Indian cities are becoming urban heat islands - GulfToday

Indian cities are becoming urban heat islands

Meena Janardhan

Writer/Editor/Consultant. She has over 25 years of experience in the fields of environmental journalism and publishing.

Writer/Editor/Consultant. She has over 25 years of experience in the fields of environmental journalism and publishing.

India Heatwave

The photo has been used for illustrative purposes.

As rivers surge and floods overpower, as forests burn and glaciers melt, and as wild animals enter human habitats, there is still no urgency among us as humans to find solutions to the immense crisis that is looming large over us.

A recent study published by the US National Bureau of Economic Research states that no economy in the world will be unaffected by climate change by the year 2100. The report spells out the country-specific consequences of ignoring the Paris Agreement goals. In India’s case, Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is set to shrink 10% by the end of the century (2100) in such a scenario.

Citizens and governments have to work together.  Across the globe, several initiatives have been put into place at local, regional and international levels. For them to succeed however, each one of us needs to take one step forward, to say the least.

In India, many such local initiatives are making news. What is required is for each one of us to contribute in any which way we can to stem the tide – people’s participation and environmental awareness and conservation are the need of the hour.

In Pune, the Pimpri Chinchwad Municipal Corporation has approached NGOs, environmentalists, local committees and citizens for their suggestions to prepare this year’s environmental status report (ESR), which has to be submitted before August 31. The environment department has also asked for suggestions for creating awareness about the environment, eco-friendly items and the plastic ban.

The PCMC’s environmental status report for 2018-19 had revealed the rise in levels of air, water and sound pollution. The report stated rapid urbanization, growth of industries and lifestyle changes were the main factors for this rise.

A new report from The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) states that India would have to plant more than double the new trees that were planted last year. Around 30,000 hectares of woodland should be planted every year. The government would have to commit to reducing emissions in India by 2050 and in order to do so, the CCC have estimated that woodland has to increase to 17% of land, it currently stands at 13%.

Across India, there are tree planting initiatives that citizens can volunteer for. An NGO called Green-Trees has been successful in planting more than 3.9 million trees in India, thereby, reducing carbon emissions each year by a massive 78,252,500 kg. At Green-Trees, most tree planting initiatives are spearheaded by tribal and local communities – people, mostly women, whose lives are intertwined with forests. Another initiative called Green Yatra runs a successful program called, ‘Go Green Kids’ provides students in schools with saplings and teach them how to look after them.

Experts say that Indian cities are becoming urban heat islands. Using an array of global climate models, researchers at MIT found that, in many densely populated cities in India, heat waves are likely to breach the survivability threshold by the end of the century. Here too targeted local strategies could help. Indian cities could switch to lighter-coloured paving or porous green roads and cool roofs, to reflect more solar radiation. After a severe 2010 heat wave, the city of Ahmedabad implemented a Heat Action Plan, including a cool-roofs program; research has shown this plan has prevented thousands of deaths.

Earlier this month India announced a plan to cut its coal imports by a third, counting on an increase in domestic production and in renewable energy output. Reducing energy imports and harnessing domestic resources are the key. A gradual shift away from coal is extremely essential to fight deadly air pollution that millions of Indians battle with. However for this to succeed, we need awareness generation and participation right from the grassroots levels to decision-making corridors.

Wastewater processing is a challenge for Indian cities. But the problem begins at the pipeline level. Recently, a company called Fluid Robotics makes robots that swim, float or crawl through water pipelines to check for damage (like cracks or faulty joints). In doing so, the robots can also help municipal authorities intercept and divert wastewater that is being dumped into a water source, like a lake or river.

The urgent need is to, therefore, promote, encourage and participate in local and regional initiatives and harness the solutions that emerge. India’s youth are immensely talented and need to come together and seek out every possible innovation, invention or initiative that can help us correct our mistakes and move forward towards sustainable development.