Unnatural urbanisation

News: Recently, a 20-minute thunderstorm in Delhi uprooted many trees, some of them between 40 and 50 years old, throwing the city out of gear for hours. This chaos, caused due to poor urban planning, has become a pattern whenever a pre-monsoon storm, with high-velocity winds, hits the city.

Delhi High Court has taken note of this. It pointed out that the growing concretisation of the city, without providing trees sufficient breathing space around their trunks, causes their roots to dry out and make them vulnerable to the elements.

Uprooting of old trees causes huge biodiversity destruction, not just of flora but also the birds and insects that have inhabited them for decades.

The lack of eco-sensitive urban planning in India is promoting an ecological and aesthetic disaster — for which Indians will pay in the long run.

How has unplanned urbanisation impacted Indian cities?

Chronic annual monsoon floods in Chennai and Bengaluru: In Chennai and Bengaluru, the haphazard construction over surrounding lakes, wetlands, and marshlands has deprived both cities of natural drainage systems, and unique bird and insect life.

Shutdown of Mumbai when the rains intensify: In Mumbai, it’s the hectic horizontal and vertical construction on mangrove forests and low-lying reclaimed land that has deprived the city of a critical conduit for monsoon rain. It has also contributed to the massive destruction of marine biodiversity.

The cities are out of sync with nature. This can be seen most tragically in India’s Himalayan and Nilgiri mountains, where Dubai-style glass and concrete jungles are sprouting on fragile and stunning beautiful terrain.

What is the way forward?

Urbanisation is unavoidable. Hence, it is critical that planners pay more attention to optimising the environmental balance with urban development.

Urban bodies need to promote vertical rather than horizontal development to contain urban sprawls. For instance:  the steady encroachment of Delhi on to the Ridge, the city’s green lungs, or of Gurugram over the ecologically priceless Aravalli.

Uncontrolled tree felling for various infrastructure projects in all major cities is another issue that can be approached with greater imagination than a mindless replanting exercise, which is of limited value.

Insistence on the use of local, eco-friendly material.

Source: This post is based on the article “Unnatural urbanisation” published in the Business Standard on 5th June 22.

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