The footprint of climate change can already be seen in every corner of the planet. Erratic weather patterns, melting glaciers and rising sea levels due to climate change are reshaping societies across the globe. But in the case of India, these vulnerabilities come with another unique set of challenges. Home to nearly twenty per cent of the world’s population, the country is amongst the most vulnerable nations to climate change. The latest UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report has painted a bleak picture for India, warning that the South Asian country could face multiple climate change-induced disasters in the next two decades.
While cities worldwide are facing challenges related to climate risks, the difficulty surges further when these challenges interact with other issues such as urbanisation, loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services, poverty, and rising socio-economic inequality. Over time, urban resilience challenges are expected to grow even more, driven by processes such as urbanization, land use change and so on. Whilst climate change is expected to increase the frequency and intensity of some natural hazards, urbanization can also lead to higher exposure of people and assets in cities.
The impact of climate change is not only limited to human lives, livelihoods and human well-being. Ecosystems are rapidly changing in response to climate change and other global change drivers, which includes not only temperature changes but also associated changes in precipitation, atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration, water balance, ocean chemistry, and the frequency and magnitude of extreme events. Ecosystems vary in their sensitivity and response to climate change because of complex interactions among organisms, disturbance and other stressors. Thus, in addition to the threat posed by gradually increasing temperatures, biodiversity also faces risks from increases in the intensity and frequency of extreme weather events. Thus, both climate change and biodiversity loss are already causing severe impacts for people.
Nature based solutions or NbS is a tool which has the potential to tackle the issue of climate change and mitigate hazards and amplifying effects of urban areas on those hazards. It addresses the societal challenges through delivery of ‘ecosystem services.’ This concept constitutes an approach where nature is seen as a source of solutions. Rather than being framed as a victim of climate change, biodiversity is a key ally in dealing with climate change as per the idea.
NbS have a multi-functional role, which provides them great potential to address social, environmental and economic dimensions of global challenges. This is the most important characteristic of NbS as compared to the so-called hard or grey infrastructure. The benefits are often interrelated. For instance, NbS can improve air quality (environmental benefit), which allows a decline in diseases related to air pollution (health benefit), which allows savings in healthcare (economic benefit). NbS also provide local benefits for disaster risk reduction and increasing resilience. Healthy ecosystems are important for hazard prevention and post-disaster recovery. They provide local benefits for climate change adaptation and regional-global benefits for climate change mitigation.
Following is a list of urban nature-based solutions which can be considered to tackle issues related to climate change in the urban areas as per the geographic location, availability of resources and other related factors.
Urban forests can be defined as networks or systems comprising all woodlands, group of trees, and individual trees located in urban and peri-urban areas; they include forests, street trees, trees in parks and gardens, and trees in derelict corners.
Terraces and Slopes
Civilizations across the globe have been building landscape terraces to stabilize slopes for centuries and protect urbanized areas with steep slopes and loose soils, often exposed to a variety of hazards.
River and Stream Renaturation
Several nature-based solutions have been developed to restore the natural dynamics of the watercourses. Renaturation— stream daylighting, reestablishment of riparian corridors, removal of concrete embankments, and river or stream bed and bank revegetation—is gaining momentum.
Building solutions include adding green surfaces to building roofs and facades, creating opportunities to capture, store, and reuse stormwater, improve air quality, which eventually lead to temperature reduction. Open Green Spaces Parks, unpaved, and biologically active green areas of every size can help cities adapt to climate change by cooling and enhancing the quality of air, providing shade, and offsetting the urban heat island effect.
Green corridors are an essential part of the urban landscape ecology as these strips of trees, plants, or vegetation can be found at a range of scales, and typically connect green spaces in a city, creating a green urban infrastructure network.
Urban farming is a way for people to grow crops for personal consumption or to sell locally and beyond. The most important incentive for urban farming is to increase food security for urban livelihoods.
Bioretention is a nature-based solution used to supplement traditional grey stormwater and sewerage infrastructure.
Natural Inland Wetlands
Natural inland wetlands are highly biodiverse and productive ecosystems that form an interface of land and water, and deliver valuable ecosystem services.
Constructed Inland Wetlands
Constructed inland Wetlands are engineered systems that have been designed and constructed to utilize the natural processes involving wetland vegetation, soils and their associated microbial assemblages to assist in treating wastewater and to provide other supplementary functions.
As development continued, the incidence of flooding increased in urban areas leading to growing concerns around flood risk management. With better understanding of the effects of climate change, communities require more sustainable and multifunctional solutions.
Mangroves, also known as the blue forest, are a unique coastal ecosystem of salt tolerant trees and shrubs that live in the coastal intertidal zone. They thrive in highly dynamic areas such as deltas and coastal environments.
Salt marshes are transitional coastal wetland ecosystems with high level of biodiversity. Tidal marshes occur along low wave energy coastlines as a result of fine sediment accumulation and colonization by halophytic or salt tolerant plants.
Sandy shores represents the interphase between ocean and land. They act as a first line of defence for many coastal cities globally from wave, storm and wind impact.
Read more articles:
- Planning for a better “Blue, Green & Brown” components of Environment
- Revisiting the need of “Planning for Environment” in India
- Environmental protection
- Environmental degradation
- Environmental sustainability and climate change
Nature-based solutions have a vital role to play in mitigating climate change, while simultaneously strengthening both ecosystems and communities’ resilience to climate change, promoting biodiversity conservation and reducing the risk of climate change feedbacks and impacts.
While they address specific demands or challenges, at the same time they seek to maximise other environmental, social and economic co-benefits. They can represent an effective, improving human health and well-being and the natural environment. They can improve resilience to natural disasters and offer cost-effective options for adapting to climate change. Inspiration and support from nature can stimulate scientific innovations and strengthen the economy while providing environmental benefits.
About the Author
Nancy Grover: Nancy is a graduate in Planning from SPA Delhi. She is an ambitious individual aiming to be more efficient and innovative by learning every new form of knowledge that comes by. She is sensitive to ethics and endorses team work.
This article was published in the Planning Times Magazine Issue- 03, October 2022.