Talk on Sustainable Urbanization

Venue: Indian Institute of Human Settlements (IIHS), Bengaluru
Organizer: Embassy of Switzerland in India, Indian Institute of Human Settlements, Swissnex India

After participating in discussions over climate change in COP 15, European Commissions as well as in many forums, it always feels good to see the things happening at ground level in India. Cities are going to be the engines of growth as highlighted by many studies. Over the years, I did gain some knowledge and expertise in urban planning through MOOCs, notably from ETH Zurich and the University of Pennsylvania. This event was one more opportunity to listen to experts from India and Switzerland.

Charlotte Spröndli, strategy planning consultant from Brandes Energie Switzerland was the first speaker of the evening. She highlighted integrated urban planning approached used in Switzerland to cut down pollution levels, that were alarmingly high in 1990’s. People were moving out of cities to live in nearby suburbs to get the better quality of lives. Authorities took note of this and worked on a comprehensive plan including every stakeholder. These plans were legally binding, properly documented and allowed multidimensional approach of problem-solving at local as well as at the higher level.

She highlighted challenges in implementing such ideas. For example: moving motorized people to use public transportation services required integrated transportation. The focus was also on the last mile connectivity. With the proper communication to masses, project ran smoothly and pollution levels have dropped. Smart waste management, Climathon are some of the recent ideas currently being pursued in Switzerland.

Dr. Neha Sami, a professor at Indian Institute of Human Settlements (IIHS) was the second speaker of the evening. Her talk focused on climate change opportunities and constraints in India and later took the case study of Bengaluru.

In her talk, initially, she provided statistics based on methods of classifying urbanization in India. Urbanization in India can be classified based on density, unemployment, or the number of people residing in a certain area. All 3 classification projected 50% of India is urbanized based on data from the latest census (2011). Surprisingly, only 26% of the population is administered as Urban.

In the second part, she talked about climate planning and governance in Indian cities Based on her research experience, she highlighted questions of the scale of problems, engaging with regional actors, capacity development, and analyzing the situation to provide a solution. Apparently, there is a lack of capacity at local corporations in planning actions or implementing any developed plans. Because, plans are generally made at a higher level with no inputs collected from local authorities and with low capacity, implementation remains poor. But, despite difficulties, cities like Shimla and Surat are acting as a role model by making significant progress in sustainable urbanization.

In the last part of the speech, she highlighted risks and opportunities, while discussing climate change planning for the state of Karnataka and Bengaluru.

The event ended with Q&A sessions and a networking session.

Speakers Bio:

Ms Charlotte Spörndli, Brandes Energie

Charlotte Spörndli holds a Master’s degree in Environmental Sciences from ETH Zurich, and has been working on the interface between people and environment. Currently, she is employed at Brandes Energie AG, a private consulting company for sustainability in energy policy, energy supply and the energy sector. For the past 10 years or so, she has been supporting Swiss and other European cities and municipalities in defining and implementing their climate and energy policies. Since 2016, she has been the Managing Director of the Association European Energy Award AISBL, the European Energy Award which is a quality management and awarding system for local authorities in the field of climate and energy policy. Charlotte also coaches other Swiss public actors on energy policies and strategies. She has also worked in Madagascar from 2010-2012 on rural electrification with renewable energies.

Dr Neha Sami, Indian Institute for Human Settlements

Neha Sami studies urban and regional development and governance in post liberalization India. Her research focuses on the governance arrangements of mega-projects, regional planning, and environmental governance questions in Indian cities, particularly around issues of climate change adaptation. Neha is currently a faculty member at the Indian Institute for Human Settlements in Bangalore, India where she teaches questions of governance and sustainability as well as anchoring the Research Programme. She also serves on the Editorial Collective of Urbanisation. She holds a Ph.D. in Urban Planning from the University of Michigan, a master’s degree in Environmental Management from the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies and a B.A. in Economics from the University of Mumbai.

Event page: https://www.swissnexindia.org/event/sustainable-urbanization/

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