Delhi- a city at the crossroads of 1.5 deg C

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Non-Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
Delhi is a land locked city, it has a borrowed climate with the Yamuna river criss crossing it. The effects of climate change has now started to be more visible than in the past. It is imperative that necessary steps are planned and implemented for keeping the temperature below 1.5 deg C. The article explores opportunities and challenges of climate change in the capital city.

Submitted: September 13, 2016

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Submitted: September 13, 2016



Delhi- a city at the crossroads of 1.5oC.

Delhi has a population of 18.6 million (2016) [1] spread over 1483 [2] making it among the top 5 populous cities in India (2nd highest population density) [3]. It is the capital city which host the president’s house and parliament, the central political leadership. Yet environment and per se, climate change is neglected heavily not only by the policy makers but public at large. Surprisingly, it was the first state to get its own climate action plan (Delhi Climate Change Agenda, on September, 2009) [4] for a specific period from 2009 till 2012. Since then, there has been no new Climate Action Plan.

In general, the subject of Climate Change figure in newspapers and media only around COPs. In COP21, it gain popularity, as the Indian Government submitted an ambitious plan to reduce its carbon intensity by 33% to 35% from 2005 levels [5]. On the other hand, in Delhi it lost its priority within government and social circles. The News and mass concerns are with massive water logging, flooding and a series of diseases happening here for the past few months (June to August, 2016). These would seem as not directly related to climate change on a broad manner. However, the severity of situation has been increasing for the past few years. This should be a point which needs immediate attention.

Generally, the effects of Climate Change in cities are less visible than coastal areas or villages. This is due to the fact that resources, civic amenities and aid are more accessible in urban cities and reach at faster speed to the affected. This year, it was different. There were many who were cut off from the essential supplies as well as had to suffer socio-economic losses. Delhi has a borrowed climate. Its climate is highly influenced by that of neighbouring states. It is one of the fast growing cities around the world. The importance of keeping the temperature below 1.5oC lies in the fact that due to rapid urbanisation and population pressure, there will be an immense pressure on local open spaces as well as green cover (Delhi’s forests cover was 11.88% of geographical area in 2008, while tree cover was 8.09% [6]). At present it is only 6% [7]. Delhi can’t afford to lose its green lungs at any costs. There are massive pressure points on natural resources including that on groundwater and river Yamuna.

At present, there is a huge gap between the state of implementation and policy/ advocacy due to lack of conclusive climate action plan, which could have been a road map and an enabler for climate actions. Though, there has been several efforts (such as metro rail) as part of adaptation and mitigation process, there remains an enormous scope of reducing carbon dioxide emissions especially from transportation and operation of diesel generator sets, which have come along up with huge office complexes, shopping centres and entertainments malls. These balance out any positive measures. This calls for immediate steps to enhance the spectrum of mitigation and adaptation measures for keeping the city as sustainable as possible for the next century.

There has been a gradual increase in summer temperatures as well as number of warmer days for the past 5-6 years. The rise in temperature atleast for three summer months (April, May and June) could be more than 1.5oC already as compared to 2000 levels, with the overall change in temperature levels between 0.3oC to 0.5oC [8] (Mean temperature rise of India is 0.6oC over 1905 levels, [9]). This could be due to several factors but notably the most visible are the transportation, ill planned development and reduction of green and open spaces.

In addition to these dominant factors, the minimal management of municipal solid waste has been a huge force in contributing to the greenhouse gases in Delhi. The landfills are overburdened and produce methane. There has been no concrete action plan involving them. The consequences of these are an increase in viral and bacterial infections, mosquito related diseases and water borne diseases. Heat islands are now common.

The rise in temperature was also attributed to the rise in ozone levels in 2015 [10]. This directly indicates that Delhi could be nearing a tipping point in the context of climate change in the next decade, if swift and disruptive actions are not taken without losing time. Even though, there has been lot of maturity over the last few years in terms of climate change movement, it has failed to reach homes as well as society. The communication has been dismal, at every possible level and it revolves around a limited circle of civil societies, government agencies and informed youth. The city of Delhi can be safety considered of such an example.

People who come to Delhi for work and living often curse it for its climate. Anyone who was raised in Delhi would not take such a statement being passionate for a city which has given millions a small piece to grow. Being the national capital and virtually the face of country, it should lead in setting example of driving INDC targets as well as in providing a low carbon lifestyle with high growth based on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). On the contrary, it is currently lagging behind many other cities. Hence, the city needs immediate concentric efforts at all levels of policy making, engagement of civil societies, educational institutes, corporates and residents. The message for climate change along with a strong implementation of a robust climate change action plan are the only tool which can provide the much required impetus in holding back the temperature below 1.5oC at best, protect its image and survive as a capital of the country. 




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