Green Infrastructure (also known as GI) refers to planned and managed natural and semi-natural systems that provide a wider category of benefits pertaining to climate protection in comparison totraditional grey Infrastructure. It is also known as the greenspace network of a city, which helps it to combatclimate change. The European Commission defines green Infrastructure as ‘a network of green spaces, habitats, and ecosystems within defined geographic areas, which can range in size from an entire country to a neighbourhood and encompass wild, semi-wild and developed environments(from wetlands to urban parks)’. Stormwater management and industrial wastewater management are some of the examples wherein green Infrastructure is utilized for attaining sustainability goals and climate protection.
The objective of this Blog Post is to explore the concept of green Infrastructure through a holistic perspective by examining infrastructure systems in India and other countries. The Blog Post shall examine some notable examples of green Infrastructure in India. Subsequently, the Blog Post shall examine policies pertaining to green Infrastructure from an international perspective, so that a comparison can be drawn with other countries wherein green Infrastructure has been successful. The Blog Post shall then utilize these sub-topics to come up with possible suggestions for further strengthening green Infrastructure. It is hoped that this Blog Post serves the purpose of contributing significantly to the existing literature on green Infrastructure.
Indian population has seen mammoth growth over the years, which leads to many issues- pollution, lack of housing facilities, dearth of resources, etc. In order to sustain themselves, people shift to urban areas; and this practice of urbanization has created a lot of pressure on the land. As a result, habitations encroach on floodplains, low-lying areas, and drainage channels; moreover, the urban lands are mostly made up of impervious materials. All these factors lead to easy flooding of the areas known as urban flooding. Undoubtedly, sustainable Infrastructure is needed to combat all these issues, and thus it is opined that green Infrastructure would be an ideal choice. Green Infrastructure can also aid in achieving a net-zero carbon goal by 2070, which would be in consonance with the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda.
What is Green Infrastructure?
According toGross, 2009, the term ‘Green infrastructure’ was first used by McMohan in a report of the President’s Council on Sustainable Development issued in May 1994. The rationale behind this report was that one should recognize natural systems as Infrastructure. The firstdefinition of GI was given by Mark Benedict and McMohan of the USA as ‘an interconnected network of natural areas and other open spaces that conserves natural ecosystem values and functions, sustains clean air and water, and provides a wide array of benefits to people and wildlife.’
Green Infrastructure refers to a strategically built framework of interconnected ecosystems, ecological–technological hybrids, and built infrastructures that provide social, environmental, as well as technological functions and benefits; such as green roofs, living walls, and backyards. Even the existing Infrastructure can be retrofitted, rehabilitated, redesigned, or reused to build green Infrastructure. In layman’s language, we can define green Infrastructure as the economical alternative that exists on earth naturally but will cost an arm and leg if built from scratch. This is basically a system that employs natural resources to yield a myriad of advantages- ecological, social, biodiversity as well as economic.
Benefits of Green Infrastructure
As the name itself suggests, green Infrastructure is beneficial for the environment. The positive effects of green Infrastructure are manifold and are so vast that they can be categorized into three different categories – environmental benefits, social benefits, and economic benefits.
- Environmental Benefits
Green Infrastructure facilitates urban biodiversity through habitat protection of urban wildlife and vegetation. It improves stormwater quality, reduces soil erosion, retains runoff in landscape areas and helps in water flow management, and facilitates natural hydrology throughpassive irrigation and rain gardens. This, in turn, improves the quality of groundwater, increases soil moisture and decreases the need for manual watering of plants. It improves air quality and reduces greenhouse gases in the atmospheric layer.
- Social Benefits
First and foremost, the usage of green Infrastructure naturally makes urban residents more environmentally conscious. This is because of the increase in environmental awareness. Since green Infrastructure influences the landscape design of a city, the cities are able to build a unique identity, character, andamenity for themselves. Green Infrastructure helps in providing a natural visual screen, which results in urban cooling – thus reducing the risk of deaths due to heatwaves and extreme temperatures. This facilitates outdoor activity and healthier individuals in society. Since green Infrastructure aids in air quality management and pollutant control, it also reduces the risk of diseases such as lung cancer, asthma, and breathing troubles.
