Professor Harini Nagendra and Senior Lecturer Seema Mundoli from the Azim Premji University in Bengaluru aren't your ordinary teachers, their research work is analyzing the relationship between city-dwellers and nature. Uncovering the truth behind how government-focused development is taking a toll on the green cover in various places in India, their work has now been published in a book titled Cities and Canopies, published by Penguin Random House.
People think that nature belongs in faraway forests
"We want people to understand the science behind trees while reminding them about the nostalgia, culture, and livelihoods associated with it. This will help them take conservation more seriously," said Nagendra. Their study revealed that areas in Bengaluru that have extensive tree cover have temperatures of 23-24°C, while areas that do not are 3 to 5 degrees warmer. Also, asphalted and concrete road surfaces have a high tendency to trap heat which usually is released at night and this can add to the problem if there are no trees in that area. "The disconnect between people and nature in cities is partly due to the mistaken belief that there is no place for nature in the city, and that the latter is something found in faraway forests or mountains,' said TR Shankar Raman, a scientist at the Nature Conservation Foundation. Therefore, these two professors strongly believe in appreciating and conserving the trees that already exist around us.
A radical idea would be to offer a form of citizenship to trees
Today, more people are seeing trees as less utilitarian are before and therefore felling them does not hit them hard. Did you know that in 2018, the forest department approved the clearing of 16,500 trees for the redevelopment of central government accommodations in the South Delhi area? Whereas in 2017, the government again signed a proposal to cut over 800 trees for a 6.7 km flyover in Bengaluru. Another problem is that there simply isn't enough awareness of the negative effects of these development projects. "Trees and urban biodiversity need to be integrated as vital components of cities in state policy and urban master plans… A more radical idea would be to offer a form of citizenship to trees: As urban citizens, local communities could act as guardians so that removal of trees without their consent can then be disallowed," said Raman.
Environmentalists usually work in remote areas and forests, however, the need of the hour is that they focus on urban areas where there seems to be a growing concrete and diminishing green cover.
Image credit: The Life Of Science