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

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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.

Feel strongly for Climate Action? Email PM Narendra Modi and show your support here!

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  1. Shelja Dogra

    Really insightful article. This is high time we take significant steps towards making Delhi green rather running the blind race of growth and industrialization. If the masses are not sensitized towards the cause and govt. does not take significant steps towards sustainability , our world will soon be engulfed in the clouds of pollution, dust and filth.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

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MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

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A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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