- Economic Benefits
Perhaps the most convincing factor for investment in green Infrastructure is the economic benefit that it promulgates. Green Infrastructure reduces excessive temperatures and thus helps in sustainable energy management by reducing energy needs (such as electricity). This helps in saving costs which are usually incurred due to inefficient energy utilization. It also helps in increasing the lifespan of grey infrastructure by complementing it throughcatch basins and drainage pipes. Through management of erosion and run-off in waterways, it helps in lowering maintenance costs and drainage system costs. Green Infrastructure also contributes towards increasing the marketability of property values by improving the aesthetic qualities of properties – tree lined streetsincrease the valuation of properties.
Evolution of Green Infrastructure in India
The foremost evidence of green Infrastructure in the Indian subcontinent existed in the pre-historic era in the Indus valley civilization – asMohenjodaro’s designed water management system was an exhibition of Green infrastructure solutions. Even the cities designed during the British era, such as Jaipur and Udaipur, incorporated green Infrastructure.
The Model Town and Country Planning Act was drafted in 1962 to facilitate urban planning in the country. Though cities were developed industrially, the existence of green spaces and natural drainage almost diminished, primarily because of deficient technology and awareness that would have helped in establishing the perfect nexus between Infrastructure and nature. After realizing this deviation, Urban and Regional Development Plans Formulation and Implementation (URDPFI) Guidelines were published in 1996 by the Institute of Town Planners (ITPI) that made it obligatory to allot a minimum of 15 percent of the total urban area for green or open spaces. Afterwards, the revised URDPFI Guidelines were published in 2014, which enumerated that the requirement for green space should be supplemented with an additional norm of 10–12 sq m green area per capita.
Indian government mentioned the term ‘green infrastructure’ for the first time in theFourth Five Year Plan (1964-69). This policy discussed the significance of the environment and how it can be conserved. With the passage of time and subsequent realization of the importance of the environment, the government started delving over the ways to conserve the environment, and the first initiative in furtherance of the same was taken by establishing the Environment Ministry in the year 1980; which was later on rechristened as Ministry of Environment, Forest, and Climate Change in the year 2014. It is a think tank for all policies and laws for the conservation of the environment.
Even though the Indian government is planning to attract approximately200 billion US dollars of investment annually till 2030, i.e. 7-8 percent of the GDP on the development of the Green infrastructure, still, the implementation of green infra policies remains bleak in Indian society because there is no express statute that deals with the nitty-gritties of green Infrastructure in India. However, the following policies promote green Infrastructure while achieving the goals for which they are formulated.
National Action Plan on Climate Change
National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC) was passed on 30th June 2008. The plan encompasses 8 missions that represent a multi-pronged, long-term, and integrated approach for battling against climate change; and numerous of them focus upon promoting green Infrastructure in the country, namely-
- The National Mission for a Green India- this Mission, as the name suggests, focuses on reviving the degraded forests, building carbon sinks, and how forest cover can be snowballed in India. This also aims to build public-private partnerships for the accomplishment of the mission. Thus, it aims to provide enhanced resilience of the forests and reduction in greenhouse emissions.
- National Mission for sustaining the Himalayan ecosystem- this mission came into force in June 2010 and aims to protect the ecosystem of the Himalayas, thus encompassing 11 states and 2 UTs under its ambit. The prime objective of the Mission is to conserve biodiversity and wildlife of the ecosystem, which will be achieved by conservation and plantation of trees.
The other missions forming the core of this plan include the National Mission for Strategic Knowledge for Climate Change and the National Water mission. The National Mission for Sustainable Habitat does not directly focus on Green infrastructure, but their agendas can be achieved through green Infrastructure.
