Friday, 22 January 2016

Plant Scientists and Smart Cities

Deepika Sharma
BSc(H) Botany, III year
Gargi College, Delhi University

Last year Indian government launched Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT) and Smart Cities Mission. 
“Through AMRUT, the aim of the Government is to give cities themselves the chance to plan their future growth. Under these schemes we can go ahead and we can do it together (Centre and state). India is rapidly urbanising,” PM Modi said at the launch of this scheme.
Government has not given, one single definition to smart cities. The basic principle behind the smart city is the self reliance, sustainable development and optimum utilisation of available resources. Urban centres have skill, job opportunities, and development. But if we look back then one would realize that this development is at the cost of the health of the urban space. Unhealthy population is not a good sign of any region.
But where do plants and plant scientists fit in this whole idea? 
The biggest stress to urban ecosystem is the pollution. Plants create enough space for oxygen in this cocktail of pollutants. But this is not it. Smart cities for healthy and sustainable environment doesn’t mean planting any plant and thinking that’s enough is wrong. Plants can’t be substituted or ignored while building any city. This certainly doesn’t mean that we have the liberty to promote any plant anywhere. The plants that are native to a particular region will be in better synchrony to that environment but if this plant is introduced to its non native place then it can turn invasive. Eg: Prosopis juliflora in Delhi. P. juliflora has clutched the entire ridge area that has prevented other native plants to prosper in this region. We need expertise of plant scientist who can guide which plant is better for a particular region and also maintain a regular statistics across the city. Plants also give aesthetic appeal to the city.

Plant scientists can also help in assisting government to promote agriculture in the urban space. Food  security is something which is one significant threats to our economy. Hence, it becomes important to keep a chunk of land for agriculture in the cities as well and not solely rely on the farm produce of the villages. This will open newer job opportunities and also increase the productivity.

Next step is the upkeep of plants. Sowing plants is not enough. The timely maintenance and check is a significant part. It is necessary that roadside plants be pruned regularly so that the branches do not hinder commuters or pedestrians in any ways. Also it is equally important that trees be also checked by arborist. Falling trees can be dangerous too and are potential to cause accidents.
This is very important for the urban ecology. It will be unrealistic to compare with that of the countryside. Conditions differ in the two. But yes, government needs to work out and architect to make it better for the living. Plant scientists have the major role to play to input their skills in this way.

Smart city is a planned city which can make best out of its available resources. It represents healthy and skilled society which is in equilibrium with its environment.

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