The downside to having urban green deserts

The downside to having urban green deserts

The downside to having urban green deserts

In today’s times, when corporate campuses, new townships, posh hotels and even municipal gardens are all in a race to make their campuses greener by planting more trees, is anyone looking into that what is being planted? The answer is no, because these landscape  gardens are being designed by so-called landscape designers.

Campus management agencies, gardening contractors and nursery owners who have little knowledge or care little about origin, nativity and environmental impact of these plants which are being planted on a large scale.

Often, in order to add to the brand and project value, developers hire landscaping architects from abroad who have little or no knowledge of the flora of our country
because it is so rich in its floral biodiversity. If you look at gardens designs using
native plants, you will consistently find the same plants being used across the country, even though India has 10 biogeographic zones and flora diversity varies across these biogeographic zones.

Landscape gardens are designed just to make them look green and aesthetically pleasing. However, when one looks closely, these are mostly non-native plants having low native biodiversity index and play no ecological role. These landscaping gardens and plants are energy and water guzzlers. Sustainability, ecology, conservation, native biodiversity are aspects which are never taken into consideration.

Also, as these landscaped gardens have large expanse of lawns, non-native hedges, edges and tree cover, and these are always kept manicured, they require a very high level of maintenance. They are resource-and manpower-intensive. A lot of the non-native plants like Dieffenbachia and Duranta are poisonous, but are widely used in landscaping and as indoor potted plants.

Ecological issues

In India, if you visit any of the these landscaped gardens, you will come across
fewer butterflies and birds. The proliferation of non-native plant species is a form of eco-terrorism as it results in destroying our habitats, causing economic loss to the country’s exchequer and wide-scale habitat destruction.

Myriad challenges

The creation of these urban green deserts have wreaked environmental havoc like increasing the spread of non-native plants in the country, thereby causing financial losses to farmers, degradation of forests, loss of soil fertility, reducing underwater
tables and habitat destruction for flora and fauna.

The lack of plant exports certification standards and biosecurity mechanisms in place have resulted in plants from across the world being imported in bulk. That apart, there is also lack of national guidelines with regard to the use of native plants for landscaping at a national level.

The way we have a well-defined guidelines with respect to rain water harvesting, fire control etc there needs to be a sound framework with regard to landscaping.

(The author is with Nature India Eco Consultancy)

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