Smart City Mission
This Mission was launched in the year 2015 to combat the issue of irregular mushrooming of the Infrastructure. In this mission, different cities of India will be selected, and a master plan will be formulated that will lay the plan for the development of the city while following a sustainable approach. The sustainability in these projects is aimed to be achieved through the building of green Infrastructure. The plan includes initiatives to make all buildings green, a network of parks, cycling paths, and green walkways. Even the alternate spatial planning and Sustainable Urban Development System (SUDS) which includes stormwater design features like previous paving, soak ways, swales, infiltration trenches, filter strips, sand filters, bio-retention filters/areas, and green spaces will be integrated. The particular areas have been specified for the plantation of trees in each city. National Real Estate Development Council (NAREDCO)’s Green Area Development Policy is also playing its role in the integration of the green Infrastructure in the cities.
Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation
Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT) was launched on 25th June 2015. Though the AMRUT mission was launched to monitor and manage the sewage, and water supply of the areas, it also aims to develop green parks and combat flooding in the cities through the use of stormwater drains. 500 cities have been selected worldwide to implement the AMRUT mission.
Indian Green Building Council
This council was established in the year 2001 to usher the green building movement in the country so that every individual can enjoy the benefits of a sustainable environment. The renowned CII-Godrej GBC building in Hyderabad was the first building constructed by the council, and there are numerous buildings that followed after that. The council provides ample services, such as grant of ratings to Green buildings, and even facilitates the organization of annual meets wherein all the stakeholders of the construction industry, as well as government, gather and work to promote the initiative of the green buildings. The council is entering into pacts with city governments to build green Infrastructure like Mangalore.
Examples of Green Infrastructure in India
- Paharpur Business Centre & Software Technology (PBC), situated in Delhi, is the first USGBC LEED Platinum-certified retrofit green building. The building is full of energy and water-efficient technologies that will not only help in lowering the operational costs but also in cutting down the environmental footprint.
- Green Infrastructure inSurat– The city of Surat has built a green infrastructure to combat the issue of flooding and manage stormwater. The roads of the city are made of concrete and do not allow percolation of water and stagnant water from floods or storms, and this leads to deterioration of the roads.
Thus, to mitigate the repercussions of flooding, the following techniques are proposed to be built in the different areas of Surat, such as the Adjan River Front Residential Area under the smart city area proposal.
1. Bioswales- Bioswales, also known as Green Gutters, are linear vegetative pathways that are used in place of conventional gutter and drainage sewer systems to slow down the run-off water. As they are impervious, they allow water to seep down, which further replenishes the groundwater. Moreover, these can alleviate the scenic beauty of any place.
2. Green Roof- Green roof refers to the planting of a thin vegetative cover on the roof so that it acts as storage and filter for the rainwater. Through this, one can control the discharge of stormwater, which will help in combating floods. Moreover, this mechanism is easy to set up, enhancing its accessibility and utility.
3. Rain gardens- They will be built equipped with the latest technology to harvest water.
- The root bridges in theMeghalaya are one of a kind where grey infrastructure is wholly transitioned with the green Infrastructure. The bridges are built with the help of tangled thick rubber tree roots, also known as Ficus Elastica tree and are capable of holding 50 people at a time. These are grown by Khasi and Jaintia tribes, who have acquired mastery in building these bridges.
- Chennai Metro Project’s Phase 2 has procured a loan fromAIIB. Thus, it has to comply with the AIIB mandate to promote green Infrastructure and will naturally fulfill the requirements of the green Infrastructure.
- Olympia Tech Park, an IT park in Chennai is the beacon of biophilic building. It is a perfect blend of eco-friendly and energy-saving techniques such as rainwater harvesting equipment, generation of power through renewable energy-wind and solar power, etc. The building has been awarded the title of one of the biggest gold LEED-rated buildings in the world.
- Vishakhapatnam – The city is blessed with five water bodies, forests, and agricultural land, and it is constantly trying to thrive these resources by focusing on building green Infrastructure and for this purpose, the agricultural land has been put into productive use.
