URBANISATION / ENVIRONMENT/ GOVERNANCE
- GS-1: Urbanization, their problems and their remedies
- GS-2: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation
Climate Action by Cities
Context: Recently, Maharashtra’s Environment Minister announced that 43 cities across the State will join the UN-backed ‘Race to Zero’ global campaign, which aims to create jobs while meeting goals of climate change and sustainable development.
Are cities doing enough?
- Out of 53 Indian cities with a population of over one million, approximately half of these cities have a climate resilience plan in place. Of these, 18 cities have moved towards implementation.
- These numbers highlight an encouraging first step, signalling that recurrent experiences of floods, water scarcity, cyclones and storm surges are being taken up into urban development policy.
- Ahmedabad has had a Heat Action Plan (HAP) since 2010 and its success evident from reduced heat mortality.
- Combining infrastructural interventions (for example, painting roofs white) and behavioural aspects (building public awareness on managing heat), the model has now been scaled up to 17 cities across the country.
- Other successful projects include nature-based solutions such as mangrove restoration in coastal Tamil Nadu and urban wetland management (regulate urban floods) in Bengaluru.
Bottlenecks and ways forward
- However, a lot of interventions are being implemented through sectoral projects focusing on particular, isolated risks. This narrow focus tends to overlook how multiple risks converge and reinforce each other — for example, seasonal cycles of flooding and water scarcity in Chennai.
- Coastal flooding, sea-level rise, and cyclones are discussed less often despite India’s long coastline and highly vulnerable coastal cities and infrastructure.
- Inadequate finances and political will at city scales constrain developing sustainable Indian cities.
- Inadequate institutional capacity in existing government departments to reorient ways of working.
- Moving away from looking at risks in isolation and planning for multiple, intersecting risks.
- Government needs to undertake long-term planning with resilience planners in every line department as well as communication channels across departments to enable vertical and horizontal knowledge sharing.
- Focusing on changing behaviours and lifestyles. One emerging example behavioural change is bottom-up sustainable practices such as urban farming where citizens are interpreting sustainability at a local and personal scale. This can mean
- Growing one’s own food on terraces and simultaneously enhancing local biodiversity;
- Composting organic waste and reducing landfill pressure;
- Sharing farm produce with a neighbour,
- Bringing communities closer and creating awareness about food growing.
Connecting the dots: