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Knowing green Infrastructure

Saurabh Mishra
sub editor
gis development, india
Email: [email protected]
In 1950 less than one person in three lived in a town or city. Today nearly half the world’s population is urban. By 2030 the proportion will be more than 60 per cent. It has been estimated that all population growth in the next quarter-century will primarily be in urban areas of less developed nations. The fastest growth will not be in the bigger cities but in urban centers with fewer than 500,000 people. Urban sprawl is making its toll on existing ‘greens’ of areas to which it is spreading. More and more open spaces – farms and forests – are getting replaced by constructions posing threat of ecological imbalance. The threat is now giving way to a growing realization of protecting networks comprising these areas. A new framework that holds the key of providing a strategic approach to land conservation with respect to urbanization and shielding network of open spaces is “green infrastructure”.

effects of haphazard development
The accelerated consumption and the resulting fragmentation of open land as a result of faster land development seen today, are the primary conservation challenges facing nations today.
This has led to:

  • Loss of natural areas: As natural areas diminish, so does habitat diversity. The result is both a decline in the number of species and fewer individuals of those species that survive. According to the Global Biodiversity Assessment, species have been becoming extinct since 1600 at 50-100 times the average estimated natural rate, while the extinction rate is expected to rise to between 1,000 and 10,000 times the natural rate. The Assessment identifies five major causes of biodiversity loss as the fragmentation, degradation, or outright loss of habitats (through the conversion of land for agriculture, infrastructure, or urbanization, for example), overexploitation, the introduction of non-native species, pollution and climate change.
  • Fragmentation of open space: As the land is converted, it is fragmented into smaller and more isolated patches of open space. Fragmentation increases edge habitat and the isolation between patches while reducing the number and diversity of natural plant and animal species.
  • Degradation of water resources: Developing wetlands and riparian zones reduces their capacity to control floods, trap sediments, filter out toxins and excess nutrients, and support wildlife and plant species, and it threatens the health of the environment.
  • Decreased resilience of nature: Development has hindered nature’s ability to respond to climatic changes and has reduced population viability for wildlife by reducing genetic diversity and limiting wildlife movement.
  • Other than ecological effects of consumption of open lands and the resulting loss of green space, the social and economic consequences include:

  • Loss of ‘free’ natural services: The loss of natural systems increases the risk of flooding and natural disasters. This, in turn, costs communities billions in mitigation efforts and in disaster relief and recovery.
  • Increased cost of public services: Haphazard development often increases the cost of public services by requiring huge investments in new roads, sewers, schools and other public infrastructure. Many studies show that farming and forestry generate considerably higher revenue than the amount of public services they require. Residential development has the opposite effect.