This World Environment Day, let’s look at restoring our urban ecosystems

Published on Jun 05, 2021 09:29 AM IST

Solving urban challenges such as traffic congestion and lack of open spaces is not an easy task. A step in the direction is the implementation of a complete street, which takes into account both transportation and environmental needs.

A complete street is a step in the right direction to reinstate ecological balance and control pollution.
A complete street is a step in the right direction to reinstate ecological balance and control pollution.
ByHT Brand Studio

Over the past decades, rapid urbanization has posed severe challenges to the ecosystems in our cities, either by way of declining air quality or a lack of green cover. It has also led to issues such as a dearth of open spaces, and traffic congestion, among others. Unfortunately, these changes have not just impacted nature, but also people.

Poorna Khanna, Associate - Bluemonk Recycling, explains, “With the rapid emergence and impetuous development of the urban landscape, humans are digging their own graves. Ecosystem restoration is their one shot at redemption. Starting with urban spaces is the right way to begin.”

Ecosystem restoration, in fact, is the theme of World Environment Day 2021. It can take many forms: Growing trees, greening cities, rewilding gardens, changing diets or cleaning up rivers and coasts. And if there is one city in India that needs to urgently take up some of these measures, it is Mumbai.

Glaring challenges faced by Mumbai locals

Mumbai might be a ‘dream city’ for many, but there are several challenges that have existed for decades. The biggest of them all is traffic congestion. Every time you step out, whatever time of the day it may be, the city’s roads are choked with vehicles. Residents complain about spending more time on the roads than at home. There is no ‘me time’.

There’s another challenge that has only magnified over the past few years — the lack of safe and accessible spaces for pedestrians and cyclists to move around, or even walk to work. “I have always been passionate about cycling, and consider it to be one of the most eco-friendly options. But where do I find the space to do it? The streets are covered with cars and other vehicles, and it’s almost scary to navigate through those traffic snarls,” says Akash Dwivedi, a media professional.

Taking the right steps, one at a time

The need of the hour is to find solutions that do not just help the environment, but also enhance the well-being of people. For one, these streets must have enough green cover. As the world becomes more urbanised and threatened by climate change, this step will help to restore the natural ecosystem and, at the same time, improve the standard of living of the people. Mumbai is in dire need of a transformation, but the change can happen one step at a time.

“The first option is to conserve and restore nature at the urban fringes. The second is to manage novel or hybrid ecosystems, which are engineered by humans. An example of it would be planting non-native trees or artificial lakes. Adding green cover under flyovers can also help,” says Khanna.

The third approach is to restore patches of urban nature. Lastly, building of environment-friendly spaces like gardens also gives a chance of restoration, adds Khanna.

Complete streets: A sustainable solution

Solving challenges such as traffic congestion and lack of open spaces is not an easy task, but can happen if a sustainable approach is adopted. One such solution is a complete street or a street that can be safely and conveniently accessed by all, regardless of age, gender, or socio-economic status. It is designed in a way that traffic is streamlined, people have an easier time commuting, and there are also facilities to walk or cycle to work.

“Complete streets also incorporate well-planned green belts and green wedge zones, which creates a win-win situation,” says Khanna, adding that it is a step in the right direction to reinstate ecological balance and control pollution. Complete streets, thus, take into account both transportation and environmental needs. Not only do they help promote sound physical health, but also mental peace.

The good news is that one such street is underway in Mumbai’s prime commercial district of Lower Parel. This will be the ‘one change’ towards ecological restoration.

Know more here.

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