A Strict Policy for Urban Forest
I clearly believe that the cities of India today are in dire need of urban forests, and not gardens. Because of pollution, high temperatures, low biodiversity or poor ecosystems, the country’s cities are facing huge problems in the field of climate action and public health. If we want to achieve solid and good results in this direction, it becomes necessary to place special emphasis on increasing the green cover of cities and the solution of the present time is that the green cover can only be increased through urban forests.
Also, it is not that people are not aware of urban forest. Over the years, people have become increasingly aware of the benefits of the urban forest and its urgent need, while a number of charitable organizations and individual warriors are working towards creating urban forests in the cities.The central government and the state governments have also set a target of creating more than 200 urban forests across the country. But in spite of all these efforts, exercises and awareness of the context of the Urban Forests, much work could not be done in that direction.
Why? Because one of the biggest and most important reasons is that no solid and effective policy has been formulated in the country or in various states regarding urban forests. The model of the urban forest is one that the state forest department cannot take into account, assuming that the area belongs to municipal corporations. On the other hand, with the exception of a few municipal corporations, most corporations believe that our job is to create gardens and maintain gardens!
Because of this, in cities where single or couple of urban forests have been created, these forest systems are designed to demonstrate innovative measures and are not taken care of later or protected.But it is important to understand that since urban forests are a major contributor to climate action as well as the health of cities, they deserve a specific policy that has specific laws and roadmaps for urban forest conservation.
This is because in many places it has been observed that an urban forest is created for the sake of name, but the trimming of urban forests continues as if it was a garden. Then sometimes the trees are cut down to build a house or a road where the forest was created. If so what does this forest mean and does it even serve its purpose?
There should be a specific policy for urban forest at the national level or per state because if the policy mandates few pockets of reservation of land for the urban forest in the city. authorities of cities will take the responsibility of the urban forest very seriously instead of just preparing purely aesthetic showcase urban forests. This way we will be able to give the gift of a healthy environment and biodiversity to cities.
Because the statistics say that every year 7.5 million new people are being added to the cities of the country and by the year 2050 this number will reach 915 million people! This means that India’s cities are currently overcrowded, with a new population of 7.5 million being added each year. How will it be feasible to accommodate this migrating population in the exsiting limits of cities? For this, cities have to be expanded and as the cities expand in the outer areas, it is natural that the green cover plantations will be lost, a lot of trees are cut down and will be replaced with houses, sanitation and roads.
Hence a direct calculation of how the green cover surrounding the outer part of the city which used to help balance the ecosystem and environment of the city is now getting destroyed. On the other hand, carbon usage is the cities is rising day by day due to the increasing no of vehicles, construction and industry. Due to the exposure to this carbon as well as other pollution, the urban dwellers are facing a rise in grave diseases caused by climate change and air pollution.This includes various skin diseases, lung problems, cancer and dangerous eye infections. If we look at the statistics, we can see that the incidence of various types of cancer alone is four times higher in urban areas than in rural India.
And it’s not just a matter of physical health. People living in urban areas have so many mental issues that if we go to the root of the issues, we will realize that people are alienated from nature and trees and are constantly in front of the screen, which is why they are facing these questions.
At a time when cities are growing and expanding and when the existing cities are already facing the threats of lack of green cover. How exactly the trees and green cover of the city will be maintained and protected ? Also, all the voluntary work initiated by individuals and citizens for green cover are not getting any protection from the system. Due to this, trees planted by Ngo’s, organizations or on an individual basis are periodically destroyed.
In addition, the shortage of trees in cities is increasing day by day. On the other hand, we dream of zeroing our carbon emissions. But there is no definite policy for the protection and enhancement of urban forests that can provide twice as much oxygen as they can absorb carbon. Or where there are policies, there is no uniformity. But now the time has come in which the central government, state government and each municipal corporations have special provisions and rules for urban forests.
If this happens, the green cover in the urban area will not only increase, but with the green cover it will benefit the temperature of cities, reduce noise pollution, urban ecosystem as well as biodiversity, which will directly affect the health of more than 50 million people living in cities.
By Viral Desai
(The author is a well-known environmentalist and the pioneer of Satyagraha Against Pollution movement. He can becontacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)