India is the global host of this year's World Environment Day (WED) and on the occasion, the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) joined the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (MoHUA), UN Environment Program and UN Habitat to discuss the opportunities and challenges of addressing the environmental impacts of urbanization.
More than half of the world’s population lives in cities, and this level is expected to increase to two-thirds by 2050. Urbanization, while bringing opportunities for growth and human well-being, exerts pressure on resources and on the environment’s capacity to absorb waste and emissions. In India, it is expected that the urban population will double to 600 million relative to a baseline of 300 million in 2011.
Speaking at the event, UN Environment Executive Director Erik Solheim outlined priorities for tackling environmental challenges in cities, namely urban planning, public transport and traffic controls, green areas, and waste management. India’s Minister for Housing and Urban Affairs, Hardeep Singh Puri, also highlighted key government initiatives, including Swachh Bharat Urban – a movement that seeks to create a Clean India – smart cities, affordable housing and slum redevelopment.
“We need to rethink urbanism and its governance,” said René Van Berkel, UNIDO Representative to India, as he presented UNIDO’s approach for sustainable cities. “Cities are places for people to live, work and recreate, and can become hubs of innovation, low carbon industrialization and climate action. This requires concerted action to provide low carbon infrastructure and municipal services, to foster the greening of enterprises and urban-industrial symbiosis, and to facilitate cleantech innovation.”
The sustainable city approach is being rolled out in five pilot cities in India – Bhopal, Jaipur, Mysore, Guntur and Vijayawada – with funding support from the Global Environment Facility (GEF). UNIDO expects to contribute to vibrant and livable cities by strengthening institutions and helping them adopt sustainability policies and processes in city planning to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve waste management. The project will also promote sustainable cities practices through a partnership approach and create a favourable environment for investment in infrastructure and services.
“The sustainable cities pilot project will build upon existing initiatives,” Van Berkel said. In the city of Kanpur, for example, UNIDO, with funding from India’s Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP), recently demonstrated innovative leather technologies and processes that reduced the environmental footprint of the industry on the city – by enhancing resource efficiency and minimizing waste – and improved human safety and well-being.
Cleaning up of cities is also a niche for cleantech startups, as demonstrated by UNIDO in the WED Exhibition focusing on sustainable city solutions. Chakr Innovation showcased its drawing ink developed from the soot recovered by cleaning the exhaust of diesel generators. Artists displayed traditional drawings made with this POink. Of particular relevance to the 2018 WED theme, ‘Beat Plastic Pollution’, the Naval Defense Engineering displayed its Waste Shark, a small unmanned vessel that collects floating debris from the surface of the water, which was designed and manufactured in India yet first deployed to clean the port of Rotterdam, Netherlands. Rays Enserv promoted its innovative approach to converting non-recycled plastic waste to usable fuel. UNIDO also showed its medical waste management system comprising waste segregation in color-coded bins and on-site disinfection using microwave technology. The system is currently being rolled out in over 140 hospitals across five states in India.