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Urban agriculture for restoring environment

Published : Saturday, 13 August, 2022 at 12:00 AM  Count : 697
Tanvir Ahmad

Tanvir Ahmad

Tanvir Ahmad

Climate change, together with a decrease in green cover, parks, trees and agricultural activities that absorb greenhouse gases in cities, poses serious threats to urban infrastructure, access to basic services and quality of life, while negatively affecting the urban economy. Urban growth after the industrial revolution, overexploitation of natural resources, destruction of nature sped up the global warming. Cities are a major part of the cause, suffering the most impacts and therefore play a primary role in finding the appropriate solution.

Acute or chronic climate change is threatening access to basic urban services such as water, energy and food for growing populations. Key issues include rising temperatures, increasing/decreasing rainfall, flooding, deterioration of air quality, destruction of wetlands, and urban food insecurity. The urban ecosystems are deteriorating faster than ever before and threatening the health of humans and all other creatures. The foundations of the economic systems, livelihoods, food security, health systems and quality of urban life are declining.

According to current planning and design approaches, urban areas may not adapt to the effects of climate change. It is necessary to develop sustainable strategies and take urgent steps to combat the impact of climate change on cities.

Urban planners are seeking innovative solutions to the social and environmental challenges imposed by an urbanizing world, and scientists are looking to urban ecosystems as providers of vital ecosystems services-such as food, heat-island control and water management- that are able to boost local well-being and reduce the ecological footprints of cities. Urban agriculture has the potential to play a crucial role in reducing the effects of climate change in cities.

Urban agriculture provides many functions and services to the ecological systems of the city such as reducing air pollution, increasing biodiversity, decreasing the Urban Heat Island effect, etc. Besides, urban agriculture has important benefits for protecting natural resources in line with the principle of sustainability and for urban waste management. Urban agriculture is an effective tool in providing sustainable urban land management. It has become a resource for social cohesion and eco-education, a new expression of culture and politics, and land-use fashion worldwide as a recreation activity.

Urban agriculture is not only a sustainable land-use model that contributes to the city's food systems but also an element of the urban ecosystem that provides important contributions and services to ecological systems of the city. The ecological and economic advantages of urban agriculture can help in reducing the negative impacts of climate change. It can provide an alternative for urban food security; particularly for the low-income groups. Urban agriculture contributes to the household budget and provides employment, helping to improve the urban economy.

In a nutshell, urban agriculture has several distinctive features that can successfully restore urban climate. It manages green open spaces and enhancing vegetation cover in the city with important adaptive (and some mitigation) benefits including: Reduced heat island effect by providing shade and enhanced evapo-transpiration (more cooling, less smog); CO2 and dust capture; Reduced impacts related to high rainfall (by storing excess water), increased water interception and infiltration in green open spaces and keeping flood zones free from construction, reduction of rapid storm water runoff and less floods downstream and more replenishment of ground water; Improved water quality through natural cleaning in low lying agricultural areas (e.g. natural or constructed wetlands, aquaculture in maturation ponds, etc.); Prevention of landslides by agro-forestry on steep slopes (and preventing building on such sites); Conservation of biodiversity, protecting a wider base of plant (and animal)genetic diversity.

Urban agriculture also helps cities to become more resilient by reducing the vulnerability of most vulnerable urban groups and strengthening community-based adaptive management through: Diversifying urban food sources, enhancing access of the urban poor to nutritious food, reducing dependency on imported foods and decreasing vulnerability to periods of low food supply from the rural areas during floods, droughts or other disasters; Diversifying income opportunities of the urban poor and functioning as a safety net in times of economic crisis; Being a source of innovation and learning about new strategies/technologies for high land and water efficient food production; Providing resource for recreation and well-being, including green space for personal leisure and spiritual comfort.

Urban agriculture provides an important tool for planners, designers, and related disciplines with its ecological and economic benefits in adapting to climate change for sustainable cities. In this context, the following should be considered for effective urban agriculture against global climate change and for more sustainable cities: Integrating an urban agriculture vision in the urban planning policies; creating laws and regulations for ensuring sustainable urban agriculture practices and systems; determining the processes and tools for the spatial planning of urban agriculture; promotion of land use for urban agriculture; integrating agro forestry systems to the urban agriculture; maintaining and managing agriculture projects as part of the urban and peri-urban green infrastructure; identifying open urban spaces prone to floods and landslides and protecting or developing these as permanent urban agriculture areas; including urban agriculture in social housing and slum upgrading programs etc.

The writer is urban planner, Climate

Change & Public Health Researcher

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