Livable Cities: Green landscapes and election promises

Trees and green spaces are an integral part of an urban landscape. The great cities of the world boast of some of the most diverse public spaces that are green. Central Park in New York City and Hyde Park in London are just two examples that come to mind.

However in India, there is a near total lack of green urban spaces of that scale. Yes we do have the largest “national park in an urban boundary” claim by way of Borivili National Park in Mumbai, but that’s hardly the center of Mumbai; and even that is being encroached up with drastic results.

Gautam Patel makes a fantastic case of the need for more green space and how the politicians manipulate this theme come election time.

In the run up to Mumbai’s municipal elections, of the many to-be-left-unfufilled promises made by political parties, two were common: less corruption and more “infrastructure”. The latter, in our peculiar notion of what makes a ‘world-class’ city, only means more roads, more bridges. No one promised to make our city more liveable. In my constituency, apart from the familiar talk-to-the-hand and offerings for lotus-eaters, there were many odd symbols for candidates: a sewing machine, an LPG cylinder and something that looked like a pasta machine cross-bred with a meat grinder. Not one had a tree or anything that looked like it.

In the last 20 or 30 years, we seem to have developed an odd view of what constitutes urban development: more grey concrete and fewer trees. Mumbai, Pune and Bangalore have all seen this. A 2008 report, based on RTI applications, showed that Mumbai had lost 25,000 trees to ‘development’ projects; and of those said to have been transplanted, no more than half a dozen survived. South Mumbai is a favoured target, as the wanton destruction of trees along Nepean Sea Road showed. As of May 2011, Mumbai is said to have only a little of 19 lakh trees left. In contrast, New York, to which we so like to compare ourselves, has an average of five trees per person despite having more high-rises than Mumbai, and it has, too, a plan to plant — and nurture — a million more (the 500,000th was planted in October 2011).

Continue reading “Murdering Trees, Killing Cities”.

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