Comparative Assessment of Mental Image of Citizens with Planners to Quality of the Urban Environment (Case study: Qazvin Distressed Area)

Document Type : Research Article



Nowadays more than half of the world's populations live in urban areas. The figure is estimated to increase to about 60 percent by 2020. Therefore, the phenomenon of urbanization has become inevitable today. Despite the many benefits of urbanization, many policy-makers in different countries are warning against the perils of increasing urbanization. They are specifically warning against profound effects of urbanization on environmental issues such as on traditional and conventional relations, preparation and provision of public services and infrastructure problems, proliferation of informal settlements, deterioration of environmental conditions, and increased social problems related to unemployment and others.  These problems are increasingly grabbing the attention of researchers in various fields of study, like Life Quality, Quality of Place, and Human Life Improvement in Urban Areas.On the other hand, we should always pay attention to the fact that civil society encompasses a wide range of the cultural–social and occupational groups. Each of these groups according to the type of insight and norms has different criteria for choosing a place to live and work.  Therefore, they have also different criteria about satisfaction of the city environmental quality.  However, in developing societies, paying equal attention to the demands of all the people is very difficult.  But in this research, we emphasize on the differences between the mental image of citizen and planners about urban environmental quality in distressed areas. As was mentioned, when human habitats can yield the greatest utility to man, that meets his expectations. These expectations are defined in all aspects of human life like the environment, society, economy, etc.  If any of these factors do not have good qualities in a person's life, they can influence the perception and the level of satisfaction in that individual. As we know, distressed area refers to legal limits of urban life where environmental deterioration and low quality structures cause particular problems for cities. It is normal to see that in these areas, citizens’ expectations in relation to quality living environment are unrealistic. Perhaps this is due to the fact that citizens have a non-aligned image of a desired biological space. Therefore, this research, in order to improve environmental quality in urban distressed area, is trying to determine the priority criteria and indicators of environmental quality in urban distressed areas in both the mental images of citizens and urban planners. To achieve this, first of all, the concept of urban environmental quality and its component, deterioration and the features of distressed area in Iran are defined.  The next step is to develop the theoretical model for evaluating the level of satisfaction. The model is divided into five levels; each level evaluates the benchmark of one component such as environmental, socio–cultural, economic, physical and management criteria involved in the quality of the environment. In this regard, a questionnaire was designed according to the range of five-point Likert scale (1 < X < 5) to assess the quality of the urban environment. The researchers distributed 378 questionnaires based on the formula of Cochran is distributed between citizens residing in Qazvin distressed area and 42 questionnaires between urban planners who work at municipalities as urban experts as well as university professors. The method used to analyze the data was analytical – descriptive method and SPSS software in data analysis and one-way ANOVA and Duncan grouping test to evaluate and rank components of environmental quality in the urban distressed area. This approach helped with the determination of the value of each criterion and its rank among others. To determine the validity of the research instrument of the questionnaire, the help of professors and experts was sought - all of whom were positive with the reliability of the results.   The reliability of the questionnaire was assessed by Cronbach's alpha test.   The value of this coefficient is 0.927 that shows a high reliability. We see in classification criteria and rating on them by citizens that the first priority is managed measures by 2.3 points then economic measures with 2.5 points, physical measures with 2.9 points, environmental and social criteria with 3.2 and 3.3 points are in the next line of priorities. But in urban planner’s rating, physical and managed measures with scores of 2.5 and 2.6, environmental and management criteria of 2.7 and 2.6 points, economic and social criteria with 3.0 and 3.1 points show the order of importance.In general summary and conclusion, the results indicate that the first priority in low quality of life in citizens’ view involved lack of attention to physical problems and low economic status of residents.  This is while in urban planners’ approach in urban distressed area environmental standards and management are suffering from the ravages more than the other components. Therefore, the results show the lack of convergence in mental image of citizen and planners to the quality of the urban environment. Therefore, to improve the quality of urban environment, both citizens and planners should take serious steps to draw their viewpoints closer and pay more attention to each other’s demands.