Ecoistic: How green was our valley!

We have destroyed lakes, catchment areas and dying lake water has been contaminated with sewage and affluence.

Miles of green cover fetched Bengaluru its famous sobriquet, Garden City of India, before which it was celebrated as the land of lakes. The city's undulating landscape and overall topography made it conducive to this extensive vegetation - Bengaluru lies in a transition zone where several types of climate merge. We experience tropical summers and pleasant, cool winters. This has, in turn, helped species from all over the world to flourish.

Lal Bagh
The Green cover that Bengaluru once had earned the city's its loved sobriquet: The Garden City of India. Before that, it was celebrated as the land of lakes. It is all because of the city's undulating landscape and the overall topography which gave more scope of having the green cover. Bengaluru lies in a transition zone meaning that there are different types of climate merged; tropical climate we find during summers and after that we find pleasant and cool winters. The climate has in turn helped species even from the outside to flourish. In Lal Bagh, for instance, we see a variety of flora brought in from different countries, in indication that the soil, climate and moisture levels in the city suit a wide range of plant life. That's why we see crotons, jacarandas and mayflowers alongside neem and mahagony trees.

All this will soon be the stuff of memory. A good 35 percent of species under the urban forestry programme is dying. This is because the moisture level in the soil has dropped drastically over the years. Very few forms of life have been able to establish themselves since.

We have destroyed lakes, catchment areas and dying lake water has been contaminated with sewage and affluence. This is why the soil is unable to sustain tree saplings or even plants. Some patches are extremely high on nutrients, while other parts suffer a serious dearth. Haphazard planning in the name of development, where land is simply earmarked without consideration for residential layouts and IT parks, is the reason for this massive loss of green cover. The lack of planning and the continued abuse of natural surroundings has resulted in today's sad state of affairs. Ideally, we need one tree for every dozen people. In Bengaluru, however, a mere 14% of the total area comprises its green cover.

With the rate at which the city is growing, we need to make the green cover upto 50% of the total area. Without this, sustaining our kind of urban growth is impossible. We have a population of 1.2 crore without a perennial water source, thanks to our lakes having been destroyed. Another area of concern is the sort of flora we choose to plant. 75% of the species we plant should be local or indigenous, a simple rule that we have proved ourselves incapable of following. Restoring green cover needs to be done in a sustained manner, with a focus on biological diversity. Urban biodiversity is an important aspect, for it encourages the natural process of pollination, without which the ecosystem would collapse.
Akshay Heblikar is Bengaluru environmentalist and director of Eco Watch.

( Source : Deccan Chronicle. )
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