Climate Change and Actions for A Smart City

Dr. Ranjit K. Sahu and Ravi Shankar Behera

The super cyclone of 1999, Phailin 2013 and Cyclone Fani, 2019 have depleted considerable vegetation from the cityscape and coastal districts causing irreparable damage to the local biodiversity impacting human lives. A smart city is not just a conglomeration  of concrete structures with skyscrapers, roads, over bridges, metro connectivity and apartments. Instead, it needs to be a healthy and aesthetically balanced space to live in with the basic provisions of clean water, air, sunlight, housing and affordable public amenities for all citizens.

With the rising mercury (over 50 degrees Celsius) and indications that Titlagarh is already on its way to becoming a desert, we implore the possibilities of reviving the natural green cover in the state, beginning with Bhubaneswar and its surrounding areas that are proposed to be converted to a smart city ! We hope that such a label will enthuse the local residents to at least take some kind of smart initiatives to increase the greenery around their dwellings. People just expect the government to do all the planting and wait for things to happen but citizens need to be  active in caring for their surroundings. The government can at best green roadsides and public places. Moreover each tree needs a personal caretaker in return for the care it takes of the people around it (animals, birds and other species included).  The concept of tree stewardship is yet to be thoght off  in the smart cities!

Infrastructure development coupled with  ecological degradation results in cities that degenerate and  aggravate social problems, making them  unlivable place due to prohibitory costs of maintaining a normal life. Every city needs people of various skills and socioeconomic status to sustain. It will be pivotal to include these people in city planning and design process. Thus, it is imperative that sensitization on ecological conditions around the city percolate down every layer of the society.  It is  important that each individual contributes in some form to creating and mainatining  green cover. Mere  floor plan of a city cannot make it  world class city, if a culture of maintaining and nurturing greeenry within  the city is not imbibed into the population.

 

The city people may think it is enough to acquire modern gadgets, expensive jewellery, branded clothes and luxury cars to flaunt their affluence on fellow city dwellers but lthey should  not forget that if climate change makes life in the city miserable their displays will only be limited to 2D or to social networking sites. Thus they need to begin to take an active interest in helping mitigate the adverse effects of climate in the city. A smart city would not be the product of just city planning using domestic and foreign engineering and spatial planning inputs and expertise; it would inevitably be linked to the conscious and active participation of every single resident  for increasing the green cover and conservation of soil and water and local biodiversity. The governments’ actions not considered, it is now time for the citizens and residents of every city to involve themselves in reviving nature around themsleves f they do not desire to leave behind a Mohenjodaro (A city with well developed infrastructure but no sign of life) for future generations.

We propose a twenty point agenda for the long term benefits of the city that may result in a better living environment for all.

