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Green Cities: A challenge around the world and in India

Green Cities - A challenge across the World and in India

Green Cities - A challenge across the World and in India

Did you know that about half of the humanity (3.5 billion people) lives in cities today? And by 2030, it will reach 66% of the world’s population. What will this near future hold for us?

We know that cities are hubs of innovation, commerce, culture and much more, and have always enabled people to advance socially and economically. However, while prosperity and building are growing, resources and land are declining. Our planet is suffering the consequences. Cities are associated with around 70% of global energy consumption and energy-related greenhouse gas emissions, according to The New Climate Economy Report. Moreover, the increase of people habiting cities would mean that a rapid urbanization will be needed.  Thus, it might include more traffic congestion, shortage of water, sewage surplus, a lack of funds to provide basic services, deficit of quality housing, and so on. But after all, we have to acknowledge that is the high density of the cities that brings efficiency gains and technology innovation to our humanity. So, we have to be aware of the challenge: It is to find ways to overcome this growing while maintaining a good access to basic services, housing, public health, transportation, wellness and all. Plus always while reducing resource and energy consumption for a sustainable future. Hence, the option left is pretty clear: Developing Green Cities.

In case anyone doesn’t know, a green city is considered a city that has the cleanest and most efficient energy, transportation, and building infrastructure possible. It is a healthier and more pleasant place to live, a well-functioning and resilient society.

Every green city has to be different because on its particular climate and physical and human geography. It has to be designed by conserving the city’s natural features, adapted to its environment to save natural resources. However, all experts agree that all model of a green city should follow these cores strategies:

 

  • In the building sector, opportunities include improved building design practices; insulation; more efficient heating/cooling, lighting technologies and appliances, and the adoption of small-scale renewables. It will help reducing total emissions and also achieve other benefits such as reduced fuel poverty and improved public health.
  • In the transport sector, the increase of connectivity and cost-effective investments in more efficient vehicles, cleaner fuels and a range of public transport initiatives. It will serve the environment by saving carbon emissions through reduced travel and improved energy efficiency.
  • In the waste sector, investment measures such as improved recycling, landfill gas capture and enhanced composting of waste will also help reducing related greenhouse gas emissions (GHG).

 

India, because of its high population density and being the world’s third largest producer of the GHG emissions plays an important role here. Rapid urbanisation across this country poses a challenge and nowhere is it more apparent than in the urban transport. The expanding number of cars has brought complications to traffic congestion and to the quality of air. However, some Indian cities are starting to emerge as models of greener cities to create inspiration to other ones. That is the case of the southern coastal city of Chennai. Thanks to a revamped public transport and car-sharing initiatives, the city has now cleaner air, better health and less traffic. On the other hand, the waste sector is also a complicated one in this country and more recycling actions must be held. Just to give an example, in the Indian city of Kolkata waste-related GHG could be cut by 41% by 2025 through investments of INR13.1 billion (US$224 million). That would generate annual savings of INR1.1 billion (US$18.8 million) in a pay-back time of 11.8 years (The New Climate Economy Report, 2014).

 

The message than Chennai is sending out along with other cities’ proposals is an important one in India. The potential changes would bring economic growth and improve air quality, and most importantly, a greener city has the potential to bring more equitability for everyone.

 

If you have time and would like to learn more about models of green cities, I recommend you to watch this video. It is about Masdar city (UAE), the first city in the world designed especially for being total ecological and self-sufficient. A model for how cities should be built. Enjoy!

 

Article authored by Ariadna Caixach

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