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India`s urban expansion to impact environment: Report

India`s population is currently about 30 per cent urban and is expected to become 50 per cent by about 2044.

Hyderabad: Growing urbanisation in India will have a significant impact on environment and the rich biodiversity which is critical to the well-being of people, a United Nations Assessment report said here.
`The Cities and Biodiversity Outlook`, which was released today at the UN`s Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) COP-11, said the global urban expansion will draw heavily on water among other natural resources and consume prime agricultural land.

"India`s population is currently about 30 per cent urban and is expected to become 50 per cent by about 2044. This will have significant implications for the country`s environment, ecology and sustainability," the report said.

"India already contains three of the world`s ten largest cities-- Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata --as well as three of the world`s ten fastest growing cities-- Ghaziabad, Surat and Faridabad," it added.

The world`s total urban area is expected to triple between 2000 and 2030, with urban population set to double to around 4.9 billion in the same period.

Urban expansion is occurring fast in areas close to biodiversity hotspots and coastal zones, the report said.

In rapidly urbanising regions, such as large and mid-sized settlements in sub-saharan Africa, India and China, resources to implement sustainable urban planning are often lacking, the report observed.

According to Thomas Elmqvist, scientific editor of the report, cities need to learn better how to protect and enhance biodiversity as this is extremely critical to the well-being of people.

However, lifestyle changes in India due to urbanisation may decrease pressure on forests, as usage of firewood and charcoal is reduced, the report also said.

On China, the report said the country, which has around 50 per cent of the population living in cities, is in the middle of its urbanisation transition.

By 2030, its urban population is expected to exceed 900 million, an increase of more than 300 million from today, the report states.

In Europe, the current urbanisation level is 70-80 per cent and the urban growth in recent decades has mostly been in the form of land expansion rather than population growth.

"Many European and North American cities have exhibited trends of shrinking and of shifting patterns of population in central parts of cities, coupled with sprawl in outer suburbs and exurban areas," it said.

Braulio Ferreira De Souza Dias, the Executive Secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity, said the way cities are designed, the way people live in them and the policy decisions of local authorities will define to a large extent future global sustainability.

The report was produced by CBD in partnership with the Stockholm Resilience Centre and Local Governments for Sustainability.


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