Urban agriculture can help make cities sustainable and liveable

News: Recently, the Union finance minister wished to make India cities “centres of sustainable living with opportunities for all”.

The FM argued for a paradigm shift in urban planning with announcement to set up a high-level committee to steer the required changes in urban policy, planning, capacity building and urban governance

What are the problems being faced by India, especially urban areas?

Overall

The soaring temperatures have adversely affected health, caused a dip in agricultural production, and also dried up rivers.

The impacts of climate change are being felt across the country, especially in climate-vulnerable zones and cities.

India is estimated to host 50 per cent of its population in cities by 2050. The cities are facing heat waves due to the urban heat island effect, and ill-conceived urbanisation.

The urban planning in India is out of step with growth. It is ill-equipped to deal with the existing gaps including the upcoming climate change.

Importance of urban and peri-urban agriculture (UPA)

The Food and Agricultural Organisation’s (FAO) recognises urban and peri-urban agriculture (UPA) as a significant contributor to food security; livelihood generation, especially for women; poverty alleviation; and urban resilience and sustainability.

Urban areas house at least 55% of the world’s population and consume 80% of the food produced globally. The urban population is expected to double by 2050. Thus, UPA is a key to achieving sustainable food systems.

Good Cases of the UPA vis-à-vis ULP in the Ghaziabad district:

There are few areas which reflect the planned expansion of cities into surrounding rural areas,

(1) The Ghaziabad city’s masterplan area -the total agricultural green space has far exceeded the area designated in the masterplan. The plan included UPA as the most significant type of GI for either urban development or formal green spaces (park, city forest, green buffer etc.), (

2) In the Loni masterplan area – total agricultural land-use surpassed the area earmarked in the masterplan.

(3) In the Modinagar masterplan area, a “model” peri-urban village is found to have 50% of its area covered under UPA, showing little change over years.

What are the challenges?

The existing pattern of urbanisation/industrialisation that prevails in the peri-urban villages or peri-urban areas are of great concern. The pattern is making these areas to become polluted and unhealthy in the coming future.

The challenges are very pro in the endogenous or “subaltern” urbanisation. Expanding cities and “census towns” forms a major substrate of the current process of “urbanisation” and urban growth in India.

The urban land-use planning (ULP) in Indian cities doesn’t focus on agriculture. Agriculture is seen as a predominantly rural practice and source of livelihood.

Way Forward

The role of green infrastructure (GI) is important for combating pollution, climate mitigation and adaptation. It also entails health and recreational benefits.

There is a need to focus on urban land-use planning (ULP), especially urban and peri-urban agriculture (UPA) which is one of the essential elements of sustainable urbanisation.

India’s Urban and Regional Development Plans Formulation and Implementation (URDPFI) guidelines mention Green Cities under the urban planning approach. The Green Cities have advantage of preventing the damage to productivity of agricultural land.

There is a need for a paradigm shift in urban planning. The ULP must prioritise estimation of waste management capacity, build infrastructure for it and regulate industrial installations to this capacity.

This requires adequate political will for aspects like financial inputs to fund-starved urban administrations and enforcement of regulations for curbing violations of environmental norms.

The incorporation of UPA into ULP will enable support in achieving urban food security and even a circular bioeconomy. This can lead to developing healthy and sustainable cities for all.

Source: The post is based on an article “Urban agriculture can help make cities sustainable and liveable” published in the Indian Express on 04th June 2022.

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