Livemint: February 02, 2015
New Delhi: The environment ministry has drawn up a “comprehensive plan” for the management of urban green spaces in the 100 smart cities Prime Minister Narendra Modi wants to create in India.
The move is significant because the ministry of environment and forests (MoEF) has been receiving flak from environmentalists and activists for clearing industrial projects, while allegedly doing little to protect the environment.
“How can smart cities be called smart if they do not have a component of environment protection, conservation of trees and ample space for green areas? We have prepared a comprehensive plan to develop and manage greens in urban areas... to manage and conserve trees in such areas,” a senior MoEF said on condition of anonymity.
The official said urban greens would be an irreplaceable part of the smart cities concept—a flagship scheme of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government.
“Tree and forest cover are critical for ensuring ground water recharge, providing shade and conserving local biodiversity, improving the quality of life for city dwellers by providing recreational avenues besides other things. Thus, urban greens would be a significant part of the smart city plan; otherwise, cities would only resemble concrete jungles,” the official said.
Increasing urbanization, especially in tier-I and tier-II cities, has put a lot of pressure on the environment—its impact includes the dwindling of tree cover—and this pressure is only expected to grow.
The proportion of urban population in India has increased from 17% in 1951 to 31% in 2011, and is expected to reach 55% by 2050.
The environment ministry’s plan specifically looks at the problem of sacrificing the green cover in urban areas to make way for development works such as road widening and building parking spaces and flyovers.
“Smart cities need to...and would have specific urban green spaces. The plan is not to only have only one green cover for the city but to have a uniform and well-distributed tree cover across such cities,” the official added.
MoEF is not limiting the plan to smart cities, the official said; it is also planning to execute a similar strategy across other cities.
“Our plan is a comprehensive one to conserve, develop and manage urban greens across the country. Of course, tailoring them for 100 smart cities would be a priority, as quick work on them would inspire all to follow suit,” the MoEF official added.
The environment ministry is also considering green solutions such as offering incentives to the public for involvement in urban greening projects and encouraging corporate entities to take up greening as part of their corporate social responsibility programmes.
Developing 100 smart cities is one of Modi’s key initiatives, and it figured prominently in his recent meetings with US President Barack Obama.
The US Trade and Development Agency has signed memorandums of understanding with the governments of Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan to develop Visakhapatnam, Allahabad and Ajmer as smart cities, with the participation of the US industry.
Disclaimer: This information has been collected through secondary research and IBEF is not responsible for any errors in the same.