- Practice Areas
- Urban Labs
- About Us
- Media Center
- Contact Us
This blog originally appeared on Business India.
Till early March, most global reports indicated that the number of cities in India with a population of more than 1 million, will grow from 42 to 68 by 2030. This equation may have altered considerably by June, due to the reverse migration of more than one crore workers to their village homes during the Covid-19 induced lockdown. Nevertheless, facing the constant threat of a mounting
climate crisis, urban India has a chance to reboot and recover holistically, and ‘grow back greener’ in the post-Covid world.
The UN’s Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 11 emphasises the need for green and livable urban spaces. It sets targets for enhancing urban green by 2030, as a means to secure resources, reduce pollution and increase resilience. Nature-based solutions are fast emerging as a way of addressing sustainability challenges and building urban resilience. Planting trees is the easiest means to preserve and restore natural capital at scale.
Given that the ecological and environmental benefits of trees are well-known (recent literature also points to social cohesion and crime reduction benefits), several cities in India are calling for building urban forests to help offset climate change, improve air quality, reduce urban heat island effects and provide healthy and livable neighborhoods.
On World Environment Day (5 June), the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) launched the Nagar Van Scheme to develop 200 urban forests across India in the next five years, complementing the Biodiversity Vision declared by the UN. The participatory model with which the urban forest garden project at Warje, Pune, was established and is maintained was lauded and highlighted as the way forward, along with examples of initiatives in Hyderabad and Delhi. However, most of these models focus on large tracts of land (16 hectares in Warje), a hugely constrained resource in urban areas. However, there are other significant interventions to achieve greening by communities in land-limited urban cores, which would impact the micro-climate and provide a healthier, resilient and livable environment in the long-term.
Five opportunities for enhancing urban green at the neighborhood level:
Urban Forest Management
Neighborhood-level greening can yield localised yet significant benefits to human health and wellbeing. However, ensuring sustainability of green cover in urban areas entails a few conditions be met. First, a robust baselining of ecological and environmental factors, such as soil type, drainage, soil acidity etc., that help understand local conditions, planning, setting reasonable targets and monitoring, is essential. Second, maintaining ecological integrity which requires an understanding of species, space, land-use norms and availability of water, to prevent negative consequences from improper plantations. Also, geo-climatic, socio-economic and cultural conditions will need to be factored in. Finally, operational effectiveness in planting and maintenance needs to be evaluated to draw up a plan that outlines procedural protocols and responsibilities of various stakeholders. A transparent, multi-stakeholder approach in the planning, management, cost-sharing mechanisms and accountability would enable sustenance of urban forests.
Urban forests can offer many benefits to people. Robust and equitable urban forest management policies and incentives are needed to enable scaling and widespread access to such greenery. Along with technical know-how, inclusion and participation are pivotal to their success.
Views expressed are the authors’ own.