The Bold Voice of J&K

Urban pollution management

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Dr. Banarsi Lal
With a population of over one billion, India supports around 17.84 per cent of world’s population on 2.4 per cent of world’s land resulting in a paucity of resources that jeopardises growth in the long run.32 per cent of the Indian population live in the urban areas. It is estimated that by 2030 about half of the Indian population will be residing in urban areas. This rapid pace of urbanisation is already being accompanied by air and water pollution, water supply, sewage disposal, municipal waste, transport, lack of open landscaped spaces etc. Most of these problems arise due to unplanned development in cities leading to higher use of natural resources such as land and water. In most cases consensus is not made as to which challenges are more important and how to mitigate them. We all need to have the awareness on India’s environmental challenges. Presently urban air pollution is a major issue in both the developing and developed countries across the globe. Increasing population and vehicles in the urban areas have resulted in severe air pollution which ultimately is deteriorating our environment and health. Transport, domestic, commercial and industrial activities mostly contribute to urban air pollution. Urban development in India is going through a very dynamic stage.
The urban areas have been expanding exponentially by encroaching the surrounding agricultural lands and forests from the last few decades. Urban areas harbour a variety of habitats such as water-bodies,parks,gardens, forests etc. We observe that urban areas have old monuments and old trees. Now-a-days our cities have millions of vehicles, ever expanding roads and spewing out immense pollution. People are migrating from rural areas to the urban areas and these people carry their poverty along with them to the cities which gets perpetuated in urban areas. These rural people migrate to the cities in search of employment and finally want to settle down in the cities. Urban areas have their own limitations as they too have limitedresources. With the increasing urbanisation and demand for more houses,transportation etc. does urban forestry today stand a chance? The answer may be yes. With the increase in population the demand for wood has also been increased resulting in the fast degeneration of forests and villages woodlots. Presently India has only 11 per cent of the land area under close forest cover. The recorded forest area of Jammu and Kashmir is 20230Sq. Kms, which is around 19.95 per cent of the geographical area of the state.Forests are largely distributed in Kashmir Valley and Jammu region whereas Ladakh region is devoid of forest vegetation as the region is a cold desert. There can be severe environmental crisis as we cut more trees than we plant every year. Although barren lands are mostly in rural areas but we have a better scope for planting trees in urban areas. Our urban areas need more natural vegetation to check the increasing environmental pollution by purifying the air and improve our microclimate. In cities pollution is very high due to emission of harmful gases produced by the automobiles,factories,sewage etc. The towering buildings in the cities prevent the free circulation of air, absorb a lot of heat and thus increase the atmospheric temperature. Noise pollution affects the peaceful living in the cities and accelerates the sickness among the people. The pollution in cities can be controlled by planting trees in urban areas as the greenery in the cities helps to sustain natural ecosystem and acts as buffer zones against the pollution. These green areas can also provide habitats for a variety of animals and birds and act as rest places for the hectic life styles of urban people.
Tree planting in urban areas is easy because of protection of livestock, availability of water,awareness among the literates’ people etc. Water plays the critical role for the trees growth right from planting. Roof top water harvesting, proper water management and recycling of water including that of utilization of sewage and effluents and other untapped sources can be recommended for growing the trees in urban areas. Different trees species can be recommended according to the needs of the people. If a river flows through the city then the ecological and land scape value of the river need to be studied and analysed.
(To be continued)

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