Stuff I Do

Experiences and Encounters in Pune

‘Cities’ in State of the World 2009

Posted by Sanskriti on October 8, 2009

Launch of SoW 2009 in Pune, 6 Oct 09

Launch of SoW 2009 in Pune, 6 Oct 09

In preparation for organizing the launch of the Indian edition of State of the World 2009 in Pune, I’ve been selectively reading the content related to cities.

David Satterthwaite and David Dodman bring a few new perspectives in their article on ‘The Role of Cities in Climate Change’ in SoW 2009.

They say that Cities are often implicated in discussions on Climate Change (CC).  Cities have been made a focus of reductions in greenhouse gases (GHGs), the sources of which include industrial production, transport, buildings, waste, etc. However, it is not clear how GHG allocation is to be done in the case of industrial production (or even power production) – at the point of production or at the point of consumption? And cities that have manufacturers of ‘green products’ like solar panels and windmills – they will have high local GHG emissions, but would be contributing to savings elsewhere. So it may be unfair to put the blame squarely on cities.

They also point out that there is a lot of variation regarding quantity of GHG emissions between different cities. Satterthwaite suggests that maybe cities in developed world are to blame? He however, also points out that some studied cities (e.g. New York and London) show lower GHG levels than their national averages in Europe and North America. So instead of a blanket blame on cities, it is better to assess particular activities. Making cities the culprit misses the fact that GHG emissions are caused by consumption patterns of middle and upper income groups.

The role that well-planned cities have in achieving good a good quality of life with low GHG levels is also often over-looked. For example, cities  have a concentration of opportunities for enhancing Quality of Life with low GHG emissions: arts, theatre, music, library etc.

Given that cities  have large populations, they need to focus on vulnerability, protecting people, preparedness, resilience, such as the steps taken in the city of Manizales, Colombia for lowering risk. Certainly, the planning, management, and governance of cities should have a central role in reducing GHG emissions due to human activities worldwide. But this should also have a central role in the often neglected activities of protecting people in cities from the floods, storms, heat waves, and other likely impacts of climate change.

Greening of Pune's Hills by citizens is super ... but should we also be protecting the forests in the upstream areas in the Sahyadris

Greening of Pune's Hills by citizens is super ... but should we not also be protecting the forests in the upstream areas in the Sahyadris

One of the boxes informs about innovative arrangements that some cities have made for securing water supply. Marta Echavarria in Protecting Watershed to Build Urban Resilience, says that ‘In a warmer world, water supply challenges will require new ways of thinking about resilience that go beyond the engineering of pipes and ditches to new nonstructural land management approaches that work with nature to protect the quality and quantity of the resource.  She gives the example of New York City that in the early 1990s rejected a proposal to build more water filtration plants in favor of buying and protecting forested land well beyond city lines in the upstream watershed of the Hudson River.

More recently, Quito, in the northern Andes has created the Quito Watershed Protection Fund funded through a 1.25-percent percent tax on municipal water in the metropolitan area, supplemented by payments by electrical utilities and donations from private water users. This fund invests in an innovative public-private partnership to protect and manage the grassland-covered mountain watersheds above which provide the city most of its water.

Rebecca Kedari (R) and Mangal Gaekwad (L)

Rebecca said the city gives free parking for polluting cars but has no space for us who segregate and recycle; the company that collects waste to burn steals our livelihood to make profits and pollute; Swach changed work conditions but we need the support of citizens and the city govt

Another point made in the book that struck home was on Green Jobs. Michael Renner, Sean Sweeney, and Jill Kubit in Employment in a Low-Carbon World say ‘Green jobs need to be decent jobs—offering good wages and income security, safe working conditions, dignity at work, and adequate workers’ rights.

Sadly, this is not always the case today. Recycling work is sometimes precarious, involving serious occupational health hazards and often generating less than living wages and incomes, as is the case for 700,000 workers in electronics recycling in China.’

Kartikbhai in his closing remarks at the launch event suggested that India could lead the evolution of a (or may be many?)  ‘different development paradigm’.  I think Swach in Pune is certainly one such  example  for the world.

I found a few very ‘quotable quotes’ type of statements … like this one:

… the resources, technologies, and human capacity for change are all in place.  The missing ingredient is political will, and that is a renewable resource

– Christopher Flavin and Robert Engelman in The Perfect Storm


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