Maharashtra, India’s fastest urbanising state, has decided to harness nature or the green potential of its cities and towns in a big way. In a bid to make urban neighbourhoods more livable and sustainable, the state government has decided to infuse capital for a “comprehensive and sensible greening” of neighbourhoods across the state.
The aim is to turn public areas into vegetable gardens, tree farms and nature parks, and significantly improve the vegetation cover in urban land area over the next three years. According to Manisha Mhaiskar, Principal Secretary, Urban Development, Maharashtra, the greening initiative would be funded under the Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT). “All mission cities and towns will have to build one such greenway or park every year. The performance of a mission city and the funding would soon be linked to this green initiative,” she said.
Mumbai, Pune, Nagpur and Navi Mumbai figure among the 43 mission cities, which together account for 76 per cent of the state’s urban population.
While Mhaiskar said that the initiative will help beautify cities while improving their quality of life at the same time, green advocates welcomed the move saying it represented a shift in the government’s thinking on how to rejuvenate urban belts. The initiative, if designed and implemented correctly, would improve air quality, encourage biodiversity, while meeting the need for green spaces, said a green activist.
Mhaiskar said that the state had built-in checks to ensure there was sensible greening of public areas. “We will empanel horticulturists to work with the mission cities over the initiative. The green way or the park will have to be built with earth. Use of cement concrete blocks or paver blocks as beautification tools will be discouraged,” she said. The greening initiative would also involve designing of independent green spaces for recreation of senior citizens and young children. “We hear a constant complaint that there aren’t enough public spaces that cater to senior citizens and children. So we have decided that the green spaces developed under a mission would have areas marked for recreational activities of senior citizens and young children,” said Mhaiskar.
Enhancement of the amenity value of cities and towns is a thrust area under the ATAL mission, which is a flagship scheme of the Narendra Modi government. For projects taken up under the mission, the Centre contributes up to 50 per cent funds, state contributes 25 per cent, whereas the city council or the municipal corporation funds the remaining 25 per cent.
A total funding assistance of upto Rs 1 crore would be extended for each greenway or park developed under the initiative, informed Mhaiskar. The state government has already approved plans for creating a corpus to provide soft loans to mission cities for their share of expenditure, which has also been tied to the release of Fourteenth Finance Commission grants to be devolved to local bodies. The state has also taken up projects for rejuvenation of incomplete water supply and sanitation projects, totalling Rs 8,000 crore, for mission cities.