Question – What is meant by Nagar Van (Urban Forest)? Throw light on the steps taken by the government for the urban forest scheme to develop 200 ‘Nagar Vans’ across the country in the next five years. – 14 October 2021
Answer – An urban forest covers trees and shrubs in an urban area, including trees in yards, along roads and utility corridors, in protected areas and in watersheds. This includes individual trees, street trees, green spaces with trees, and even associated vegetation and the soil under the trees.
In many areas, urban forests are the most widespread, functional and visible form of green infrastructure in cities. Green infrastructure is the natural and semi-natural infrastructure within a city that provides ecosystem services such as storm water management or air pollution alleviation.
Due to non-sustainable urbanization, heat waves, the urban heat island effect and threats from climate change, metropolitan cities around the world are creating urban forests. Seoul, Singapore and Bangkok have created green corridors that provide space for nature and wildlife as well as improve the living standards of the city’s residents.
Benefits of Urban Forests:
- Natural Capital and Green Infrastructure: Urban forests are the basis of green infrastructure, linking rural and urban areas and increasing the environmental footprint of the city.
- Low Temperature: Urban forests have attracted attention for global city planning efforts because of their ability to provide shade and reduce the temperature of their surroundings through transpiration.
- Trees can reduce urban temperatures by 2-8 °C. When trees are planted near buildings, they can reduce air conditioning use by up to 30% and, according to the United Nations Urban Forestry, a further 20-50% reduction in thermal energy use.
- Improve ecosystem services and climate resilience: Urban forests provide important ecosystem services, such as modifying air and water, which are essential for healthy human communities in cities where air pollution and water management can pose public health risks.
- They help in groundwater recharge, flood control resistance, wildlife habitat, etc. Simultaneously reduce levels of ozone, sulfur dioxide and particulate matter; Absorbs large amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and releases oxygen. They can play an important role in the storage of carbon. A giant tree can absorb 150 kg of carbon dioxide in a year.
- Economic value: In addition to the economic value of the services provided by trees, green infrastructure through urban forests also has an impact on property values. When the New York City Parks Department measured the economic impact of its trees, the profit jumped to $120 million a year.
- Natural recreation, health and wellness: Research has found that proximity to green spaces with trees may be linked to better physical health, healthier lifestyles and even psychological well-being. Urban forests also play an important role in establishing the relationship between nature and people.
Initiatives taken by the Government:
- A film was also screened on the occasion of Environment Day in the year 2020, in which it was shown that through the initiative of the residents of Pune, the Forest Department and the local body together have transformed the Warje urban forest area spread over 16.8 hectares of barren hill area into lush green forests.
- Recently, a 0.6-acre barren land in Malad, Mumbai has been converted into a mini-urban bun with trees between seven and nine feet in height using the ‘Miyawaki Plantation’ technique popular in urban forestry.
- Delhi’s Aravalli and Yamuna Biodiversity Parks have also successfully created the natural habitat and ecosystem of these areas in the city.
- Similarly, Gurgaon’s Aravalli Biodiversity Park has been created by a unique partnership between the municipal corporation, civil society, corporations and residents as a haven for native species in degraded and mined landscapes.
Over time, increasing population, deforestation, urbanization, and industrialization have put enormous pressure on natural resources, leading to a continuous loss of biodiversity. With this increasing urbanization, there is a need to conserve and protect biodiversity even in urban areas.