Delhi

Concretisation, the silent killer

The guidelines issued by the Ministry of Urban Development have failed to guide civic agencies to cover issues relating to water harvesting and protection of green cover.— Photo: Special Arrangement

The guidelines issued by the Ministry of Urban Development have failed to guide civic agencies to cover issues relating to water harvesting and protection of green cover.— Photo: Special Arrangement

Braving the scorching heat, where nights are no longer cooler than the day, and breathing in toxic air which is easily blamed on vehicular pollution, Delhi and its neighbours welcome monsoons only to grumble about water-logging, trees toppling on cars, overflowing storm water drains and life coming to a standstill.

Amidst all this, columns of newsprints are covered with news about vehicular emissions leading to air pollution and rise in temperature. However, what is rarely spoken about is another silent killer — a by-product of urbanisation that is steadily engulfing Delhi and NCR.

What environmental activists and experts call “concretisation” is suffocating trees and greens and turning the city into an urban heat island with extremely low ground water and threats of floods looming large in monsoons due to surface run-off.

Not only lackadaisical approach of civic agencies, poor public participation in maintenance of greens is reflected in the presence of concretised ramps outside every other house.

Not much is spoken about how when concretised, the carbon stored in the soil escapes into the atmosphere, which then gets oxidised to form carbon dioxide, a major greenhouse gas leading to temperature escalation. This carbon sequestration potential is also emphasised by the Ecological Society of America and has been analysed by American environment researcher and writer Judith D. Schwartz. The concrete surface, be it buildings or roads or footpaths radiate heat waves in the evening, making nights as hot as days and decreasing the difference between the maximum and the minimum temperatures, resulting in urban heat island effect. The guidelines issued by the Ministry of Urban Development to Chief Secretaries of all States and all Union Territories calling for greening of urban areas and landscaping have failed to guide various civic agencies and town developers to cover issues relating to water harvesting, prevention of flooding, conservation of water bodies, protection of green cover while ensuring people-centric approach in the process. The opening point in the guidelines expressly speaks about avoiding use of excessive tiling of pavements and use of porous material wherever required. Unfortunately, these guidelines are only recommendatory, informs Professor Rommel Mehta of the School of Planning and Architecture.

It states that unnecessary and excessive tiling of roadside pavement should be avoided and areas around trees lining the roads should not be covered with tiling. Whenever tiling is done, porous tiles should be used. Roots of trees should be protected, top soil preserved while taking up civic works and indiscriminate tiling of road dividers and footpaths avoided, it says. Tiling should be done only on pavements with heavy pedestrian traffic and preference is to be given to porous tiles as porous materials allow seepage of groundwater.

The guidelines also recommend encouraging growth of grass and proper care of water fronts.


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Printable version | Jun 10, 2022 9:58:28 am | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Delhi/concretisation-the-silent-killer/article7595075.ece