Month: March 2010

Towards a Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation Policy for Maharashtra: Urbanization

Presented at Yashwantrao Chavan Pratishthan, Mumbai on 6 March 2010


Access full paper CCAM 4 March 2010


Rationale /overview for the theme

Maharashtra is among the states with the largest urban populations in India. Till 1991, Maharashtra was the most urbanised state in India among the 16 largest states in India with a population of 78 million. In 2001, with regard to the urban population, Maharashtra ranked second with a share of 42.4% urban population next to Tamil Nadu with a share of 43.9% of urban population. In absolute numbers, according to the 2001 census, 10.5 million was urban population out of a total population of 97 million. The economic and industrialization policies of the state are also further encouraging a shift from agriculture to other sectors that are urban-based, with the objective of economic growth.

Given the large populations that cities host, and the higher energy consumption associated with cities, it is clear that urban areas need special attention while developing state-level strategies to address climate change related issues.

Cities have a critical role in addressing vulnerability, protecting people, preparedness, and resilience. Satterthwaite and Dodman (2009)[1] suggest that while cities are often implicated in discussions on climate change, making cities the culprit misses the fact that a significant proportion of GHG emissions are caused by consumption patterns of middle and upper income groups. Also, it misses the role that well-planned cities have in achieving a healthy habitat and a good quality of life with low GHG levels. A more nuanced approach is therefore necessary.

Certainly reductions in green house gases (GHGs), the sources of which include industrial production, transport, buildings, waste, etc are desirable. However, there is a lot of variation regarding quantity of GHG emissions between different cities. Some cities in high income countries show lower per capita GHG levels than their national averages in Europe and North America e.g. New York and London, especially because of the investments made in public transport and disincentives to private transport. As Maharashtra takes up large transport infrastructure projects, it would be useful to look at what cities like New York and London are doing now to improve mobility while reducing the carbon footprint. In accordance with the National Urban Transport Policy, cities in Maharashtra need to develop a multi-modal approach to mobility with emphasis on public transport and non-motorized transport facilities.

Most cities in Maharashtra have inadequate provision of municipal services. Supply of water, waste-water treatment, solid waste management and preservation of gardens and green areas are among the core municipal services and amenities. These are essential to maintain healthy living conditions and have a key role in disease prevention, which is one of the ways to build resilience. While support is being made available through the JNNURM for improvement in the provision of basic services, a lot remains to be done on the ground.

Livelihood support and micro-credit enable individuals and families to develop a solid economic base which can also help them to be more resilient to shocks caused directly or indirectly due to climate change. A large proportion of the jobs of the urban poor is generally in the informal sector. Some of these informal sector jobs provide services that are ‘low carbon’ and need to be upgraded and supported in various ways. For example, transforming the work conditions of rag-pickers and including them in improving municipal waste management systems can achieve multiple benefits. Not only does the sector provide employment, it also promotes recycling. Work conditions can be improved by mandating source segregation, allocating spaces for neighbourhood composting and sorting of dry recyclables etc. and also encouraging the setting up of facilities for material recovery and recycling in and around urban centres.

Another way of enhancing urban resilience is by adopting pro-poor strategies to address lack of access to decent housing, sanitation, health care, schooling, political voice, etc.

The major tools for city planning are development plans or master plans, development control rules and building codes. Changes are needed in the practices of town planning to take into account strategies for disaster risk reduction (DRR), extreme weather events, space allocation for core services delivered in ‘low carbon’ ways, etc. Building codes to promote ‘low carbon buildings’ should no longer remain voluntary and incentive based, but should become mandatory.

Another important facet is the need for information to support decision making. The reporting framework, as well as the processes of use of city State of the Environment (SoE) reports need strengthening so as to include monitoring of local action taken related to addressing climate change impacts. The SoE reporting process in any case needs strengthening to be useful in the exercises of municipal planning, budgeting and implementing programmes and projects.

City governments and civil society also need to develop mechanisms to greatly enhance public participation. Effective institutions and mechanisms of democratic governance provide the basis for a society to act in concert to face stresses. Participation of citizens in preparation of master plans, annual ward level and sectoral budgets, neighbourhood infrastructure related decision, participatory monitoring and evaluation of development projects are some areas that require a much more open attitude by municipal administrators as well as elected officials.

While there are specific tasks that need to be done within cities, an overall macro policy of climate-change sensitive urbanization in the state also needs to be developed. Urbanization in the state should be planned considering the environmental CARRYING CAPACITY of the region.

[1] Satterthwaite, David and David Dodman (2009). ‘The Role of Cities in Climate Change’ in State of the World 2009. World Watch Institute