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Urban Green Spaces: Planning and Designing - Pilot Work in Surat

The Government of India has launched the National Clean Air Programme (NCAP) through the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) in January 2019, as a pan India time bound national level strategy for prevention, control and abatement of air pollution besides augmenting the air quality monitoring network across the country. NCAP aims at reducing pollution levels in 122 non-attainment cities by 20-30% by 2024. Under the Indo German Development Cooperation, a Study and Expert Funds (SEF) project on “Support to the National Clean Air Programme” was implemented by GIZ until October 2020. The main objective of the SEF project was to strengthen the “prerequisites for the strategic and operational implementation of India’s National Clean Air Programme to effectively combat air pollution in selected city. Under the SEF project, the city of Surat in Gujarat has been selected for implementation of identified activities. It is one of the most dynamic cities in India with large-scale immigration from various parts of Gujarat and other states of India

Trees are known to have potential to mitigate air pollution primarily by absorbing pollutants via leaf stomata (pores on the outer “skin” layers of the leaf). Tree plantation is, thus, considered as one of the efficient and effective options for preventing air pollution hazards and as well as for enhancing the environmental quality. GIZ, jointly with the Surat Municipal Corporation identified the landscaping project as one of the measures to reduce Air pollution in the City of Surat. One of the activities under the GIZ SEF project was to undertake plantation and landscaping in identified area(s) in the city of Surat on a pilot basis. The activity commenced with identification of pollution hotspots and subsequently providing plantation solutions for air pollution reduction in the identified hotspots. The hotspots identified in Surat under this project were Canal Road and the Pandesara Industrial Estate. GIZ’s consultants reviewed the existing plantation work in the area and provided additional plantation solutions. As a part of the process, a landscaping plan was developed, and designs prepared for both the sites.

The solutions proposed for the two identified hotspots were:

  • Canal Road: It was proposed to introduce a vegetation strip considering the existing situation of the road. Vegetation strips along the roads in a city potentially clean the air originating from the linear source as well as point sources of air pollution. Research shows that the efficacy of the vegetation filter strips depends upon the stratification of the plant community, type of species, the architecture of the canopy, leaf size, its morphology, and surface area.
  • Triangular area along the creek in Pandesara Industrial Estate: It was proposed to convert the space into a garden. One of the efficient and effective options for preventing air pollution hazards as well as for enhancing the environmental quality, including enrichment of human microbiome that reduces health risks and public health burden is the development of native parks.

For the plantation and landscaping solutions, a detailed ‘Plant Catalogue and Plant Palette’ of the native trees was prepared by the team of GIZ’s consultants. All the plants featured in the catalogue are categorized into three distinct local habitats based on the eco-system of the Surat region, and geographical and climatic conditions. The ‘Plant Catalogue and Plant Palette’ provides information related to native trees in an illustrative format and will be helpful in undertaking plantation work in Surat.

The Surat Municipal Corporation (SMC) took up greening of the city as one of the options for mitigating air pollution hazards, as well as for enhancing environmental and aesthetic quality. SMC commenced the first phase of implementation of the landscaping plan by planting saplings on the Canal Road stretch in August 2020 during the monsoon season together with their Garden Department. SMC has adopted a two-fold approach – plantation and robust monitoring, as a lot of saplings die soon after the plantation due to lack of proper care. The Garden Superintendent of the Surat Municipal Corporation referred to the report on “Preparation of plantation design for the Canal Road Site” prepared by GIZ’s consultants for implementing some of the design strategies and for selection of native trees for plantation at the Canal Road site.

The plantation alongside the Canal Road, was a part of the campaign to increase green cover in Surat. In the week between 6th September 2020 to 17th September 2020, approx. 70,000 saplings were added to the existing tree cover in the city as a part of the campaign started by the Deputy Mayor Mr. Nirav Shah. (Read more here). According to the Gardens Department of the Surat Municipal Corporation, a total of 2,67,237 trees have been planted along the roadside and road dividers till date in Surat city. (Source: Gardens - Surat Municipal Corporation).

The plantation activities for the second hotspot are currently under discussion. It has been proposed to convert the second hotspot - a triangular piece of land along the creek in Pandesara Industrial Estate into a garden. Layout, designing, and plantation is expected to commence at this site soon. Apart from needs assessment and provision of landscaping solutions, GIZ along with the consultants appointed, Sanal Aparna Associates, conducted online trainings for the staff of the implementation agencies and stakeholders. The training was aimed at enabling staff to use the plans and designs for implementation and to maintain the plantation in future. Initially planned as a physical training in Surat, the training session eventually took place on an online format on 30th October 2020, owing to the pandemic situation. The online session was attended by key officials from the Surat Municipal Corporation, GIZ and other stakeholder organisations.

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