Make Kerala’s One Third Principle work for You!

by Joseph Fernandez

I recently watched a Fox Life interview with Jaime Lerner, Curitiba’s iconic architect, mayor and urban planner who transformed his Brazilian city into an urban paradise of livable spaces. He did this, by first changing the mindsets of his people and then their cityscape. Over two decades, Curitiba a city whose name has become synonymous with good, sustainable urban design known for its bus rapid transit system, great public spaces. Curitiba is a triumph for its citizens. It is today a city with a 70% recycling rate, a network of expansive urban parks, zero traffic jams and an over 90% satisfaction rate among its citizens.

At the beginning of 2015, a year like no other, I thought this might be a perfect time to share a time tested principle of state-craft that has its own resonance in our time. Kerala is a green sliver of land on India’s West Coast rated one of the top destinations you should visit in your lifetime. And, with good reason.

Take a look at the picture above. Flying into Kerala, you will be struck by its green cover, punctuated by water bodies and picturesque towns that dot its landscape—very different from the spread of other cities and towns anywhere else in the world. Centuries ago, the ancient kingdom of Travancore that covered most of modern day Kerala had a principle of distributing its resources: one third for the forests, one third for the water and one third for the people. Over the centuries this principle helped Kerala to evolve into one of the best places to live in, with high social standards and literacy rate.

Every town had a one third of forest or green cover, one third allotted for its source of water and one third for its people. As a result, despite centuries of population growth and urban development, Kerala remains a state with a high standard of living and is less impacted by shortages of water and power that are experienced in other Indian states. This principle finds itself applied in smaller communities and forms a great model for the design of your home. Allot one third for your home’s green cover, one third for water (or even rain water harvesting) and one third for your living space.

The latest I hear about Kerala’s one third principle is that one of Kerala’s largest technology companies adopted the one third principle for its iconic campus that will feature a 12 acre lake, a 12 acre fruit orchard and 12 acres for its futuristic IT campus. Think deeply on the One Third principle for your region and you will discover that it offers a sound approach for sustainable growth. You can adopt it for the planning of a city, a community, an industrial park or even your home.

I’d be interested to hear from you on what you think about the One Third principle. Does it apply to your corner of the planet? And, does it have further applications in our world today? I’d like to close with a video that, to me, best summarizes Kerala’s One Third Principle:

Happy 2015!