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Urban Development or Biodiversity Degradation?By Akshya Singhvi
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Since centuries, civilizations have thrived besides nature, symbiotically, where development was a holistic function taking into account the surrounding environment and natural habitat. The settlements encouraged interaction of humans with biodiversity where trees became the nodal points of interactions in the form of chauk/panchayat centre etc, ponds/water bodies became loci, the communication hub for ladies and children alike at different points of time, the same pond was used by men, cattle and different animals for their uses also. The interesting point to be noted is that this never became a point of conflict for anyone be it humans, animals or plants.
However, when the callous development took precedence over societal and humane norms, with time this development pattern did not sustain. Preferential allotment to space, funds, sensitivity was given by urban gigantic corporations for whom architecture and urban development meant creation of building to be occupied by humans. What they didn’t realize is that that these buildings meant for human occupation need to establish a bond with its surroundings, as human life cannot be contained in those containers called as buildings. Thus this development was not holistic but a constricted approach wherein environment was not considered.
In order to comprehend it better, a study of growth pattern of a part of the South Udaipur (Close to RTO, MLSU) shows that open area marked as free grazing area for cattle develops in a plotted housing colony with no practical space left for any animals. The site visit revealed that this area also lost the flora and fauna around owing to unplanned and unaccountable human intervention. The development guidelines were completely oblivious to the space allocation for requirement of existing flora and fauna. This resulted in unprecedented loss of biodiversity and the area is nothing more than a concrete jungle at present. Moreover, the climatology study (based on the weather data available with Indian Meteorology Department) the local average temperature during summers has increased 3-4C which has resulted in discomfort of the habitants. Mr. Raghuveer Singh, a resident of the area expressed that during the early days there were very usual sightings of peacocks in this area and in their local parks there was fanciful growth of roses and gorgeous butterflies could be easily spotted which is all lost now. He further elaborated that during the last decade people have started being more sick and feverish than ever.
A few more examples of such unsympathetic growth patterns are included in the end.
The present development has not been able to sustain the expedient practice of survival and living from the past. Today, urban planning doesn’t take into account that the infringement happening in the name of metropolitan expansion and at the cost of natural regression and biodiversity degradation. In the last two decades, regular animals and birds like sparrows, peacocks, mongoose, monkeys, horses etc have all disappeared. The present generation of kids cannot even expect a colony.
where there were trees of pomegranates, mulberries, mangoes, blackberries, peach etc. besides their home which would be a home to numerous species of birds, retreat for many animals and leisure abode for them, which was a normal and usual feat for the children born even in late 1980s and 1990s.
It could be noticed that development of new housings, colonies and even in urban design at city/sector level projects, authentic environment assessment is missing. It should be perceived that the land prior to human intrusion is host to a number of species and has a unique biodiversity of its own. There is a dire need of an urban design which takes into account the importance of biodiversity.
Moreover, simple interventions such as having water pot for birds at homes, dedicated cattle sheds in clusters, vibrant landscape including native trees and shrubs should be an inherent characteristic of designs. Urban planning should include green spaces which could be in the form of mini-forests within the city fabric which will lead to a holistic urban environment having a rich urban matrix comprising of varied biodiversity. Interventions such as public spaces like bus stops having solar panels over roof for decentralised energy production reducing the grid loads and thus reducing pollution in a manner should become general practice. The natural slopes and gradients should be retained for drainage and thus enhanced water flow which won’t impact the catchment of local flora and fauna. Waste management should be integrated in the design to minimize the impact over environment, as plastic and metal in toxic and noxious for environment.
The existing natural heritage in the form of old trees, native herbs and shrubs, vivacious rocks and natural structures should be preserved and urban development should happen while coexisting with it. Prior to the development inventories should be prepared to record the species of animals, birds, trees etc. present in the area and it should be mandatory to preserve all of them while developing. There zone to definite zones demarcated for the existing natural residents where no negative impact should be allowed. Human with their minds should bring happiness for other organism when they start living with them instead of snatching their habitat from them.
Urban development cannot happen at the cost of nature degradation and has to be transformed into all-inclusive conscious environment regeneration. Architects, Ecologists and Biodiversity scientists have this responsibility and unique opportunity of converting this decade into the decade of urban biodiversity development.
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