Rivers, trees and open spaces were the focus of the Green Cities panel discussion organised on Tuesday as part of the Hindustan Times Kala Ghoda Arts Festival.
“About 31% of reserved open space in the city is not developed and can therefore be called wasteland. The government needs to acquire these lands, but may not want to pay for them,” said urban researcher Neera Adarkar. “We need to figure out how to get the most from the new development plan in terms of open space.”
Other speakers discussed how Mumbai’s many rivers have, over a period of time, turned into drains, and how the city could learn a thing or two from the Gujarat-based Hunnarshala Foundation, which has been promoting decentralised waste-treatment plants. The team has also been greening riverbanks in that state, by planting saplings from local seeds. “We started with greening 500 metres through drip irrigation and have been reaching out by another 500 metres every year,” said Kiran Vaghela, a founding member of the NGO. “The green cover has also attracted a lot of biodiversity.”
Deepak Shah, 55, a lawyer who attended the session, said he found the discussion very insightful. “One reads about these issues, piecemeal, from time to time. Understanding that these problems are interconnected and so are their solutions, that was my takeaway from here,” he said.
The evening also included a session by Bejoy Davis of NGO Yuva Mumbai, who discussed how construction and demolition waste are being dumped on precious mangroves, suffocating them, when they could instead be recycled into making paver blocks and crushed sand.
Perhaps the most innovative solution to green unused barren land was offered by Bangalore-based Ashoka fellow Shubhendu Sharma, whose company Afforestt offers to create ‘mini forests’ in urban backyards.
“As architects and planners, we need to move from the drawing board to see what is needed in our own backyards,” said Ajay Nayak curator for the urban design and architecture section of the Kala Ghoda festival. “Green cities are all about learning from simple solutions presented by the experts here and adapting them to local contexts.”