Biodiversity in an urban setting is often misunderstood by its human inhabitants as being the live animals and plants people see like their pet dogs or cats, trees in the parks, butterflies, birds and bees. Although they are correctly part of biodiversity, this understanding of biodiversity as a separate entity negates the importance of biodiversity to our own lives. There is a lack of awareness that humans primarily depend their very lives on the services provided by biodiversity such as water, food and clean air. More than the basic provisionary services, urban nature parks provide aesthetic environment that can relax and promote overall wellness for urban dwellers and as habitats for other urban species.
Cities in South East Asia occupies only 2% of its total land area but it’s 200 billion urban inhabitants consume 75% of their total land resources and produce the equivalent amount of environmentally destructive waste while contributing more than 50% of the region’s total greenhouse gas emissions. Out of the total urban population in the region, 700 million people live below the poverty line and this number is expected to increase to 1 billion by 2015.
Urbanization is fueled by global/local trade and commerce which is primarily driven by manufacturing, production and trade of goods and services. Increasing market demands are met by increasing production and raw material processing, manufacturing expansions and hiring more people. People from rural areas migrate to the cities for prospects of employment and better quality of life than what they had in the farms. The total number of people migrating to the cities from the rural areas amounts to 120,000 people per day across the entire region. It would require additional 20,000 dwellings per day and 250 kilometers of new roads to accommodate their mobility and about another 6 mega-liters of potable water for their normal consumption. Rural to urban migration, together with the natural population growth of urban inhabitants is putting severe strain on essential resources like food, water, and electricity which are primarily sourced from neighboring areas and ecosystems. Rising urban population also mean rising amounts of solid and water waste and gas emissions produced in the cities. At the current rates, Asian cities are producing 75% of the total regional wastes despite the fact that Asian cities occupy only 2% of the total land area in the region. More than 50% of the region’s total greenhouse gas contribution comes from their urban areas. The garbage and water pollution produced in the cities make their way through the rivers affecting its biological productivity further complicating the urban population’s food and water security. Urban air pollution, affects the overall quality of life of urban inhabitants, other than the much severe global and long term effect of climate change.
The region is facing a challenge of developing a way of advancing inclusive urbanization while conserving and promoting its biodiversity for the benefit of sustainable resource production and better quality of life.