Co-Create Neighbourhood Forest in Backyards
Seoul recently came up with wonderful idea of transforming its old flyover built during 60s into an floating walkway with 24000 plant species, the questions came into mind why not aspiring Indian Smart City do something like Seoul in their backyard. As every year starting with arrival of Earth Hour followed by Earth Day, Water Day, etc till world environment day many do promises of planting more trees. But the question that still burning whether these promises really structured to get ground or just one more annual promises which may get revisit in coming years.
Lets take an example of plantation drive every year that often takes place during first week of July in open space or school ground or along with few important road shoulders etc. assuming that green space added into city’s green coverage no matter how many survives one year cycle. These processes often take away playground or open space belonging to children or adults etc. Questions do often arise how long saplings would be planted against chopped bigger trees that lost ground due to road infrastructure. Rather can’t we evolve a new model for for urban forest.
As over the years structural behavior of Bhubaneswar or in other Indian cities of its age are moving from horizontal to vertical by adding more concrete jungles than forest leading into once dominated neighbourhood structure seems paving way for various other forms of development that are more suitable for concrete jungle than vegetation’s. The result so far city are getting warmer, every bit of rainfall leads into water logging, there are more concrete carpets obstructing water soaking into ground, similarly winter is just in numbers and spring reaches months early and leaves much faster than one could imagine the seasons and quantity of rainfall that once use spread over months now pours in just few hours leaving the city mostly dry throughout the year and so as once the city with perfect weather is now trapped inside heat island.
The answer to all these challenges are remains with how to create mini forests within neighborhood without disturbing much of the open space or playground etc. Well there are tremendous opportunity do exists to create neighborhood forests that often so far not explored rather remain as dumping grounds or encroached by informal hawkers or slums otherwise could have connected a citywide neighborhood jungles over the existing conservancy lanes.
Fortunately Like Seoul the part of planned Bhubaneswar which came into existence just after independence provides enough space even today in its backyard known as conservancy lane between two housing plots can be transformed into mini forests in partnership with neighboring residents. Such conservancy lanes are sometime nearly one & half a kilometer long with one & half a meter width; in other words combined space can go up more than the size of neighborhood open space of the locality.
In cities like Bhubaneswar where 24/7 large parks are very rare and open spaces are virtually taken over by local mafias for their own consumption i.e. markets or religious or social gathering purposes then conservancy lanes are the future of our city’s green space is right in between two lanes of row housing as an open expanse of grass beneath great trees, a shared backyard would be act like neighbourhood walking trails or playgrounds for the children or meeting places for its adults and bird's nesting.
Once these conservancy lanes transforms into neighborhood forests it’s impact on cities would be extraordinary, just imagine a city anchored by hundreds, if not thousands of hidden, community run neighborhood forests that will not only cool down the city in future but also ground water recharging as well as improve the quality of life. Initially it may look impossible but if such spaces identified in neighborhood from the isolated waste yards then such intervention could act in favour of the commons as well as ignite many other neighbourhood in queue for such interventions.
World is not short of example of co creating large forests inside the cities imagine how Bhubaneswar would look in decades from now with 10,000 hectares of forest surrounding the city managed by people and organically supported by individuals and Government along with the city having home to over 1000 hectares of parks gardens in its neighborhoods with and thousands of playgrounds providing greenery, recreation and rejuvenating local biodiversity.
Same way thousands of small privately owned garden that city could allow its inhabitants to grow their own food organically on the outskirts of the city or in wastelands. These sites could become a nature lab for the students as well as all those who want’s to spend time in farming but could not do so due to unavailability of space in their own house or apartments. These local vegetables would able to meet the needs of households or may be a weekend farmers market could activate neighborhood festivals.
Bhubaneswar grown up around neighbourhood based urban planning in late forties but lost its grip in nineties when it felt modern urban planning is represented by swanky towers and concrete pedestrians where forest was not synonymous to urban development as a result city lost huge percentage of canopy and what left is trees inside gardens parks or ornamental shrubs replacing bigger trees on the street.
Well it might be difficult to believe Bhubaneswar once emerged from the forest is lost its breath in absence of forests but opportunity is around to open the windows for millions to have their forests once again in their neighbourhood and bounce back city’s natural beauty in its quality of life sooner than latter is perhaps would be a Natural Smart City for its People.