Why the need of urban rooftop farming in India?


The continuous increase of the Indian population forces the development of urban areas, causing the reduction of agricultural land. As a consequence, the problem of food supply, in terms of quality and affordability, rises amongst the citizens. The urban rooftop farming is likely to be the answer to this issue. Even though still in the beginning phase and further developments of the concept are urgently needed, the idea is a simple, practical solution to multiple issues and represents a win-win situation for everybody i.e. social community, companies, environment.

With its 1.2 billion people, India is the world’s second largest most populous country and is expected to be one of the few countries where working population will exceed retirees. Despite constant GDP growth over the past years, material poverty is still overwhelming, with more than half of the population living with under $2 per day. The high life expectancy at birth (which exceeds 65 years) and the average birth rate of 2.6 per woman shapes pushes the rapid urban expansion, causing disappearance of agricultural land, according to World Bank.

The urgency of rooftop farming in India
The primary reason for which urban rooftop farming is required in India is the child and adult malnutrition. As stated in an official World Health Organization (WHO) study, 93 million of Indians live in slum dwellers, hotspots for hunger and 36% of children are malnourished. The way of improving their living standards lies in allowing them to grow their own food on local land as well as hiring them to maintain these farms and/or supply to local residents, canteens, shops. These local grown products will be highly competitive with others in the market due to modest prices, hence making them affordable for a larger percent of population.

The second argument is the rapid urbanization, expected to expand from 31% to 41% by 2025, in order to support the growing population, as showed by World Bank. As it will seriously affect the agriculture-oriented country, reducing the arable land, food prices will increase, given the rising transportation costs caused by larger distances. Moreover, the food quality will worsen as vegetables and fruits will have to be frozen for longer periods of time, affecting the nutritional value that reaches the end-consumer.

Indians have already started to realize their impending future if there is no action taken upon the above condition. Take for example the terrace of Block 30 at Siddha Garden, a real estate complex located in Rajarhat. The total 5,000 sq.ft space on the roof of each housing is entirely green. Initiated by only 5 farming experts, this complex has grown more than 35 kinds of green vegetation and produced around 8,000 kg of vegetables a year. The products go to the canteen of the residential complex and residents are also procuring from here for their own needs.

Positive environmental changes
Doubtless, one of the main benefits of urban rooftop farming is the fact that it adds greenery to the cities, improving the overall urban environment.

Rooftop plants lower CO2 levels in the surrounding area, contributing to the risk of cardiovascular and breathing infections more than often associated with greenhouse gas emissions. Via carbon storage, dry disposition and sequestration processes, the building’s costs associated with power will lower with approximately 15% (according to a study by the University of Michigan) as it will not require air conditioners to operate at full capacity.

These gardens will absorb rainwater and diminish the amount of water on the surface of buildings which carry dust particles and small stones that eventually block drainage pipes. Street floods may occur, leading to water borne diseases and aesthetically affects the environment.

Additionally, a green space on top of a building will absorb directly the sunlight which can cause expansion/contraction of concrete. Consequently, cracks can be avoided which otherwise weakens the building and constantly demand repairs.

Positive environmental changes also include dust reduction. The areas with buildings on top of which rooftop farms are projected are less dusty compared to the conventional roof buildings, as showed in a study conducted by a team of experts in landscape architecture. This is thanks to the green vegetation that creates thermal draft which attracts the dust from the streets by creating a difference in rooftop and the temperature at ground level.

The Indian government surely realizes the importance of rooftop farming and the benefits it can bring to the society, but little is done to support projects like the aforementioned green residential complex in Rajarhat. Nevertheless, better and more streamlined mechanisms have to be developed by the government in order to satisfy demands for a more sustainable way of living – which would be enabled by the support of developers, local engineers and general public. (AGB.com – ARM)

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