Lessons from India in building urban resilience

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By PATRALEKHA CHATTERJEE

Mumbai’s Drop Dead Foundation, for example, is an initiative taken by a single individual to save water by repairing leaking taps in the neighbourhoods. A leakage of one water drop per second amounts to about 4.3 litres per day, or about 1,560 litres per year — enough to meet about three days of water needs of a household.

Mr. Abid Surti was annoyed by the leaking taps and decided to help others in his neighbourhood to save water by repairing the leaking taps. In the first year of the Foundation’s existence, in 2007, he had visited,1,666 houses on Mira Road, fixed 414 leaking taps free of charge, and saved about 400,000 litres of water. Such efforts are required in water, energy and food sectors to reduce consumption and to promote “waste not-want not” in the coming age of uncertainties.

Q: From your practical experience, what lessons have you learned about creating energy security in the urban context. Any examples?

A: About 80 percent of the world’s energy demand is now met by fossil fuels. With the option for decentralization of energy generation, households can become “prosumers” — consumers who are also producers. With net metering, coming disruption in cheaper storage systems such as Tesla’s Powerwall and beyond, the energy sector is going to transform significantly.

With increasing concern of global warming and climate change, carbon-neutral cities are required now more than ever. Surat city has taken initiatives to promote rooftop solar energy systems. We do not have many options except transforming to prosumer models of decentralized energy systems. Resilience can only be achieved by multiple solutions.

Q: You also talk about environmental health. Could you share one or two examples where Indian cities are taking a lead in this?

A: We are facing multiple challenges of urban health, including poor quality of water, mixing of wastes with water-supply systems, reduced walking, air pollution and urban heat islands. Poor quality of air and water result in deterioration of urban health.

We are currently dealing with the symptoms rather than root causes of deteriorating urban health. The book tries to address some of the issues related with environmental health, for interventions across multiple scales, sectors and stakeholders. The book tries to explore synergistic options through integrating action by for groups of stakeholders.

Surat city had been facing many other health challenges including malaria, filaria and plague. After the last plague incident, the city took several measures including widening the narrow streets to enable free movement of solid waste collection vehicles, cleaning up the whole city and setting up a disease-surveillance system.

The ACCCRN improved the disease-surveillance system so that health data can be analyzed on the same day, so that remedial actions can be taken before a few cases of diseases cascade into an epidemic. Extensive use of near real-time data collection systems was computerized to enable quick decision making.

Even after recurring epidemics, other cities have not yet adopted these systems, as is the case of the flood early-warning system. It is hoped that other cities will develop context-specific solutions to the recurrent challenges in water, energy, food and environmental health systems.

Source: Citiscope

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