Monami Bhattacharya, Proshakha Maitra
Climate Action Team
The earth’s climate has been subjected to a continuous process of change since the very beginning. Such change in atmospheric and climatic conditions is still occurring and is a natural and inevitable process. However, many anthropological actions of the present times are accelerating this change irreversibly and negatively. We are in the face of the macabre realities of the 21st century, where unprecedented climate exigencies are reeling hard, and the entire ecosystems are collapsing. Over the past century, the earth’s surface temperature has increased about 1-degree Celsius. This temperature rise is highly alarming and such a change is also leading to many natural imbalances in the environment. A multitude of system functions are affected by the gradual change in the earth’s climate with extreme intensity and frequency of the climatic events being the most common one.
The changing climate's effect on our biosphere is immeasurable and is gradually going beyond our control. If our immediate actions cannot address this crucial issue, we will only have to adapt ourselves or perish with time. From our daily lives to our future days, our immediate surroundings to the global expanse, everything is within the grasp of the grave effects of climate change.
The gradual change of the global climate causes various uncertainties in the supply and management of water resources. Apart from the surface water bodies which are directly affected, climate change also results in the reduction of quantity and quality of groundwater. As the aquifers below the surface are recharged through precipitation and interaction with surface water bodies, the direct impact of climate change on these factors ultimately affects the groundwater. Climate change results in large-scale changes in precipitation through its influence on evaporation and transpiration. Being the primary source of groundwater recharge, changes in evaporation and transpiration will lead to an overall change in the quantity of water stored below the ground.
The present days are witnessing more severe occurrences of floods, droughts, tropical cyclones, and other natural disasters, all of which can be attributed to climate change. With the sea-level rise, the coastal zones are having frequent floods with saline intrusion in their crop fields and groundwater. The melting of snow in the upper course of the rivers is increasing their discharge which is not just flooding the lower courses but also resulting in the huge deposition of silt carried by more volume of water. Any temporal data from the arid and semi-arid regions will portray how frequent and longer droughts have resulted in extreme water scarcity and failure of crops in these regions. What may seem like a natural destruction today, is ultimately a catastrophe to the whole of mankind where we will be left with a planet with no food and water and uninhabitable living conditions.
However, certain changes in the climatic conditions are inevitable and the only way to cope up with them is to adapt and increase the resilience of urban and social systems to such changes. This can be accelerated by adopting certain evidence-based solutions where examples of interdepartmental collaboration, innovative thinking, transdisciplinary approaches, increase in institutional capacities or other means have resulted in achieving some solutions to deal with the change that can serve as an example for other areas or regions facing similar crises.
The case study of the Masdar City model in the United Arab Emirates
Several models have been developed across the globe which coherently narrates the way forward for a better and greener tomorrow. Adapting to the change and developing resilient and sustainable models is the key to address the grueling issues of the modern world that is tormenting man. The case study of the Masdar City model in the United Arab Emirates is one of the most prominent initiatives at developing a sustainable and green “Post Oil City”. The area under consideration is in the land of exquisite and abundant oil fields. It is poignant to realise how a country abundant with oil resources started considering ideas of renewable sources of energy, and in the process developed a realistic model city which is absolutely independent of the scarce resources of oil products. The city is being built on the ideals of sustainability, and is a true architectural wonder located in Abu Dhabi, UAE. The main objective of the model was to develop an adaptable and resilient model to highlight a “carbon -neutral city”. The city introduced hi-tech innovations such as, magnetic field led cars, battery cars, zero-waste emission models, etc. among other path breaking innovations.
The city is a dream of reality that aims to address the issues arising from the impact of rapid climate change and trying to alter the eminent apocalyptic future that mankind is headed towards. The inception of the idea of building a sustainable and green city, the Masdar City was in the year 2008. As common knowledge points out, the urban landscape is responsible for the majority of carbon emission in the world and that is increasing at an alarming rate. The Masdar city is one of the first attempts to utilise the renewable sources of energy in a sustainable manner to meet the demands of the ever-increasing population worldwide.
