Calamity-prone — urban India’s worrying storyline

Source: The post is based on an article Calamity-prone — urban India’s worrying storyline” published in The Hindu on 6th October 2022.

Syllabus: GS 3 – Disaster Management

Relevance: climate action plans and problems associated with it.

News: There has been an increase in unfavorable weather phenomenon these days. Mostly urban cities suffer due to the lack of proper mitigation mechanism.

These weather calamities have impacted Delhi (2013, 2021), Mumbai (2005, 2017), Chennai (2015, 2021) in the past and the most recent one is Bengaluru.

Karnataka government announced a ₹900 crore project in November 2021 after flooding and this year they have announced an anti-encroachment drive.

However, these measures are not helpful and there is a need for proper climate consciousness in the planning process.

What are the impacts of extreme weather phenomenon?

It causes extensive losses to property and life.

For example, Mumbai reportedly lost ₹14,000 crore between 2005 and 2015 while the figure for Chennai was an estimated ₹15,000 crore in 2015 alone.

There are also social and human costs involved which is mostly borne by the poor section of the society.

What are the problems with climate action planning in urban cities?

Master plan: Urban cities in India lack master planning. For example, Bengaluru has not had a master plan to control its development since 2015.

65% of urban settlements in India do not have a master plan. The cities that have master plan usually do not address issues of environmental protection or mitigating climate change.

Local governments: The powers to prepare a master plan lie with the state government and the local governments are only reduced to stakeholders without much authority.

Old plans: The plans present in cities are old and some of them vary with the present mapping.

For example,

  1. the Drainage Master Plan for Delhi was drafted in 1976 and a new plan is only just being implemented.
  2. the drainage lines in Bengaluru as per the 2015 Master Plan vary significantly from the drains mapped by the municipality.

Moreover, there are problems associated with the new climate action plans also.

What are the issues with the present climate action plan being drafted?

City administrations of Mumbai, Ahmedabad, and Nagpur among others have begun adopting climate action plans.

The Mumbai plan covers all aspects of the city’s environment from flooding to air pollution and aligns itself with the national goal of net-zero emissions.

However, the plan lacks statutory backing. It does not prescribe any regulatory controls and there are a series of recommended measures that can be adopted by the authorities/citizens.

These plans are made with the consultation of experts but there is hardly any public participation involved. This reduces the plan’s credibility.

What can be the course of action?

First, there is a need to create a comprehensive climate action plan for all major Indian cities.

Second, the plans should be given statutory backing by bringing them within the ambit of the city’s master plan.

Third, there is also need to involve public consultation in plan preparation process. This would be effective in highlighting issues of underserved neighborhoods which are often overlooked by decision-making bodies.

Fourth, there is also a need for an environmental protection agency to proactively tackle issues related to climate change.

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