India may have seen a sea change since it attained independence 69 years ago, but it still has miles to go in terms of sustainability . According to a recent survey conducted as part of the Sustainable Cities Index 2016, Mumbai is at number 92, just few notches above other cities like New Delhi (97) and Kolkata (100) from among the top 100 cities of the world. They were judged on the basis of three parameters -quality of life, environmental factors and economic development. Bombay Times spoke to environmentalists Saurabh Gupta and Elsie Gabriel to find out why Mumbai is lagging behind and the ways to make the metropolis more sustainable.
WHAT DOES THE SUSTAINABILITY INDEX SAY?
Approximately 25-30 people migrate to metros from rural areas across India every minute, in search of better livelihood.
About 67 per cent of the rural population continue to defecate in the open, and India accounts for about 50 per cent of the world’s open defecation rate.
PROMINENT REASONS THAT AFFECT SUSTAINABILITY
The city fairs poorly when it comes to environmental pollution. Apart from vehicular congestion, chemical factories, dumping grounds, poor wastemanagement systems and low levels of sanitation are also responsible. They not only cause several illnesses, but also affect our quality of life.
Ineffective public transportation
According to the Sustainable Cities Index 2016, approximately 80 lakh people in Mumbai travel by local trains every day .However, the public transport system is not equipped to manage the everincreasing number of commuters.This results in overcrowding. Most people tend to travel by road, leading to traffic congestion and air pollution.
Littering and poor waste-mana g ement systems have led to garbage disposal in almost every open area in the city . Even in city’s coastal areas, mangroves have seen a severe decline over the past few years.
Lack of planning Due to the huge economic divide, slums have cropped up in various areas like Mankhurd, Kurla and Ghatkopar. Since many migrants travel from rural areas to urban areas in search of jobs and are unable to afford accommodation, experts have observed that slums have increasingly cropped up near construction sites of infrastructure projects.
WAYS TOWARDS A SUSTAINABLE LIVING
Though it’s a distant dream for Mumbai to emerge as one of the leading sustainable cities in the world, taking small measures now can help us in the long run.
Reuse and recycle
The habit of recycling is seldom seen among people in Mumbai, hence it is important to inculcate that habit. “People need to be taught to reuse and recycle things that are not biodegradable. Rather than chucking old clothes or plastic containers in the bin, we need to recycle them in order to produce less trash and save the environment,“ says Gupta.
Optimal use of manpower
This is of the most important steps is to bridge the great economic divide.“Though it’s a herculean task, we can address the issue to a certain extent by creating employment opportunities and educating the poor about putting their limited resources to maximum use. By teaching them work that needs less machines, we can solve hinkstock an environmental as well as an economic issue,“ adds Gupta.
Opt for carpool
Though carpooling is quite popular in the West, it’s yet to pick up in a big way in India.
Many people don’t opt for it here as they are wary of travelling with strangers. Using apps to locate acquaintances in the vicinity who take the same route will help reduce hesitation as well as carbon footprints.
Create green living spaces
Real estate can be a major game changer, real estate giants should focus on developing energy-efficient and green buildings. They should make hydro power, solar power and rainwater harvesting mandatory in new constructions.
Gabriel also believes that children should be educated about saving the environment from a young age. “For this, solar engineering research and studies should be made accessible at affordable fees and included in academic curriculum right from the lower grades. Also, the Green Tribunal of the country should make laws and act more stringently to keep a check on pollution levels. The central government should enforce the Green Police Station, inside every ward.“
Gupta sums up, “You can’t create sustainable cities, unless you have sustainable livelihood. We have to work to develop the 65 per cent of population that actually lives in slums, rather than making policies for only the 35 per cent that are above the poverty level.“
– Reported by the Times of India.