Exploring the promising outcomes of the SUS programme
Participants from seven cities, namely, Guntur, Gangtok, Guwahati, Malvan, Kochi (India), Rajshahi (Bangladesh) and Thimphu (Bhutan) were felicitated at the final international workshop of the Supporting Urban Sustainability programme (SUS) which was held in Ahmedabad, India, from 10th -12th December, 2013. The participating cities and the three core organizations - Swedish International Centre of Education for Sustainable Development (SWEDESD), Centre for Environment Education (CEE) and ICLEI South Asia, came together to present and discuss their achievements towards improving ecosystem services to alleviate poverty.
Some of the significant changes that SUS programme brought in the cities were discussed and appreciated during the workshop.
The city teams have been successful in campaigning for capacity-building, garnering extensive media support, creating awareness among residents and publishing information towards their inquiries. Most of the city teams have made considerable progress towards adopting the concept of involving different stakeholders in their plan to move towards sustainability. The outcomes of the project showed that the specific SUS approach of introducing content on Ecosystems Services for Poverty Alleviation (ESPA), reflexive governance and collaborative learning with methods based on a multi-stakeholder setup, repeated learning cycles and strategic inquiries formulated by the participants themselves led to promising results. This approach is therefore worth developing and implementing on a larger scale.
The programme embraced the true spirit of education for sustainable development by combining appropriate learning practices with a deeper understanding of the same. Based on the results and lessons learned from the first SUS phase, the respective partners and cities are now planning to deepen and broaden it over the coming years.
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Detailed action plans come out of interactive SUS international workshop
It was four days of intense talking and sharing for the cities and organizations partners of the Supporting Urban Sustainability (SUS) 2nd international workshop, which was organized by CEE, ICLEI South Asia and SWEDESD on 25-28th September in Delhi. The SUS programme, of which ICLEI South Asia is a partner, brings together stakeholders from different cities to engage in collaborative learning on urban development. Representatives from the project cities of Gangtok, Guwahati, Guntur, Malvan, Kozhikode (India), Rajshahi (Bangladesh), and Thimphu (Bhutan) thus gathered in Delhi to review what had been achieved since the beginning of the year and to plan for the future.
Each city in the SUS programme has chosen an issue (‘inquiry’) that will be pursued during the project, covering several areas of sustainable urban development, from poverty alleviation, to river buffer zone development, to ground water protection, to solid waste management improvement, enhancement of traditional livelihoods and wetlands protection. As Mr Sobhindran from Kozhikode very inspiringly said, “The two worlds are in conflict, the world created by God and the one created by man. This is an attempt to resolve it!”
One of the main focus of the workshop, as of the programme itself, was also helping project cities realize the importance of discussion and consultation. The participating cities thus reported on the several activities they have been working on to advance their inquiry, ranging from balancing gender issues, organizing clean-up sessions or zero waste orientation, energy generation through waste, e-waste management, managing fisheries and tourism, enabling cycling to reduce pollution, rain water harvesting, protecting and conserving water bodies preserving fishermen rights, re-sectioning of the river area or composting. This was however done in an interactive way, by partnering cities with one another, for them to discuss in depth the inquiry and give comments and suggestions to those of the partners
Importance was also given to expanding the understanding of the participants regarding urban systems and ecosystems, ecosystem services, and their interconnections. The cities were encouraged to link their inquiries to different urban systems and ecosystems and identify the interconnections them. At the end of the day, the cities conducted a power analysis of the stakeholders in their teams to identify their different strengths and weaknesses. Both these exercises fed into the action plan that was prepared by the stakeholder teams of the cities on the last day. These action plans were reviewed by partner cities in detail and then presented to the entire group to declare the commitments of each city to the inquiry.
The field visit, part of the 4-day workshop, gave participants the chance to witness first-hand the rain water harvesting system and decentralized waste water management system established by the Centre for Science and Environment, where they were explained the simple science and technology behind these very effective means of natural resource protection. The participants also visited the Yamuna Biodiversity Park, which is a heritage site and repository for about 30 threatened communities of the River Yamuna basin. The Park provides also ecological services like local climate amelioration, carbon sequestration, ground water recharge, protection of wild gene pools and is a living example of how nature works to maintain biodiversity.
The interactive and consultation-based format of the workshop led to an impressive range of comments, suggestions and ideas that cities shared to solve each other’s challenges and fulfill their ambitions. Project cities and partners left not only with a detailed action plan, but also with a lot of inspiration and enthusiasm to continue the work under the SUS programme and beyond.
Cities meet and share on Urban Sustainability in Delhi on 25-28 September 2013
It is again stock-taking and experience sharing time for the cities involved in the ‘Supporting Urban Sustainability (SUS)’ Programme, who will meet at the Second International Workshop organized by ICLEI South Asia along with the Centre for Environment Education (CEE), with the support of the Swedish International Centre of Education for Sustainable Development (SWEDESD) and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA).