  1. Engagement of Children in Eco-activities: The future of a city is in the hands of the students and children who grow up. Sensitizing them to take care of their environment and involving them in tree planting activities, caring for wildlife and local birds like sparrows and pigeons would not only make them more conscious civilians in future but also impart in them a sense of aesthetics which would help to nurture their mental and psychological health.
  2. Citizen Eco-Clubs: Local residents who own properties can form eco-clubs as they would be the long term beneficiaries of the project.s Introducing local tree clubs maybe one approach to implement this activity.
  3. Retrofitting and climate resilient infrastructure: Infrastructure changes and modifications such as retrofitting and building climate-resilient infrastructure are essential to counter the effects of climate change in cities with limited space for green cover and water recharging. The recent implementation of the Parisian Corporation making it mandatory for roofs to have a garden or solar panel is a possible path for cities like Bhubaneswar too! It should be mandatory for all government buildings to have a minimum amount of green cover and these can easily be included in the budget. Instead of using subsidies to provide meals at five rupees, if a part of it can be used for cumulative increase in green cover, it would be in the long term interest of the city.
  4. Protection of carbon sink tanks: Protection of the natural ecosystems like ponds, wetlands, forests etc., in the periphery or within the city is very important. Native species that are endemic and well adapted need to be protected and propagated. The city’s expansion in the direction of the Wildlife habitats has to be prohibited at all costs Prevention of invasive species and educational programmes involving local people and rangers may be a first step in this direction.
  5. Rain water harvesting: Rain water harvesting has to be made mandatory across the city and its implementation strictly regulated. Cities like Chennai have already implemented this. This type of a measure would help to partly mitigate the  surface run off and lowering of  ground wtaer table.
  6. Local Innovations for environment protection: Trees and plants are not mere organisms. They are entire ecosystems by themselves harboring variety of life forms. With increasing evidence being gathered about underground communication among trees through microbes, it is all the more relevant to maintain the natural tree cover in a city.Modifying construction activities to minimize or prevent the cutting down of trees or replacing an old or dead tree with another of its kind maybe the most appropriate means to keep this process of natural symbiosis operational in a strcturally evoleving city. Where t trees cannot be planted, dense hedges and bushes can be used which aid in beautification and provide shelter to small birds and animals during adverse situations.
  7. Temples as place of worship and biodiversity conservation: Using the temple in the context of environment is perhaps the most unique perspective which can be exploited by citlies like Bhubaneswar. The Bhubaneswar Municipality Corporation (BMC). Being branded as a “Temple City” and dotted by innumerable heritage structures, it would be good to assign temple staff s with responsibility of maintaining trees or plants to beautify and make their premises attractive. This can generate employment. Similarly, suggesting and supporting temples to have water bodies or fountains in their premises can help mitigate the effects of summer heat on local fauna. Temples can organize Tree planting activities in their surroundings on festive occasions using the knowledge from scriptures.
  8. Converting organic waste to manure: Solid waste management systems including sorting of the waste at the collection centers and sewerage treatment plants are essential to ensure that the garbage and other waste from the city is collected and disposed off safely. The Government needs to build and support such systems. Composting of vegetable matter at localities to generate organic manure for local consumption can be  The case of Titlagarh is an eye opener where one profound reason of the desertification is the decreasing organic content in the soil due to loss of forest cover (a source of organic matter) and where such steps are urgently needed to revive the organic content in the soil.
  9. Conservation of local water bodies: There are not many water bodies in the vicinity of Bhubaneswar compared to many cities of its size around the world. These not only act as lungs of the city by providing an open space but also provide a means to recharge ground water as well act as refuge for birds and animals during summer apart from providing a cooling effect.
  10. Engagement of Millennial generation in eco-promotion: India (Odisha) has the advantage of a growing tech savvy young populations who can be easily motivated to undertake extensive tree plantations and nature care. Voluntary participation can be encouraged from youth through awareness and social media. Technology can also be used to track the existing green cover and progress in increasing green cover and monitor the changes in ecological factors like using the Global Positioning System (GPS) system.
  11. Accessible infrastructure and services for Persons with Disability (PWDs): Smart city planning and design needs to be ihandicap friendly. Accessibility of Persons with Disability (PWDs) to roads, railways, airports and public spaces need to be more inclusive, keeping in view the special needs and vulnerabilities of PWDs. The city planning needs to include special design of infrastructure and services pertaining to the special needs of PWDs, in accordance with the Rights of Persons with Disability Act, 2016.
  12. Street lighting: Provisioning of adequate street lighting is crucial, especially for ensuring safety and security of women and children. Solar street lighting and other renewable and modern street lighting systems need to be installed at sensitive and strategic points across the city including the suburbs. Howeevr kind of lighting and its suitability to migratory and local birds needs to be looked into.
  13. Basic infrastructure and portability of services for migrant communities: Access to basic infrastructure and services for the migrant communities including their families like Anganwadi centers, PDS, descent housing, clean drinking water and improved sanitation, health centers, school facilities, crèche and housing need to be ensure as per the Building and Construction Workers (BOCW) ACT, 1996. Portability of PDS and other entitlements like Mid Day Meals (MDM), Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS), immunization etc. need to be ensured by the Government.
  14. Old age homes: Old age homes need to be constructed and made operational for the elderly with all basic facilities and safety measures.
  15. Crèche facilities: Crèche facilities need to be ensured for the working class (women) to cater to their special needs of providing care and support for the infants and children in the age group of 0-5 years.
  16. Marketing Outlets: Market yards and marketing outlets need to be set up and made operational by the Government to ensure trade activities and boost growth with adequate space, storage facilituues, cold storage and logistics.
  17. Affordable housing for the poor: Affordable housing and allied facilities need to be ensured in the smart cities for the loweincome groups, including the urban homeless and other categories of most vulnerable communities as some of them take up temporary jobs in the city and act as labor force.
  18. Affordable Public transport: Provisioning of adequate and affordable public transport like bus, metro, MMTS will be crucial for ensuring the mobility of the public, especially the poor and women. These will also impact the reduction in air pollution and improve safety of women in the city.
  19. Parks and Open spaces: Parks and Open spaces are crucial to ensure adequate green spaces that facilitate healthy recreation for city residents.
  20. Zoos and Biodiversity Parks: Zoos and Biological Parks would be essential to protect wildlife and other species. These could also act as tourist and recreational centres.

About the Author:

Dr. Ranjit K. Sahu is a Research professional and freelance writer with over a decade of experience in biomedical research , currently located in Virginia, USA. His interests include education, environment, sustainability and health care in the underprivileged regions of the world.

Ravi Shankar Behera is a free lance consultant in the development sector and affiliated to several organizations, currently based in New Delhi.

2 Comments

  1. Sarbani Chakrabarty says:

    This is indeed a very good write-up based on practical insights on the problems and it’s solution based on people’s view, for the benefit of the environment and society. I congratulate Authors for this and wish them best wishes for their upcoming article.

  2. Thanks dear Sarbani

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