Business India ×
 Climate Change

Environment
Published on: Feb. 4, 2021, 10:48 a.m.
Low maintenance, sustainable green spaces
  • Distributing moisture at the plant root zone reduces water consumption by 40-60 per cent

By Business India Editorial

In 2015, the Green Highway Policy was launched by the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways establishing 1% of all Highway budgets to be used for roadside and median greening.  During the same time states and urban local bodies, under increased pressure from citizens and central government, have similarly enacted plans around greening.
 
As these programs struggled to achieve the desired results, KS Gopal, Director of the Center for Environment Concerns (CEC) and an accomplished development specialist and ecologic expert began studying why our roadways and urban centers fail to regenerate even as more money and effort is spent. Despite use of species that are known for being rugged and drought resistant, there is a 40-60 per cent plant mortality.
 
Applying years of expertise on rural land regeneration to why urban spaces and roads keep browning, CEC is launching a pilot funded by Rainmatter Climate Foundation to create a blueprint for greening road medians and other urban and peri-urban areas. It will demonstrate that use of native species, planting patterns, better water management and community engagement can reduce cost, increase longevity, achieve a number of climate and biodiversity benefits and turn roads and cities into green oases.
 
The pilot will take place in or around Bangalore — sites are still being finalized -  and CEC is already deep in the planning phase and in discussions about the appropriate native species both for this project and for use in other localities.
 
The CEC approach centers on applying and customising knowledge and best practices from rural land management to urban areas.  The project will use biodiverse native species and several plant varieties that are complementary, suitable to the environment, suitable to the road condition and more robust.

By moving away from monoculture and ornamental, invasive species, the CEC model will use species that require less water, fertilizer, pesticide and labor. Native species can also provide homes to birds and beneficial insect species, provide fruits or medicinal plants and have cultural significance.
 
To date, highway greening programs have relied on rain and flood irrigation via tanker as the primary sources of water for roadside and median vegetation. High soil temperatures in the summer, traffic disturbances and imprecise water application lead to considerable runoff, evaporation and excessive water waste while not serving the purpose of keeping plants alive.
 
The second tenet of the project is appropriate land and water management using CEC’s proprietary, global award winning System of Water for Agriculture Rejuvenation (SWAR) System.  
 
SWAR is a subterrain precision irrigation system that distributes moisture at the plant root zone, reducing water consumption by 40-60 per cent as compared to drip irrigation; SWAR distributes moisture evenly at the plant root zone and dramatically reduces the need for tanker water.
 
The objective of the project is both to provide a sustainable green space in Bangalore and create a playbook for replicating the model across geographies. The project will study and measure ecological impact using multiple parameters. If successful, the project outcomes will include more green space, lower water requirements and maintenance cost, reduced pollution, increased beautification and related health benefits.
 
The project is supported in these multiple outcomes by Rainmatter Climate Foundation, a Zerodha sponsored initiative committed to supporting ideas that help preserve and regenerate ecosystems, create a green economy and distributed, sustainable economic development. Rewilding or restoration of forests, adopting more forest and soil friendly methods in farming and urban landscapes is a major part of the Foundation’s focus.
 
The world needs to adopt the idea of “a little more forest everywhere” at scale.


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