Clean Air Action Workshop: Success Stories Show Importance of Building Capacity, Stakeholder Action

The Delhi- National Capital Region has been enjoying relatively good air quality in the last two months, thanks to rainy weather. Meanwhile, key cities in the region continue to upscale their efforts to reduce air pollution.

One initiative in which the cities of Delhi, Meerut and Gurugram collaborated in this regard is ICLEI South Asia’s Building City Leadership on Clean Air Action in Delhi National Capital Region project, supported by the Clean Air Fund. In the final project workshop held on  25 July, 2023, senior officials from the corporations of the three cities shared success stories, detailing the actions they have been taking to improve air quality.

In his welcome address, Mr. Emani Kumar, Executive Director, ICLEI South Asia, spoke about the learnings from and outcomes of the project, and thanked the Municipal Corporations of Delhi, Meerut and Gurugram Metropolitan Development Authority for their unwavering support. Mr. Hitesh Vaidya, Director, National Institute of Urban Affairs, said that the leadership in any city plays a vital role in capacity building, and that the main challenge was to empower them by establishing capacity-building frameworks across the country.

Mr. Subhash Yadav, IFS, Additional CEO, Gurugram Metropolitan Development Authority (GMDA), spoke about the initiatives taken to combat road dust, enhance greenery, and tackle the heat island effect in the ‘Millenium City’. He also talked about the visionary ‘City Cooling Project’ that the GMDA is planning to reduce GHG emissions.

The Meerut Municipal Corporation (MMC) is taking measures such as installation of water sprinklers and use of sweeping machines for dust-free roads, development of a CNG waste plant and afforestation to reduce air pollution. Mr. Amit Sharma, Chief Engineer, MMC,  also spoke about the launch of an initiative called ‘Road Ambulance’ for the quick repair of potholes.

Speaking about waste management in Delhi, Mr. Manoj Verma, Superintending Engineer, Municipal Corporation Delhi, said that the city aimed to achieve 100% processing of municipal solid waste by 2026, and that decentralisation was the key to realising this goal. He said that the MCD was making significant progress, with 350 housing societies in the national capital embracing the zero-waste model.

Ms. Avantika Arjuna, Senior Manager, ICLEI South Asia, gave an overview of the Clean Air Action project, the major tasks that were implemented, and the learnings and the way forward for the three project cities. Dr. Monalisa Sen, Programme Coordinator, Biodiversity, ICLEI South Asia, said that while cities are increasingly recognising the significance of native trees, and appreciating their low maintenance and long-lasting benefits, there was a pressing need to bolster their understanding through capacity-building efforts.

Dr. Sandeep Gandhi, Sustainable Mobility Expert at SG Architects, worked as an air quality expert in the transport sector in the project spoke about streetscape designing, limitations of plans, and putting focus on reducing transport emissions. He also stressed how road design can impact traffic movement and transport emissions. Mr. Madhukar Varshney, a solid waste management expert, discussed the role of composting in  reducing waste and emissions, and added that while urban local bodies are getting overburdened, they are hampered by limited technical capacities.

The experts concurred on the importance of engaging with multiple stakeholders, tapping into diverse funding sources, and the immense benefits of collaborating with the private sector. During the instructive panel discussion, Mr. R.K. Singh, Director- Horticulture Department, MCD , spoke about MCD’s initiatives to combat air pollution, including the innovative “Gift a Tree” programme where people can plant trees on special occasions; Mr. Yash Pal Sachdeva, Mobility Planning Advisor, GMDA, shared information about actions taken to curtail vehicular emissions; Dr. Deepty Jain, Assistant Professor, IIT Delhi, described the challenges in fund allocations and policy implementation;  Mr. Amit Hajela, Director & Domain Head, Amity School of Architecture & Planning , Noida emphasised the role of the youth and the importance of data in driving positive change; and, Prof Shaleen Singhal from TERI School of Advanced Studies focused on the vital connections between science, policy and sustainable practices, and how understanding and applying them could lead to meaningful actions. Ms. Chirashree Ghosh, Professor, Delhi University shed light on the significance of Government offices in enhancing collaboration with educational institutes and emphasised simplifying the process of signing MOUs between government and educational institutes.

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