Rooftop gardening: making our living space greener
A buzzword that one will hear at least once or twice a day in Bangladesh is “development”. And with development comes an even stronger push towards urbanization, which has certain consequences for the environment.
So, as more and more high-rise buildings invade our cities, our primary concern should be to ensure that these buildings have elements of greenery. With our growing population, our horizontal real estate continues to shrink, and the only option left is to consider setting up green and eco-friendly facilities from a vertical perspective.
While large-scale global change is something Bangladesh cannot do alone, and behavior change at the consumer level has little to no effect, there are only a few options left on the table. . One of these options, given our rapid urbanization, is the use of a roof garden.
The availability of such a facility in his building has more than one environmental benefit. It benefits residents by providing a fresh oxygen supply and also helps by providing an accessible hobby within easy reach.
Nadira Ahmed, 42, works in the corporate sector, and her advice for people looking to get into the rooftop gardening business is to start small.
“I love working in my garden. It helps to reduce the mental stress that comes with living in the city. Whatever I grow in my garden, I distribute to my neighbours. Thanks to rooftop gardening, there is little dust and more fresh oxygen,” adds Nadira.
Over the past two years, the rooftop gardening initiative has grown mainly through individual effort in major cities and urban areas. Joining efforts, many real estate companies have slowly begun to incorporate such facilities into their new buildings.
However, there are no systematic arrangements or policies in place to better facilitate these large-scale structures. For example, there are no readily available government resources on how individuals can start creating their own rooftop garden. In India, for example, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) recently proposed a policy that will require all buildings to have space for a rooftop garden. This policy has been proposed and is expected to be rolled out in the near future. This is the type of initiative that governments around the world should seek to replicate.
However, relying solely on the government cannot be the right approach to protecting the environment. If we really care about the consequences of climate change, then we need to step up and do our part, however insignificant it may seem on the whole. In addition, the market itself must establish demand and supply for rooftop gardens, otherwise we cannot guarantee that these measures become sustainable in the long term.
Afsana Rahman, 45, from Monipuripara in Dhaka, came up with the idea of a rooftop garden in her own building in 2015. During the first phase of installation, she struggled a lot, due to her lack of gardening knowledge and experience.
“In the first two years, most of my plants did not survive due to poor seed and plant selection. It took me two years to understand the right ways to garden and choose the right plants. and the right fruits to grow. These days, people learn gardening techniques via Facebook and TV reports, but a more useful set of guidelines can ensure that fewer people struggle in the initial phase,” Afsana said.
Photo: Sazzad Ibn Sayed
Photo: Sazzad Ibn Sayed
Experts say rooftop gardens require continuous effort. Occasional or even seasonal attempts at gardening will rarely be successful.
Arifur Rahman, 35, a tenant who lives in an attic in Mohammadpur district of Dhaka, shared his experience with rooftop gardening.
“When I asked permission from my landlord to do roof gardening, he rejected the idea. He was worried that such a garden would harm the condition of the roof. Luckily, I was able to convince him and I was able to make a small but beautiful roof garden with about 50 plants, including a mix of fruits and vegetables. But when the dengue fever scare hit the town, I had to close the garden because the owner of the building was afraid that mosquitoes would breed in the pots,” he added.
City planners have a crucial role to play here, as they are the ones setting the standards on how to make our cities green and environmentally friendly.
In Dhaka, the two City Corporations have announced that they will give a tax rebate to those who build rooftop gardens. The government also rewarded the best rooftop gardeners. At the same time, the Department of Agriculture has also launched a program to further facilitate rooftop gardens in our cities and towns. However, these efforts need to be channeled together in a more structural and systematic way to see success.
Rahat Raja is an agronomist and agro-journalist, and has reported on numerous rooftop gardens. He says: “The government can work to create a series of campaigns through different mediums, to inspire more people to come forward and take the initiative to create rooftop gardens.”
As the world continues on its trajectory, Bangladesh faces unforeseen levels of environmental threats. While we can’t change the way the world works, we can take small incremental steps such as rooftop gardening to at least be able to tell our future generations that if nothing else, we’ve tried .