'Bamboo weavers lost living to tree felling on KR road'

Nature in the City author Harini Nagendra discusses her decade-long process of penning the 244-page book

Published: 23rd June 2016 03:15 AM  |   Last Updated: 23rd June 2016 03:15 AM   |  A+A-

BENGALURU: A recently-launched book on nature in Bengaluru traces the city’s journey from its 16th-century urban settlement days to the present day.

BambooW.jpgIn her Nature in the City, Professor of Sustainability at Azim Premji University Harini Nagendra examines how infrastructure programmes have led to the depletion of the environment and affected the livelihood of the people in various parts of the city.

There are several in-depth studies on environmental issues, focussing on rural areas and remote forest regions, she tells City Express during an interview. But the 244-page tome is the first such centred on Bengaluru, she adds.

Excerpts from the conversation:

How have you captured the journey of the city in the book?

Nature in the City examines the past, present and future of nature in Bengaluru, one of India’s largest and fastest growing cities.

This book charts Bengaluru’s journey from the early settlements in the 6th century CE to the 21st century city, and demonstrates how nature has looked, behaved, and been perceived in Bengaluru’s home gardens, slums, streets, parks, sacred spaces and lakes.


It would have required extensive research...

In 2006, I began a long-term programme aimed at documenting the ecology and bio-diversity of Bengaluru, working with students and colleagues also from the city. Over the years, we have conducted a wide ranging variety of research programmes, focused on understanding the ecology of different spaces within the city: its streets, parks, lakes, home gardens, slums and sacred spaces.

I draw on a variety of sources of material, including field-based studies of bio-diversity conducted in different parts of Bengaluru, analyses of satellite images and old maps, environmental monitoring of pollution, archival studies of historical documents and other material in English and Kannada, and lengthy discussions with people from various backgrounds who shared their knowledge and perspectives. Finally, a city is nothing without its people.


Many books have been written on the environment and its conservation. How did you plan to write it differently?

A number of excellent books have been written on environmental issues and conservation challenges in India, but these are focused on rural areas and forests in remote places.

India is becoming urbanised so rapidly, and the fast growth of cities is bringing various environmental challenges such as pollution, heat and water scarcity. Yet there is no in-depth study of this in the urban context so far.

My book is the first such study of environmental change in an Indian city, which fills a much needed gap.


How have you integrated it with the stories of people and places?

In a chapter on gardens, I describe the efforts of Honamma Govindayya, a lady of 91 years, who managed to protect a park near her house in Jayanagar from being taken over for construction, simultaneously raising 10 children without her husband.

In a chapter on streets, I describe how the felling of trees on KR Road led to the loss of livelihood for the bamboo weavers who live there, and who used to shelter behind the trees.

I also talk of street vendors, who like to sell their wares under tree canopies because of the shade they provide, and the protection from being run over by two-wheelers riders who drive on pavements.


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