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Creating sustainable communities

It’s not too late to reverse the damage we have wreaked on our country’s natural assets and ecosystems

The city where I live sends its garbage to a landfill, which previously used to be located away from the residential area and surrounded by a lush ecosystem. But that changed as the city grew and expanded its boundaries. The trees and nature gave way for the creation of the city’s extension even as several residential homes sprang up in close proximity to the landfill, which, in turn, rendered scores of residents to grapple with foul odour and potential health risks from the landfill.

The solution required relocation of the landfill away from the residential zone, but with new construction taking place everywhere, the solution remained elusive for many years. Then recently, after nearly two decades of hardship and relentless efforts, the residents scored a significant victory when the authorities took a decision to shut the landfill and set up a solid waste management plant at an alternative site as a solution.

However, as soon as the authorities announced the new site, a large number of people protested against the decision due to the proposed site’s close proximity to their settlements. While many protested in rallies or started an online campaign, calling on all residents to raise their opposition, some threatened to take legal action against the authorities.

This is the reality facing us if we do not protect our remaining open spaces and natural capital, which are depleting fast with each passing day, paving the way for commercial ventures, ever-increasing urban populations, their needs, and, if one may add, greed.

We certainly don’t want to turn our cities into concrete jungles, Gurgaon being the prime example of it, where continuous infrastructure advancements consisting of apartment buildings, residential properties, shopping malls, office buildings, roads, highways, flyovers, metros and so on have led to encroachment of open spaces, degradation of green cover and ecosystem, lack of groundwater recharge, pollution, dust storms and the resulting rise in health hazards.

But despite all that, there seems to be no stopping the epidemic of deforestation, which is ravaging across the country, causing rapid depletion of green cover and stripping our cities and towns of much of their original character.

This should ring urgent alarm bells for us because despite the ensuing construction boom, many of our cities and States still have a great green spaces — Kashmir, with over 70 percent green cover is a case in point — but if we go on encroaching our few remaining natural places at the pace we are now, a trend that is apparent in the mushrooming concrete jungles all around, we will get there much sooner.

It’s not too late to reverse the damage we’ve wreaked on our country’s natural assets and ecosystems. The need of the hour is to have a long-term perspective to address the issue. In the short-term, we must collectively withdraw ourselves from our craze to build more and stop converting everything to concrete in the name of economic progress and development activities, and instead invest in green future.

More to the point, we need to transform into a developed country and transform our cities into Smart

Cities with focus towards creating a liveable and sustainable communities by means of preserving our natural ecosystems, protecting forests and stopping deforestation, only then can we ensure that the country’s future development is thoughtfully planned, only then can we contribute to creating a truly sustainable living environment for people and only then can we become a beacon of inspiration for other nations to emulate. The decision is ours to make.

rajeshkrishan77@gmail.com

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Printable version | Apr 6, 2020 7:17:31 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/creating-sustainable-communities/article29309284.ece

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