Ecological urbanism – Key to sustainable urbanization

Source: TOI

Syllabus: GS1 – urbanization, GS3 – Environment

Relevance: Importance of urban ecology to sustainable urbanization

Synopsis: Achieving a sustainable model for urbanization needs to factor-in the urban ecology. Some new insights into the issue.


Ecology and urbanism are two conflicting subjects because usually we see urbanization to be in conflict with urban ecology. It is precisely this dichotomy that ecological urbanism tends to eliminate. We often separate the environmental from the social and the mental or subjective side of things. This is a mistake as we need a more holistic approach.

What is ecological urbanism?

Ecological urbanism is an approach to urban planning which puts nature at the centre of the design process in order to create better places and provide solutions to the multiple social, economic and environmental challenges facing the 21st Century city.

How is urban ecology linked to a city’s sustainability?

Many of the problems associated with increased temperatures and extreme weather events now are the result of not following an ecological approach. By using concepts like ecological urbanism, we can hopefully address problems cities are facing today.

Link between nature and the urban ecology

Yes, multiple studies show green spaces are essential for our physical and emotional well-being.
In the pandemic, we’ve all felt how important it is to go for walks, smell the flowers, breathe fresh air and listen to birds. This is why it is so important to integrate more open spaces in our cities. But it isn’t always possible to do so in dense urban areas, so we need creative ways to bring nature in with window boxes, green walls and more smells, colors and textures around us.

Global examples

There are cities which have designed urban ecology well in recent times. India too can learn from these cities and incorporate the ecological urbanism to design ecologically sustainable urban environments.

  • Brazil’s Rocinha in Rio de Janeiro, the largest favela or slum in Brazil. Landscape architecture is a good example. For them, this meant gardens for the elite. So, they engage in small ecological micro-interventions, like taking care of a lemon tree.
  • Sacred groves in Nigeria, West Africa, especially the Osun Sacred Grove in Osogbo, one of the last left in Yorubaland. Formerly, every settlement there had a sacred grove but most were lost to urban development. Sacred groves support wildlife and human communities and are home to orishas, deities or energies of nature in West African traditional religion. Today, the Osun Sacred Grove is protected as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We need to learn more about such spaces, which were designed landscapes holding important environmental logic — and nature’s joy of life.


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