policy brief climate smart indian cities

Very Short Policy Brief published: “Making ‘Climate-Smart’ Indian cities”

policy brief climate smart indian cities
Photo: Flickr/Boegh

The Australia India Institute is excited to release the sixth volume in the “Very Short Policy Brief” series, Making ‘Climate-Smart’ Indian cities, by Dr Komali Yenneti.

Cities in India, and around the world, are getting hotter, with severe implications for public health, comfort, energy demand, labour productivity and economies. This brief identifies a range of climate-smart solutions and key strategies for urban heat management in India.

Dr Yenneti, an Aii New Generation Network scholar based at the University of New South Wales, argues that as a result of increased building densities, shortages of green space and a lack of effective policies, city dwellers are facing increased heat stress.

She argues that this has led to an Urban Heat Island effect, whereby heat from traffic, air-conditioning and industrial output is trapped in central business districts, leading to higher temperatures.

“Evidence from India’s major cities show that systematic higher temperatures of 2-12°C occur in highly-urbanised areas compared with their rural surroundings,” she says.

She suggests that this is having a startling effect on urban populations.

“The major impact is on the mortality and morbidity rates in urban areas. Both in Australia and India, the leading cause of death from natural disasters is heat. Not only this, but there are a large number of cases that go undocumented.”

This phenomenon has also had a negative effect on the Indian economy. For example, increasing temperatures has led to increasing use of air-conditioning, which has placed pressure on India’s already strained energy grid, she says.

“This cycle has led to regular black outs and brown outs in major cities, reducing the ease of doing business.”

While some of the challenges the two countries are facing are different, Dr Yenneti says Australian expertise in developing ‘climate-smart’ cities can be of much use in an Indian context.

“In 2017, UNSW hosted a workshop on smart cities which looked at collaboration between the India and Australia. The Indian policy makers there were really interested in adapting best practice in terms of addressing heat-related problems and identifying what policies can be implemented in India.”

According to Dr Yenneti, as a result of limited capacity and availability of resources, Indian governments have been unable to scale-up community projects.

Australian expertise can also be useful in addressing these problems, because of the experience of national, state and local governments in developing strategies that focus on urban heat management.

“Australia’s capabilities in dealing with rising urban temperatures can make a major contribution towards developing sustainable and liveable cities in India.”

Download the brief here.

The “Very Short Policy Brief” series examines key questions facing contemporary India and the Australia-India relationship, combining in-depth academic analysis with clarity and policy relevance. View the whole series here.