The realistic model of the Masdar city later paved the way for sporadic adoption of such planned cities in various parts of the world. Several prominent urban landscapes have henceforth adopted green technologies to meet the ideals of sustainability and conservation as a step toward green development. The capital city of Norway, Oslo is one such milestone example. The planners aim at reducing the carbon footprint and using sustainable and renewable technologies in the cityscape. Similarly, the capital city of Denmark, Copenhagen, has promoted the cause of green and sustainable development by implementing eco-friendly modes of transportation in the urban area. Many such prominent case studies reverberate from across the globe in the present day when concerns for the imminent degrading future raises concerns for conservation and sustainability.
The feat achieved in foreign lands, forces us in India to wonder about the practicality of ensuring green and sustainable development and moving towards reducing the carbon footprint in the fast-expanding urban landscape in the country. Case studies are observed in the country as well, where nascent steps towards a green future have already been adopted and there exists a lot of potential for further development of sustainable technologies. One of the most prominent metropolises in India, Kolkata, popularly known as the vibrant “city of joy” has paved the way for green initiatives to be adopted. The fast-paced rampant urban expansion has resulted in the institution of the satellite city of “New Town”, which is an extension of the already expanding city of Kolkata.
New Town, Kolkata (India)
Several green technologies have been implemented and are planned to be implemented in this satellite city. Initiatives like introducing battery run vehicles like the newly introduced fleet of buses, or the local “totos”, promoting eco-friendly mode of transportation through cycles, which are available at pre-made stands dedicated solely for the eco-cycles etc. The recent planning of extension of the metro, resulted in a unique green initiative where, the pillars constructed are transformed into vertical gardens, which not only add to the aesthetic beauty of the city but also help in maintaining the ecological balance. Several acres of marshy land during the developing concrete jungle have been transformed into an eco-park, where green initiatives have been successfully implemented. Solid-waste management is another feat of this growing city. This satellite city has received the title of “Green City” and works towards further achieving the goal.
Another prominent case study from India, is cited of the planned satellite city of Chandigarh. The idea of the city materialised in the 1950s and was designed by a French architect. The city is booming with lush green cover amidst the expanding concrete jungle and, is a true breath of fresh air. Massive plantation drives have been undertaken by the Government to restore the magnificence of the green city over the past decades. The urban landscape houses several acres of green space including eco-parks and lakes etc. The planned city is one of the first efforts of India towards a greener and cleaner future.
In the Indian context, it is observed that like “New Town” and “Chandigarh” there are several other urban landscapes which are trying to implement green initiatives to ensure reduction in carbon emission and work towards a green and sustainable growth. The primary criterion of a sustainable and smart city is its architectural wonder which promotes a holistic approach towards conservation and green growth and ensures a compact cityscape. Alongside emphasising on the need for green technologies, highlights should also be laid on increasing the natural cover or the green cover. The ideas of permaculture or urban agroforestry is gaining popularity across the globe, it basically talks of implementing models in urban landscape, where land is utilised for both agricultural purpose and forestry in the fringes of the urban area. The natural resources hence derived would be able to meet the growing needs of the urban areas. This if implemented in the Indian landscape would surely solve the problems of increasing demand for natural resources. Moreover, it would help reduce runoff, and act as a carbon sink, thus reducing levels of pollution considerably. Hence, in conclusion it can be stated India today needs an all-inclusive and holistic model of sustainable and green growth to ensure a cleaner and a greener future.
Proshakha Maitra : I am student of Masters in Natural Resources and Governance and a graduate (B.Sc Geography) from the University of Calcutta.Presently I am working as a project assistant with the Asian Development Bank on increasing urban resilience of cities to Climate Change.
Monami Bhattacharya : I am a postgraduate student of Masters in Natural Resources and Governance at Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Hyderabad and a graduate (B.Sc. Geography) from University of Calcutta.