Urban Ecology & Sustainability
Ecology usually focuses on pristine environments, where interactions between non-human entities and flows are studied. However, as urbanization proceeds at a rapid pace the world over, and more land and resources are being directed towards urban centres, the field of ecology has increasingly acknowledged the interactions between living organisms and their surroundings in the urban context. This transforms the way conservation and restoration are conceptualized-one needs to consider not only the ecological attributes of a species or an ecosystem but also the valuable services they provide in urban landscapes (recreation, micro-climate regulation, groundwater recharge, supporting biodiversity are just a few among many). These considerations would go a long way in thinking about sustainability in cities.
With about 16.75 million residents (1), Delhi, the national capital of India, has the highest proportion of the urban population (97.5%) in the country. Delhi’s ecology is characterized by the Aravallis (Delhi Ridge) and the Yamuna floodplains, both with rich bio-geographical heritage. Although the Delhi Master Plan of 2021 laid out by DDA (Delhi Development Authority) emphasizes on conservation of the Ridge ecosystem (2), significant portions have been lost to planned and unplanned developments. Similarly, the Yamuna floodplains have been filled in, dried and drained. Though unique to Delhi, these pressures follow similar trajectories in the Global South, due to consumption patterns particular to cities-importing food, energy, water from distant regions which gets transformed into waste and accumulates in and out of the city, leading to soil, air, and water pollution.
In response to such challenges, and with novel understandings of urban ecosystems, we recognize the need of cities to be self-sufficient reliant on itself to ensure efficient and equitable resource allocation, distribution and waste management. This implies continued research, innovation and intervention of such transformations, and developing sustainable solutions that will be crucial in creating cities of tomorrow. Centre for Urban Ecology and Sustainability (CUES) is an initiative in this direction, collaborating with other schools and centres in AUD as well as with local, governmental and non-governmental agencies.