Urban Heat Islands: How Can The Government Handle The Current Climate Change Scenario Of The Country?
Focus on rainwater harvesting, storm-water management is essential, says Dr. Mahreen Matto, Water Management Programme Manager at Centre for Science and Environment
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Recently, New York city of the United States had declared a climate emergency to spread awareness amongst the people to take environment problems seriously.
22 of world’s 30 most polluted cities are in India, as per Greenpeace study. Ahead of the Budget to be announced by the Modi 2.0's Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, water and air pollution is one of the key issues to be tackled immediately. The problem has worsened with the emergence of Urban Heat Islands. They are elevated warming areas in cities that are warmer than surrounding areas. The primary reason, says R.B Singh, Faculty at Delhi School of Economics, behind that is the excessive use of fossils fuels leading to greenhouse effect. We have heavy reliance – about 50 per cent – on fossil fuels to electrify our houses.
The question arises what the government can do to tackle the issue. The use of fossil fuels are not going to stop completely. To counteract that, E. Somanathan, Professor in Economics and Planning Unit at Indian Statistical Institute, says, "The pollution fees on diesel, coal should be raised.” But do we have alternatives to fossil fuels? Singh says, “The government should encourage use of solar and other green energy, instead of coal and other fossil fuels. It should seek incentives to make it affordable and available to the rural areas.” “Focus on the Electric Vehicle evolution should take momentum,” added Singh.
Heat is only one side of the problem. Chennai recently gone 200 days at a stretch without a drop of water. As the water crisis plaques the country, it is imperative on the government to focus on the water problems. 70% of water bodies are contaminated in our country. Dr. Mahreen Matto, Water Management Programme Manager at Centre for Science and Environment, says that with the coming of Jal Shakti Ministry new water policies, schemes will be in the line. However, it is important that their proper enforcement is taken into consideration.”
It’s also understandable that a solution to this problem wouldn’t arrive if there aren’t steps taken from the bottom-up. Matto says, “Focus on rainwater harvesting, storm-water management is essential.”
“Coupled with wastewater recycle, it leads to a circular economy – the need of the hour,” states Matto. No one can deny that much of the issue of pollution stems from the individual level. “It is essential to focus on how water is being utilized by individuals in cities – a behavioral change is required so that people value water. We should start focusing on decentralized approaches along with a centralized one,” further added Matto.