India’s megacities and climate change: explorations from Delhi and Mumbai

India’s megacities and climate change: explorations from Delhi and Mumbai

Study examining climate change discourse and policy in the Indian cities of Mumbai and Delhi.

This working paper, produced by the Social, Technological and Environmental Pathways to Sustainability (STEPS) centre, concerns a study of climate change discourse in urban India, with a focus on the mega-cities of Dehli and Mumbai. The paper suggests that the policies being articulated to deal with climate issues are premised on incremental changes rather than radical re-planning of Indian cities. The paper seeks to explain and critique this incremental approach, and ask whether it is adequate for the challenges at hand.

The paper first outlines the national context against the backdrop of global trends, and the implications for Indian cities. It then focuses on specific climate change discourses in Delhi and Mumbai, including the extent and form of climate change policy frameworks and supporting institutions. A key question that emerges, both in terms of adaptation and mitigation, is one of governance - especially at the local level - and a lack of institutional capacity which constrains authorities management efforts. Next, the paper examines the issue of climate change across five specific sectors - transport, energy, waste, water, and disaster preparedness/relief - all of which reveal some cause for alarm.

The paper concludes that mega-cities in India face huge environmental challenges concerning waste, energy consumption, and water pollution and access, and that climate change is adding new uncertainties to existing challenges. Despite this, policy and action is shown to merely be tinkering at the edges of these challenges, with progress both failing to sufficiently move away from a business-as-usual scenario, and neglecting to include poor and vulnerable groups. Furthermore, the uncontested belief that ‘urbanisation is the future’ is being used to justify all forms of ecological modernisation, migrations and changing land use patterns, leading to a decoupling of the ideas of economic growth, and social and ecological concerns.

Finally, the paper suggests a number of areas for future research:

  • Mapping the interplay between mitigation and adaptation strategies, and the potential of current policies to make significant interventions towards combating/coping with climate change.
  • Examining climate change initiatives from within a highly politicised urban domain.
  • Examining efficiency, especially energy efficiency, simultaneously as an economic, technological and ethical choice.
  • Revisiting notions of vulnerability and resilience in the wake of climate discourse, and mapping these socially and epistemologically.
  • Exploring local, indigenous and communities’ knowledge about climate change.
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