- Bangalore has around 333 green buildings, and around 227.92 sq. km. of the area is under the green cover. The city is full of numerous green pockets, along with a green belt and agricultural land in the periphery. It also has a butterfly park, botanical garden, biodiversity park as well as a National park that not only acts as green Infrastructure but also ameliorates the beauty of the city.
- Hyderabad was recognized as ‘Tree City of the world’ in the year 2020. The city has worked to increase the forest cover from 25% to 33%. Even efforts are made to revive the degraded forest and convert them into urban forest parks.
- Under theDraft Delhi Master Plan, 2041, the Delhi Development Authority has proposed to integrate green Infrastructure- the pedestrian and cycle pathways are to be developed as green mobility circuits, greenways along natural drains, wastelands to be converted into green lands, identification and conservation of the trees and the building of 300-meter buffer zone along the entire edge of the river.
Examples of Successful Green Infrastructure Policies in Other Countries
Examples of successful GI solutions
Green Infrastructure has been widely perceived as a necessary solution for climate welfare. There are many countries that have observed and implemented successful green infrastructure policies, such as Sweden, Switzerland, Norway, Japan, Finland, Denmark, New Zealand, Germany, Canada and,Netherlands. Successful green infrastructure projects from other countries include: phytoremediation for groundwater decontamination (Canada), constructed wetlands for wastewater treatment (USA), air pollution mitigation through reforestation (USA), erosion control for onshore pipelines (Canada), reservoir floodplain management, produced water treatment using reed beds (Oman), andoyster reef-building (Louisiana, USA). The Stormwater project in Staten Island is also an example of a successful green Infrastructure.
Case Study of Successful GI Solutions and the Policies Behind Them
The benefits resulting from green Infrastructure are best elaborated through a study of the examples enumerated herein. The no-acre engineered wetlands, which were constructed in 1995 in Seadrift, Texas, in place of an industrial wastewater treatment plant, helped in reducing operating expenses while simultaneously lowering the carbon footprint and preservingwildlife habitats. Similarly, in Oman, the Petroleum Development Oman LLC (PDO) company engineered wetlands in lieu of disposing of water in deep aquifers, which enhanced water treatment performance, reduced carbon footprint, and developed habitats forfish and migratory birds. It also resulted in by-product optimization by utilizing fresh water and biomass. In Canada, the Dow Chemical Company employed phytoremediation, which is the engineered use of green plants to remove, contain, stabilize or destroy contaminants in the soil and groundwater. Another great example of a successful green infrastructure solution is soil bioengineering, whereby living plant materials are used to create structures that perform soil-related engineering functions in order to improve surface stability and reduce erosion.
The Role of Law and Policy in Successful Green Infrastructure
When it comes to green Infrastructure and policies, one of the main reasons for the success of GI solutions stems from the fact that GI enables legal compliance. In the international context, this means that GI solutions are effective for countries wherein compliance with the legislations such as Clean Water Act (CWA) in America etc. is mandatory. In contrast, grey infrastructure would significantly increase the cost of legal compliance because it would require pipes, tunnels and conveyances to manage thehuge volumes of stormwater. Thus, legislative and statutory compliances can go a long way in promoting the implementation of green Infrastructure.
Green roofs, planters, rainwater harvesting, street trees, preserved open space on building sites, natural vegetated corridors and swales, permeable paved areas accented with green features, xeriscaping, private gardens and public parks, detention basins, bio-retention ponds and rain gardens, green building facades, and greened medians and edges along streets, paths, and rail lines – all are examples of successful GI solutions. Parking lots can be converted into GI-oriented parking lots by adding trees and using permeable surfaces that allow infiltration and permit vegetative growth. State Environmental Policy Acts (SEPAs) require a state governing body to complete Environmental Impact Statements (EIS) before commencing any state action which potentially has an adverse environmental impact; similar to howEnvironmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is used in India.
What More can be Done to Strengthen Green Infrastructure?
