Delhi Can Be The Next London, But Only If We Make These Choices, NOW!

Posted on September 30, 2015 in Environment

By Anuj Jindal:

There is a multitude of cities around the world that have achieved the milestone of calling themselves sustainable and self-dependent. With a bursting population around the globe and environmental crisis staring the world in the face, it has become imperative for the under-developed world to turn itself sustainable before the crisis hits it on a mass scale. It has been proven that environmental crisis would hit the less developed part of the world first. Certain events like ‘Uttarakhand landslides’ have already started de-rooting this part from whatever development had yet been carried out. It’s time for ‘the south’ to understand and implement a sustainable model of development before destructive forces take their toll. It’s also important to understand that a city does not need innovative measures to make it sustainable. A set of basic measures can go a long way in setting up a better city for its residents as well as the environment. Further, it is important for us to understand that sustainable development does not slow down the path of development in any way. Instead, it makes growth more long lasting and egalitarian. I would be discussing basic environment-friendly features implemented around the world and analyze if they can be replicated in Delhi or not. Additionally, I would also try to provide a set of new measures, which can be taken by us to make it sustainable in a true sense.

london sustainable city
Image source: Wikimedia Commons

London has a successful model of public transport mixed with environment-friendly modes of movement like cycle tracks and walking paths. The people of London have also learnt to prefer these modes because of its effective and user-friendly implementation around the city. It is easier to sell high-calorie fattening food than healthier food due to its inherent taste and easy accessibility. Similarly, it is easier for people to follow unhealthy modes of transport like motorbikes and cars due to the comfort provided by them. To make people shift towards a healthier transport system, it is important that public transport is made equally comfortable, if not more. London has achieved this by turning it into a lifestyle choice for people to prefer the above-mentioned methods of movement for daily travelling. Unfortunately, Delhi’s administration has yet not realized this psychology of humans.

For residents of Delhi, public transport is a compulsion forced upon lower and middle class due to their inability to afford better modes of transport. This is the reason that as soon as a person moves up in the chain of income, he/she shifts to a personal yet expensive transport system. Further, there are lakhs of labourers who cross the Delhi border daily for work. They can be seen ‘peddling away in fear’ of getting hit by high speeding vehicles as there is no separate cycle track for them. On the other side, lakhs of workers travel in their personal cars and bikes as the public transport system is grossly inefficient and uncomfortable. Yes there are many who use the Delhi metro, but this so-called choice is not a choice in reality. It is a compulsion forced upon them, as they have no other available method to move around with safety and freedom. For a large city like Delhi, an efficient public transport system looks like a nearly impossible task to undertake but so did the metro when E Sreedharan kick-started the project. It is also important to understand that the metro is no panacea to solve Delhi’s traffic and environmental problems. It is one among many. It is time for Delhi to move ahead and launch a set of new yet conventionally known programs like cycle and walk paths around the city and an efficient bus transport system so that it can handle its increasing population pressure before it gets out of hand.

circle of sustainability
Image source: Wikimedia Commons

Curitiba in Brazil is often commended for its sustainability and conservation efforts. In terms of square meter green space per person, it has expanded from 1 meter to 52 meters in 2 decades. Parks and forests, rapid transit system, green methods of garbage recycling rather than using incineration plants are some ways in which Curitiba has transformed itself into a green city. It’s a clear message from one developing country to another. Delhi can also achieve what Curitiba has achieved. Rather than relying on incineration plants for recycling, Delhi can adopt greener methods. Trusts like the Indian Green Service are doing a great job by developing micro garbage management systems. It’s important to recognize the strength of Indian entrepreneurs and social servants and use them for effective administration. Just like ‘mohalla sabhas’ (community solution centres) are a trademark idea of the new government in power, micro garbage management can be a game changing solution for Delhi. It may not be possible to reduce the amount of wastage produced but it’s possible to dispose it in an environment-friendly manner and also generate something out of garbage rather than burn it down. After all, garbage is made of carbon, which is the primary source of energy. It has immense potential to create.

Copenhagen and Toronto have a law that requires all roofs to have a green cover.Green roofs are an effective way of improving air quality, reducing rainfall run-offs and most importantly, keeping the house cooler. India is a sub-tropical country with major regions experiencing hot temperature most of the year. Delhi’s yearly power shortage before arrival of monsoons is a recurring phenomenon. Rather than using more and more air conditioners, it is way better to rely on the most natural thing available on earth- ‘plants’. By following Copenhagen’s example, Delhi can solve its power problems in a sustainable and cheap manner. It is surprising that the urban middle and higher class use air conditioners, whereas poor people who live in slums keep their houses cool by covering it with different types of plants. A cheaper and effective solution is being ignored in the name of luxury and laziness.

The river Thames is the cleanest river in the world that flows through a major city. This is a major feat considering that 50 years ago the river was so polluted that it was declared biologically dead. Sewage was being discharged directly into the Thames. It was decided that ‘treatment plants’ should be built to clean the water from the Thames before it was pumped to homes. The treatment plants also cleaned dirty water from homes before it went back into the Thames. Today more than half of London’s sewage sludge is sold in pellet form as fertilizer for agricultural use. This is an easy solution to a tough looking problem. Yamuna river flows through Delhi and carries away all of its sewage, harming itself in return. Rivers are a natural cleaning system, which help in recharging groundwater, acting as a carbon sink, and providing clean water to a city. Yamuna river can be a replica of Thames, given that our vision is clear enough to desire it. Sewage problem can also be solved by doing what London has done by using it as a fertilizer for agriculture. A solution like this can turn Delhi into a dream city for the country to follow. Thousands of crores have already been spent on Yamuna cleaning. The solution does not lie in more funds; it lies in commitment to make the Yamuna a world-class tourist destination for the world to see and to transform it into a provider of energy and sustainability rather than an absorber of our waste.

Lakes act as pollution sinks in cities. They are an integral part of the ecosystem and removing them from a city is like taking its soul away. It has been proven by research that lakes or any water body soothes the brain and reduces stress levels considerably. Indian cities are bursting with lifestyle imbalance and related disorders like blood pressure, diabetes, hair fall etc. One very effective way to reduce this is to supplement parks with small artificial lakes. Not only are they beneficial for health, but lakes also help recharge groundwater. Considering Delhi’s thirsty situation and dearth of water around the year, lakes can act as a viable source of clean water for many areas.

Countries around the world are shifting to solar energy. It is surprising to witness cold countries utilizing the little sunshine they receive by installing solar energy on a mass scale. India lies in the sub-tropical region of the earth. We are blessed with sunshine throughout the year in most parts of the country. Yet the country is not running towards solar energy, it’s merely limping. Delhi can become a model city by using solar energy for most public energy needs like street lights and transform itself in stages by encouraging people to use solar energy for household needs. It’s terrific to think that nature provides us with everything we need and it also provides us ways to balance our needs. Solar energy and ability of plants and trees to cool can be efficiently combined to create a greener home and office. Yet we rely on highly inefficient and harmful ways. Solar energy is expensive for the country at present, the reason being lack of research and investment in the sector. It is very important to take bigger steps so that solar energy does not remain a lip service but becomes a revolutionary move for the country.

At the end, I would like to say that nature does not depend on humankind; humans depend on nature for their survival. The day it is realized, will be the day when a true social animal would take birth.

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