Climate change: How can India’s concretised, dangerously hot cities be cooled down sustainably?
Extreme weather can reduce productivity and GDP. Ensuring waste management, robust public transport and more open, green spaces could bring some respite.
Over the past month, Rani has been exhausted all the time. As the mercury has soared beyond 42 degrees Celsius in Delhi, life in her tin-roofed, poorly ventilated home made from mud and corrugated iron has made it difficult to sleep. With this heat stress, Rani has had to give up her day-time cleaning jobs. She is able to work only at one house late in the evening.
Even within neighborhoods, there are temperature variations due to building patterns, lack of vegetation, and different roofing material types that typically arise from socio-economic difference.
Industrial areas and heavily concretised, packed urban settlements, without vegetation or tree lined avenues, have significantly higher temperatures.
Blue-green infrastructure: Indian cities are woefully inadequate in terms of per capita green open spaces. In addition to increasing porosity and ambient temperature reduction, green spaces also provide health co-benefits. Development plans should set targets to increase sponge surfaces and regulations should mandate the development of various typologies of urban forests – parks, green roofs – for adaptation benefits. Better management of water bodies and wetlands that promotes proper ecological functioning while still providing sustainable usage should be ensured.
Waste management: Dangerous heat islands form in and around landfills. This arises from methane production from unsegregated waste or landfill fires and pollution from poorly managed sites. Proper solid waste management at source, including strict enforcement of segregation and disposal, warrants immediate action in cities. In addition, landfills need to be designed and managed scientifically enabling methane extraction. Circular economy approaches to construction and demolition waste handling can reduce dust causing air pollution.