Employing Action Strategies
There are various measures that can be undertaken to strengthen green Infrastructure. Often, this takes place through Partners for Green Infrastructure who release action strategies for improving green Infrastructure – these action strategies revolve around a plethora of issues, such as reduction of stormwater runoff, combined sewer overflows andnonpoint source pollution. The action strategies themselves consist of different categories such as research, outreach and communication, tools, regulatory support, economic viability & funding, demonstrations andrecognition, and partnerships.
Usage of GI Rating Systems
When it comes to strengthening green buildings, rating systems such as the Sustainable Sites Initiative (SITES) have proven to be helpful for attaining sustainability in GI solutions. SITES was created to promote sustainable land development and management practices for sites with and without buildings and utilizes different GI solutions for various sections: e.g., in the Site Design-Water section, xeriscaping is used to reduce the amount of water needed to sustain the site and methods such as drip irrigation and landscaping are used to ensureminimal runoff. The Site Design-Soil and Vegetation section emphasize on the use of natural vegetation, which is suited to the regional conditions and requires minimal water for maintenance – this results in the development of biomass on-site, which helps in ensuring adequate water absorption, pollution filtration, and a reduced urban heat island effect.
Similarly, the LEED Rating System for Neighbourhood Development (LEED-ND) helps in the development of green buildings in consonance with their adjacent neighbourhoods. Increasing tree canopies, green roofs and planters, green streets, etc., aid in the establishment of GI solutions – and the next step for strengthening these solutions can be obtained by conducting commercial audit programmes, providing financial incentives for using GI, and providing property tax abatements forgreen improvements to the property.
The Role of Funding in Strengthening Green Infrastructure
In developing countries, civic authorities and municipal corporations generally face a shortage of funds while developing green Infrastructure. People’s willingness to pay (WTP) is a quantifiable statistic that needs to be measured to determine the economicviability of green Infrastructure. An example of this would be the availability of GI-based residential areas at reasonable rates so that the common public’s WTP for GI solutions is increased.
In the present day scenario, environmental concerns deserve to be at the forefront of all major governmental and political decisions. This is because natural calamities brought about by climate change and global warming serve as adequate evidence of the fact that all possible measures must be taken to protect theenvironment and ecology. Through a comprehensive analysis of green infrastructure solutions, this Blog Post aimed to contribute towards providing innovative solutions for environmental protection. The United Nations Climate Change Conference (UNFCCC) organizes the Conference of Parties (COP) wherein conferences regarding climate change are held – the Paris Agreement, the Katowice outcome of COP 24, and the UN Climate Talks in Madrid at COP 25 – all are the resultant outcomes of measures taken tocombat climate change. However, green Infrastructure is unique in the sense that it facilitates green architecture, hence helping to develop environmental-friendly buildings from the ground up. Through a study of successful green infrastructure solutions in India and abroad, this Blog Post has derived some notable examples of the significance of green Infrastructure in building an environmentally conscious society. The Blog Post has also discussed the role of law and policy in contributing towards the growth of green Infrastructure, thus arriving at the conclusion that there are various methodologies that can be employed to improve green infrastructure inventions; and that there are several mechanisms (such as finances, rating systems, and action strategies) that need to be explored in order to build a strong framework for the implementation of GI solutions.
About the Authors
Ms. Nayan Prakash is a Legal Researcher and a an Alumni of Jindal Global School.
Pranjali Aggarwal is a 4th Year Law Student from University Institute of Legal Studies (UILS), Punjab University (PU), Chandigarh.
Managing Editor: Naman Anand
Editors-in-Chief: Jhalak Srivastav and Akanksha Goel
Senior Editor: Hamna Viriyam
Associate Editor: Pranjali Aggarwal
Junior Editor: Vedant Bisht
Preferred Method of Citation
Nayan Prakash and Pranjali Aggarwal, “Green Infrastructure from Niche to Mainstream: How Law and Policies play their Roles” (IJPIEL, 8 April 2022).