Around 250 Academicians, Practitioners and Policy Makers from 25 countries covering six continents will assemble and speak at the Third International Conference of the URBIO network on ‘Urban Biodiversity and Climate Change: Adaptation and Mitigation’. Prof. Haripriya Gundimeda from the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences is the organizing chair of this conference. The recommendations of this conference called “Mumbai declaration” will feed directly into the deliberations of the convention on biodiversity – Conference of Parties 11 in partnership with the second city biodiversity summit (Cities for Life). The Executive Secretary Mr. Braulio F. de Souza Dias of the Convention on Biodiversity (CBD), Ministry of Environment and Forests and Prof. Devang Khakhar, Director of Indian Institute of Technology Bombay are the patrons of this conference. More details about the conference can be found at www.hss.iitb.ac.in/urbio2012.
Why focus on urban biodiversity?
Globally cities occupy only 2% of the world’s land surface but are responsible for 75% of the world’s natural resources consumed. The large ‘ecological footprint’ of the cities if not curbed, can lead to systematic elimination of biodiversity, thereby impinging on the quality of life of urban inhabitants.
Cities often viewed as concrete jungles can support both biodiversity and people and retain high potential for sustaining these connections. Though not often recognized for this aspect, they have a key role to play for biodiversity conservation, restoration and community education. A global study showed that of the world’s total known species, at least 20% of birds and 5% of vascular plants occur in cities and also tend to be very unique. Cities however are experiencing rapid growth with increased stress on natural resources.
The future policy makers and public would face a grave challenge of ensuring better quality of life for urban inhabitants while conserving the ecosystems and biodiversity. In other words, they face a hard challenge of “ensuring sustainable development while sustaining life in our cities”
If cities can succeed in promoting growth without compromising the quality of environment and
their socio-cultural environment, they are deemed sustainable and are exemplary.Understanding the “threats and challenges” to urban biodiversity conservation; and climate change adaptation and mitigation as a means to conserve biodiversity is the main themes of of the conference.
The conference begins on 8 October, with a plenary session on “the role of Corporates in Biodiversity Conservation” . A book launch on CORP2020 authored by Pavan Sukdeve on “how future corporations can deliver a sustainable green economy” has also been planned The program features 8 invited talks, 21 parallel sessions and five special sessions. Some keynote speakers at this event include Prof. Kirit Parikh, Former Member Planning Commission; Dr. Indrani Chandrasekharan, Advisor (Planning Commission); Mr. Pavan Sukhdev, UN Goodwill Ambassador and study leader TEEB; Prof. Glenn Stewart from Lincoln University, New Zealand; Prof. Mark Hostetler, University of Florida; Prof. Thomas Elmqvist. Stockholm resilience Centre, Sweden; P K Das an Architect from P K Das Associates and Shri Parveen Pardeshi, Forest Secretary of Government of Maharashtra.
The conference addresses the vulnerability of urban biodiversity to various economic factors, climate change and natural factors along with their impacts on human well-being and ecology. The conference also seeks to explore how the local bodies or local governments can manage their urban ecosystems so as to mitigate climate change. The third theme explores the link between urbanization, biodiversity and ecosystem services and the necessary support services that urban areas get from the rural areas.
We need indicators and tools to measure urban sustainability. The conference discusses some of the tools among others like URBIO green space evaluation tool for sustainable design, tools using GIS framework, Social and environmental green evaluation systems etc., that have been successful in other countries.
How can green infrastructure and design offer possibilities for biodiversity conservation and to combat and adapt to climate change? A case of ecological network design in Japan, the design and construction of greenways in Shenzhen, multi-functional urban ecological corridors, guidelines for urban design and implementation for Singapore are some of the examples that illustrate how this can be possible.
Some of the other interesting cases to be deliberated at the conference are:
How to design open and semi-natural space in urban area for urban biodiversity conservation and ecological education while preserving the housing area?
How to convert riparian lands into recreation areas, which can be used in keeping, protecting and reinforcing valuable biodiversity components of park’s ecosystems?
How to address the problem of quality water supply and other ecosystem services through biodiversity conservation in upstream areas?
How ecologic, economic and socio-cultural dimension of sustainability be addressed through modeling and 3D-visualisation by using the case study of the Urban River Landscape?
How zero-acreage farming can be achieved through rooftop greenhouses, edible walls,vertical green houses etc?
The conference also delves on the role of various innovative financial mechanism in biodiversity conservation and climate change mitigation and adaptation.
The conference has received support from Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation (MoSPI), Ministry of Environment and Forests of Government of India, National Biodiversity Authority, National Bank for Rural Development (NABARD), United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), IndusInd Bank, South Asian Network for Development of Environment Economics (SANDEE). The supporting institutions of this conference are the GIST advisory, TEEB, INSEE, CAT and Sanctuary.