by Jincy IypeSep 30, 2019
On the occasion of World Environment Day on June 5, alongside this year's theme of 'Ecosystem Restoration’, the United Nations will kick off its ‘Decade on Ecosystem Restoration’ program. Described by the UN as a "rallying call" for the protection and rejuvenation of degrading ecosystems across the world, the initiative will run from 2021 to 2030 - a duration that corresponds with the 2030 Agenda put forth by the UN's 17 Sustainable Development Goals. The campaign aims to establish a robust, broad-ranging global movement to accelerate environmental restoration and conservation activities through numerous on-ground programs augmented by the building up of political momentum.
Regarding the former arm of the initiative, in recent years, there has been a profusion of groundbreaking, progressive proposals spanning the realms of urban and landscape design reforestation, habitat reconstruction, and conservation. These proposals have come in all shapes, scopes, and scales. Some have already borne fruit after running their course, while others might still be in the early infancy of planning and analysis. To commemorate the start of a crucial 10 years in our shared history, here are a few recent ecological restoration and rehabilitation projects that exemplify the action needed to ensure a safe, sustainable future for the human race:
1. Rao Jodha Desert Rock Park Restoration
The presently thriving landscape of the Rao Jodha Desert Rock Park near Jodhpur, India, is the product of a collaborative endeavour spearheaded by filmmaker and environmentalist, Pradip Krishen - the park's Founding Director. The previously barren desert wasteland near Mehrangarh Fort, which had been infiltrated and occupied by an invasive exotic tree species, was gradually nursed and transformed into a diverse ecosystem. Now teeming with multitudinous varieties of plant life, its startling metamorphosis was achieved through ingenious stratagems such as the creation of microhabitats for plants in need of specialised soil conditions, alongside replanting measures that utilised mycorrhizal relationships to aid vegetative growth in unfavourable desert environments.
Reflecting on the end of the program last year, Krishen states, ”In 15 years, using no toxic chemicals or fertilisers, we have coaxed back a desert ecosystem as diverse and throbbing with life as any we have seen. It is an affirmation of what’s possible. I know that what we have achieved in Rao Jodha Desert Rock Park is no more than a tiny drop in the ocean. Not enough to count. But maybe there is a message here for those who want to see it. We have shown it is possible to ‘rewild’ and regenerate degraded desert land sustainably, breathing life and vitality into dead soils. It offers a template and a ray of hope. Individually, we may be mere drops in an ocean of despair. But together, even in our different ways, we are pointing a way forward. It’s just a matter of learning to see it.”
2. Great Green Wall
On a larger scale, the Great Green Wall is a Pan-African initiative to manage and restore land within the Sahel-Saharan region. Now into its second decade, the program currently aims to reforest 100 million hectares, over an 8,000 km stretch of land, while creating 10 million jobs as part of its 2030 vision. Currently 15 per cent underway, the initiative states that upon completion the belt will form the largest living structure on the planet. As a consequence of its unique African ownership, the Great Green Wall has become a flagship program in its regional context, participating in numerous local restoration and conservation initiatives.
3. 3D Printed Coral Reefs
This coral rehabilitation initiative commissioned by the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) of Hong Kong was developed and implemented by researchers at Hong Kong University's Robotic Fabrication Lab, under the Fabrication and Material Technologies Lab of the Faculty of Architecture, in tandem with marine scientists from the university's Swire Institute of Marine Science (SWIMS). As part of this program, the researchers devised a system of 128 patterned, 3-D printed terracotta tiles, covering a 40 sq m area as a substitute for the gradually decaying reefs of Hong Kong's Marine Park biodiversity hotspot. The tiles, embedded with coral fragments, were installed in July last year to be monitored over the following 18 months.
4. Bosque Metropolitano
In Madrid, the Spanish capital, a 75km long belt of urban forest has been planned by local authorities, to revive the lost woodlands that once encircled the city's periphery in centuries past. Dubbed the 'Bosque Metropolitano', the project was split into five lots, which entertained proposals as part of a multidisciplinary design competition whose results were declared late last year. The winning proposals - Quiet Time, Butterfly Effect, A Flor de Yeso, Manantial Sur, Regenerated Infrastructure, and From Manzanares to Guadarrama, intend to make Madrid's future development an international benchmark for cities to 'grow green', with the project already in its opening stages of implementation.
5. Montreal Biodiversity Corridor
Among the abundance of upcoming projects, the borough of Saint Laurent in Montreal, Canada, unveiled a 20-year plan for a biodiversity corridor last year, after the conclusion of a landscape architecture and urban design competition won by an international team of four firms: civiliti, LAND Italia, Table Architecture, and Biodiversité Conseil. According to the proposal, the Montreal Biodiversity Corridor hopes to create unique spaces for residents to discover and experience nature within a thriving metropolis, while providing habitats for local flora and fauna on a 42.8 sq km patch of land. Once thriving with green cover but presently blanketed by swathes of asphalt and concrete, the borough is also a major channel for the city's power lines. At present, the project is in its planning and analysis stages.
During the ensuing decade, the human race as a collective must take decisive action to combat the most significant threat to our survival yet - the devastating effects of climate change. To this end, projects and initiatives such as those mentioned above might provide a feasible, sustainable blueprint for nations to move forward. With sea levels rising, ice caps depleting, mass species extinctions, and decreasing air quality, the time we have left to salvage what remains is perilously ticking away. However, the onus to bring about real change in our attitudes towards nature, still rests firmly on all our shoulders.