The event, taking place on 25-28 September 2013 in New Delhi, will gather the representatives of all the SUS participating cities, including Rajshahi from Bangladesh, Thimphu from Bhutan and Guntur, Malvan, Kozhikode, Guwahati, Gangtok from India. The different sessions will help take stock of the activities carried out so far as well as provide to the cities a platform to share successes and pitfalls so far, and to plan for the next steps. The format of the session will allow other cities to comment on each other’s activities and give suggestions coming from their own experience. while gaining from the insights of a third party evaluation of their work
The SUS programme makes use of experts input and innovative approaches and methods for collaborative learning, to facilitate the implementation of reflexive governance and Ecosystem Services for Poverty Alleviation (ESPA) in the project cities, as well as to enable peer to peer knowledge exchange between them cities and the facilitating organisations CEE (Centre for Environment Education, India) and SWEDESD (Swedish International Centre of Education for Sustainable Development).
SUS project advancing sustainability on the ground
Supporting Urban Sustainability (SUS) cities are not wasting time in their efforts to become more sustainable and are busy carrying out the activities planned as part of the project.
Thimphu (Bhutan), has prepared maps and plans to protect the identified buffer zones - the SUS priority within the project - and has launched the “My Tree” programme, an awareness raising initiative involving schools, that foresees students planting trees in the school campus and neighbouring areas and being then responsible for their care.
With groundwater being the main focus of Guntur (India), the city started by carrying out surveys to assess the present status of buildings with existing rainwater harvesting systems – the owners of the remaining ones (25% of the 1050 buildings examined) will be encouraged by the municipality to proceed with the installation of such systems. Rain water harvesting pits have also been planned for properties of the Corporation itself.
Local elections have slowed down the activities of Rajshahi City Corporation (Bangladesh), whose main goal is to reduce poverty through greening activities. The municipality has however already selected and identified few sites and has started landscaping activities near New Degree College.
Locally pressing issues identified by SUS cities
Following the various engagement workshops on Supporting Urban Sustainability that took place in each project city, the first international project workshop was organized on 26-29 April 2013 in Ahmedabad, India, by the Centre for Environmental Education (CEE), in cooperation with ICLEI South Asia and the Swedish International Centre of Education for Sustainable Development at Gotland University (SWEDESD).
The workshop was the first opportunity to bring together all the participating cities in SUS: Guntur (India), Rajshahi (Bangladesh) and Thimphu (Bhutan) - who were also involved in the Realising DReAMS project of ICLEI South Asia – and the additional Indian cities of Malvan, Guwahati, Gangtok, and Kozhikode. The stakeholder groups representing each city shared with the others the ‘inquiry’ their municipality is working on – from poverty alleviation, to river buffer zone development, to ground water protection, to solid waste management improvement, enhancement of traditional livelihoods and wetlands protection.
The participants used the occasion of the meeting to interact with each other, exchange ideas and examples, and further develop their inquiry by preparing a detailed action plan to pursue the issue the city decided to focus on. The groups also identified additional actors in their cities who can be involved in the SUS programme.
The training workshop also provided information on ecosystem services, reflexive governance and collaborative learning processes.
Ground water level in Guntur selected as focus of SUS training
The first Engagement Workshop for Supporting Urban Sustainability (SUS) took place in the city of Guntur on 15-16 April 2013, and was organized by ICLEI South Asia, in cooperation with the Guntur Municipal Corporation, Centre for Environmental Education (CEE) and the Swedish International Centre of Education for Sustainable Development at Gotland University (SWEDESD).
A group of relevant local stakeholders were invited to participate in the workshop and brain-storm on Guntur’s main environmental issues, with a special focus on the city’s ecosystems services. The participants included professors from eminent universities, representatives of the builder’s welfare association, of NGOs, of the ground water board and pollution control boards, and officials from the municipal corporation. Through moderated sessions, the workshop introduced the concepts of ecosystem services, reflexive governance and collaborative learning and stimulated participants to identify the main issue that they will explore, for one year in their city, through the SUS training programme.
The main question the stakeholders decided to focus on for the city of Guntur is “How can we stop ground water level from falling in Guntur?”. The participants also developed a brief action plan on how they will tackle this issue during this year.
Supporting Urban Sustainability workshops engage stakeholders in Rajshahi and Thimphu
As part of the Supporting Urban Sustainability Professional Development Programme, ICLEI South Asia, together with Swedish International Centre of Education for Sustainable Development (SWEDESD) and the Centre of Environment Education (CEE), organized the First Engagement Workshops in Thimphu, Bhutan, and in Rajshahi, Bangladesh, on 7-8 February 2013 and 14-15 February 2013 respectively. The SUS programme enables stakeholders in the city to come together and jointly learn about the linkages between poverty and services provided by urban ecosystems, make suitable plans based on this learning and act upon these plans.
The workshops introduced the programme to the Municipal Corporation and included an extensive orientation for a small group of stakeholders that the cities had previously been selected on the basis of their work on environmental issues, ecosystem services or urban poverty. The stakeholders meeting was used to identify current issues, that will be further explored in the current year, with the goal to identify and implement ecosystem services related measures that will help achieve poverty alleviation in the two cities.