has been polluted beyond repair. Read more

Physical Planning and Government Intervention

Both State and Federal Government level in Nigeria has been called on to pay more attention to physical planning as it is the bedrock of any meaningful physical and economic development of a community, city, or nation. Globally, world town planning day creates an opportunity for professional planners and the general public to come together and dialogue on necessary steps to be taking in pursuit of achieving an environment which is beautiful, safe, economical, sustainable and convenient for habitation.

Nigeria is yet to enjoy an environment of these characteristics but “as an Institute, The Nigerian Institute of Town Planners (NITP), Lagos State Chapter are optimistic that with continuous dialogue like this as well as involvement of Town Planners in policy formulation and implementation, Nigeria would be an envy of other countries in the world.

The bulk of the activity of town planners is plan preparation. Urban and regional planners, as it is formally called, develop plans and programmes for the use of land. These plans help create communities, accommodate population growth, and revitalize physical facilities in towns, cities, countries, and metropolitan areas.

The Lagos State Government through the Ministry of Physical Planning and Urban Development has prepared model city plans for almost all the local government areas within the state. In a bid to improve the physical planning process, the government through the Lagos State Physical Planning Permit Authority has created the electronic Planning Permit process, which is quite commendable.

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Creation of a full fleshed Ministry of Physical Planning and Urban Development at the federal level with the great importance attached to Town Planning globally, it is not wise for physical planning and urban development to be operating as a department under a ministry in the country.

What obtains today in Nigeria is that physical planning is under the ministry of Power, Works and housing. This should not be. The country is in urgent need of proper physical planning. As such, a ministry should be created for this purpose.

The ineffectiveness of town planning administration and activities at the federal level at the moment is as a result of this. The truth is if physical planning and urban development at the federal level is less functional, we shouldn’t expect functionality from the states. This can be done by the implementation of Land use Plan and Analysis report. How will it operate? The Ministry or agency in charge of development permit in all states will mandate it by regulation that all development proposals should be accompanied with the report.

The town planner who prepares the report for that project would therefore be commissioned to ensure that the development when approved does not contravene the approval granted. The town planner in charge due to the knowledge already gathered as a result of the survey carried out within the location would be able to monitor development also within the area. With this, the running cost of the agency would be reduced because officials may not have to be visiting the site again.

Also, jobs would be created for town planners. Once the federal government of Nigeria can lay this template, state governments would be encouraged to reproduce same in their states. Achieving this may be difficult if physical planning and urban development is not accorded the necessary attention and allowed to exist as a ministry”.

Culled from NITP Website | ‘Govt Should Pay More Attention To Physical Planning’ – TPL Adebisi Adedire

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About the author

I am Adegboyega Tunde Temitayo. A registered Town Planner with the Nigerian Institute of Town Planners (NITP) and Town Planners Registration Council (TOPREC).

I love to think differently and possibly on various Urban and Regional Planning issues to proffer solutions to Urban and Rural Environmental Problems. You can subscribe to my YouTube Channel

As the Chief Editor of Town Planners Diary, I humbly welcome you to this platform which is about enhancing Planning Education through research on various Town Planning and Environmental issues.

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