Location: Surat, Gujarat
Duration: Ongoing since 2019
Typology of the project: Biodiversity Park
Scale of the Project: City
About the project:
The primary concerns regarding Surat city’s waterways are related to the natural drains/creeks that flow from east to west. In the past, many areas along these waterways were used for waste disposal and activities like slaughterhouses. During heavy monsoon seasons, the low-lying areas along the creeks would frequently wash away. Over time, there was increasing encroachment and environmental degradation, with the creek emitting a foul odor that made it unpleasant for those living in the surrounding areas. Additionally, waterlogging turned the area into a breeding ground for mosquitoes. To address these issues, the National River Conservation Plan (NRCP) initiated a project that involved constructing retaining walls/embankments using stone rubble and
concrete on both sides of the creek. The approaches below bridges were also modified, and the top of the retaining walls/embankments were made motorable for light vehicles, allowing for easier access. To prevent flooding, one-way stormwater flood gates were installed.
A “Wild Valley Biodiversity Park” along both sides of the Kankara creek from Gandhi Kutir bridge to Althan-Bamroli bridge to Bhimrad-Bamroli bridge in Surat emerged as a means of safeguarding the bank of the creek, preventing water pollution, decreasing soil waterlogging, and establishing a hygienic environment for people residing near the Kankara creek within the city limits of Surat. The decline in biodiversity in the area also highlighted a pressing need to conserve diverse species that make up the region’s biodiversity and enhance the eco-aquatic environment to support marine biodiversity. Inspired by the Singapore model, the Surat City Biodiversity Index was developed. This is anticipated to help monitor and evaluate biodiversity and raise awareness among residents and non-residents alike. Moreover, this project could offer economic advantages since it has the potential to enhance local small-scale enterprises and generate indirect employment opportunities.
The primary aim is to transform the existing wasteland along the creek into a Wild Valley Bio-Diversity Park and create significant areas of green space throughout the city. Measures will be taken to reduce the unpleasant odor emanating from the creek, prevent water pollution using phytoremediation, and enhance air quality through the plantation of native species.
The long-term outcome is to activate the city ecosystem by establishing partnerships among stakeholders, identifying shared objectives, and outlining action plans.
This involves increasing the overall green coverage, developing non-traditional recreational spaces such as playgrounds for children, dedicated areas for senior citizens, and parks with facilities for individuals with disabilities. Furthermore, the impact of heavy rainfall will be minimized by constructing water retention ponds and creating habitats suitable for birds and other species.
Project Implementation and activities:
The project was developed through a dedicated maturation phase having 24 steps. The approach helped in ironing out the inadequacies and streamlining the project design. The comprehensive approach with the larger objectives of innovation, integration and sustainability help develop a robust project and reduce externalities. The three-layered mentorship/technical assistance including an international mentor, a domestic expert and transversal experts has helped the city in designing the project taking learnings from international and well as national projects and case studies. An exhaustive M&E monitoring plan has been developed ensure comprehensive implementation and monitoring of the project.
The project is being developed by Surat Smart City Development Limited (SSCDL) funded through the the City Investment to Innovate, Integrate and Sustain (CITIIS) program supported by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (MoHUA), Agence Franchise de Development (AFD) and the European Union (EU).
Additionally, the project has project team, mentors and design consultants to provide support to the projects. Other important stakeholders identified are investors, Government Officials, Political Officials, Residential communities, Commercial Hubs, Pedestrians and commuters, Cyclists and joggers, Educational Institutions, Agencies, Experts, Self-help groups, Philanthropic Organisations, Media and Visitors.
Source of Finance:
Total Cost of the project is INR 139.15 Crores. The overall project is divided into 5 zones and are known as: Recreational Park (Zone A), Wild Valley Biodiversity Park (Zone B1, B2, B3), Children Park (Zone C), Urban Forestry Theme Park 1 (Zone D), Urban Forestry Theme Park 2 (Zone E1, E2).
Operation and maintenance are built into contracts with the execution agency for the initial 3 years. After that maintenance contract can be given at the rate of 2.5/sq.mt. per month, which is currently being operated at other gardens of Surat Municipal Corporation (SMC). Please note these estimates are based on the current rates, future inflations etc have not been considered.
The aggregation of the land under a single project was one of the major challenges. This was resolved through continuous stakeholder engagement across different departments and the local planning authority. The challenge of tackling a large-scale development was resolved by having different zones based on thematic areas and integrate them as one project. Finance for the project was managed through the CITIIS grant and Surat Smart Cities own funds.
Post project environmental monitoring will be done as per the recommended/standard method approved by Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change/Central Pollution Control Board. The cost of environment monitoring will be assessed and an appropriate budget will be allotted by the Surat Municipal Corporation (SMC).
ECOSYSTEM BENEFITS AND ECOLOGICAL INTEGRITY: Trees and shrubs will develop a habitat for the avifauna and various butterflies’ species and will also act as a noise and dust barrier. Plantation will also provide aesthetic appeal to the area along the creek, while improving the quality of air, water, humidity, and temperature. Natural resource conservation will be enabled through the collection of rainwater during the monsoon into rainwater harvesting tanks, restoration ponds, and reusing it for gardening purposes during post-monsoon.
COMMUNITY RESILIENCE AND SOCIAL BENEFITS: The proposed Biodiversity Park is expected to generate employment activity due to the requirement of human resources, maintenance, horticulture, security and housekeeping staff.
LIVELIHOODS AND ECONOMIC BENEFITS: As the project is likely to boost the small-scale businesses in the neighbourhood and create indirect employment opportunities, it may provide economic benefits in return.
Outcomes of the intervention or project:
Rejuvenation of existing wasteland along the creek into wild valley Bio-diversity Park and creating large chunks of city greens is the larger objective of the project. There will be an Increase in the overall green coverage of urban area and provide non – conventional recreational spaces like children play area, senior citizens seating area, traditional garden for youth, cycle track etc. Afforestation using the Miyawaki technique will help to control urban temperature, mitigate the effects of extreme heat and cold and maximise density of forest. The project will also reduce impact of heavy rainfall by creating water retention ponds with an overall improvement in efficiency of rainwater collection and reuse. The provision of groundwater recharge borewells at regular intervals based on contour analysis will aid in ground water recharge. The project will also maintain the natural storm water course and slopes to irrigate plantation naturally during monsoon season.
(1) Projects must have an integrated approach.
(2) Continuous stakeholder engagements are key to faster decision making
(3) The project must adhere to the environmental and social safeguards standards
(4) Leadership plays a vital role in the fast pace of project implementation
(5) Technical Assistance, mentorship and global best-case practices can really transform the project in a better way
(6) Vision with a logical approach to project development are key to successful project design and implementation.
Scalability and replicability potential and conditions for success:
The project developed through a dedicated maturation phase has considered most of the challenges and externalities associated with it. The learnings from the project development and implementation offer high potential of for scalability and replicability. The project itself was scaled from a quickwin/pilot project to this larger biodiversity park project. Since this is one of the largest urban biodiversity parks being created from scratch, other cities to learn, ideate and build upon the extensive learnings from the project. The replicability must be contextual and should follow the basic design principle and CITIIS values of innovation, integration and sustainability.
Ayushi Govil, Junior Research Associate, National Institute of Urban Affairs
Asif Raza, Senior Program Officer, National Institute of Urban Affairs.