Cities and Biodiversity Outlook

Urbanizing India

India’s urban population, currently around 30% of the nation’s total, is expected to nearly double by 2031, reaching 600 million people. In India, as in many places, the urban growth poses a number of challenges for the natural environment, including pollution of air and water, encroachment on- and degradation of woodlands, grass lands, coastal areas, wetlands and water bodies. Indian cities also face increasing challenges caused by climate changes, such as flooding and intensified heat-island effects. The financially poor urban dwellers are the most affected by the changes to the ecosystems within and surrounding the growing cities.

However, cities can be hubs of rich biodiversity that contribute to the well-being of people. Urban parks, forests and waterways can provide people with the opportunity to exercise and feelings of spiritual fulfillment. Canopy trees such as Ficus religiosa, common in many Indian cities, can provide shade, mitigate urban heat island effects, and absorb pollutants. Many Indian cultural traditions are associated with nature and its protection. There are numerous examples of groups of people coming together to cherish, protect, and restore urban ecosystems, as for example the community-initiated restoration of the Kaikondarahalli lake in Bangalore, India, showcased on this webpage. Thus, cities can also be sources of innovation and new solutions for sustainable co-existence of people and biodiversity.

Urbanizing India brings together insights on urban biodiversity, human nature interactions in the city, and urban environmental stewardship in India. It is centered around the biodiversity assessments of India and Bangalore from the CBO project, and outcomes from the project “Bridging the science-policy gap for governance of urban ecosystem services – Lessons learned from sacred ecosystems”. The latter ran from 2011 through 2013 as a collaboration between Stockholm Resilience Centre (SRC), Stockholm University, Sweden, and the Ashoka Trust for Research on Ecology and the Environment (ATREE) in Bangalore, India. It was funded by Sida (The Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency) and included research projects in Bangalore, India; outreach publications; and interactions with decision makers as well as the public.

A key objective was to use a diversity of tools and approaches to engage and interact with a diverse audience. One example is the photo collection displayed here, which was generated in two photo competitions arranged in Bangalore during August and September, 2012, focusing on the city as a whole and the urban lake Kaikondarahalli, respectively. The public as well as local photographers were invited to submit photos on urban biodiversity and human nature interactions in the city that surrounds them.

The photos were exhibited at several international and local events: the URBIO meeting in Mumbai in September 2012; the Convention on Biological Diversity's COP11 in Hyderabad in October 2012; in Bangalore at in October, 2012; and at the launch of the Cities and Biodiversity Outlook (CBO) book during the World Habitat Day celebration at the UN Headquarters in New York, October 2013.

In close interaction with local stewards, the project also produced a video on Kaikondarahalli lake in Bangalore, that showcases how people have come together and improved their urban environment, of benefit to the local ecology and inhabitants. The video may serve as inspiration for thought and action both to a global and local audience.

We thank everyone who have been involved in the project and particularly the funders, Sida.

Watch the videos

An Urbanizing Planet, Hindi version

An Urbanizing Planet, Hindi version

Kaikondarahalli Lake — The Uncommon Story of an Urban Commons.

Kaikondarahalli Lake
Short version
Kaikondarahalli Lake
Full version

Read the assessments

Read the assessments from the CBO scientific foundation: Urbanization, Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services - Challenges and Opportunities

Sub-regional Assessment of India: Effects of Urbanization on Land Use, Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services

Local Assessment of Bangalore: Graying and Greening in Bangalore – Impacts of Urbanization on Ecosystems, Ecosystem Services and Biodiversity

Action and Policy: the India report

Visit the photo gallery