PUNE: Focussed primarily on roads, water supply and public spaces, the civic body's development plan for the old and new city areas has not taken into to account the impact of climate change , as it is still considered a distant threat. But experts now insist that effective climate-resilience policy should be part of the regular urban development plan.
Environmentalists said that not taking into account the impact of climate change at the urban planning stage could lead to huge economic losses and a high social cost burden.
The development plans (DPs) prepared by the PMC prioritise housing, water and sewage, transport, health and social infrastructure. However, protecting the city's biodiversity, its hills and water bodies - all integral to Pune - do not figure in the plan.
Urban planner Aneeta Gokhale-Benninger said the civic body does not even do a proper land survey while preparing DPs and that scientific experts must be involved in policy making to ensure the plan pays attention to environmental concerns.
"Before making a DP, environmentalists and experts would have given their recommendations to the civic body, which should have incorporated them because in the coming days cities are going to face severe challenges related to climate change and uncertainties in weather patterns. If these have not been considered, it is a pity," said Gufran Beig, senior scientist at Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology.
The long-term plan for the city does not reflect climate change concerns and elected representatives admit that a new approach towards urban planning is needed. "We need to plan for the future and protect our environment for the coming generations. It is high time the city makes a long-term plan to tackle the impact of imminent environmental and climate changes. The PMC must have a plan to protect its water bodies, hills and biodiversity," said Rajya Sabha MP Vandana Chavan.
City MP Anil Shirole said Pune's proposal to the central government for its inclusion in the 'Smart City' programme has given a thrust to environmental concerns and the impact of climate change and has suggested measures to mitigate the impact. "We are moving towards a long-term policy to build climate-resilient capacity of the city," said Shirole.
The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) has drafted a policy to bring in climate resilience as an important urban agenda as a starting point towards addressing climate-related impact and prepare cities for unforeseen extreme events and variability. The policy outlines emerging opportunities for cities like Pune to foster climate-resilient development and recommends the formulation of a new specific policy pertaining to urban climate resilience in India.
"We have to understand the difference between climate change and climate variability. In climate change, there are long-term trends in variability over the past decades, centuries. Climate change alters the basics of productive ecosystems, such as temperature and rainfall. Climate variability includes daily, seasonal, inter-annual, several years changes," said Satya Priya, who works with Food and Agriculture Organisation, United Nations, while addressing a recent climate change conference in New Delhi, which was attended by media professionals. He added that mitigation plans have to be prepared according to the local demand. Satya Priya said that cities have to closely monitor changes in land use pattern and ensure that the land usage is in concurrence with overall environment-friendly development.
Commenting on the poor public transport in a city like Pune, which had led to the use of private vehicles that has added to the air pollution and congestion, Kirit S Parikh, emeritus professor and founder director of Mumbai-based said, "Cities have to put in place the basic infrastructure. There is a massive collapse in the transport system of all cities in the last 5- 10 years. Cities have to pay attention to public transport to combat congestion and it is time to charge congestion taxes to save cities from adverse impact of pollution."
Scientist J Srinivasan of Bangalore-based Indian Institute of Science said, "Local climate change can be controlled by local planning. The best example is of Bangalore city where planners decided to tackle rising temperature with streamlining construction activities and protecting greeneries."
Whatever experts say, the administration and elected representatives have altogether different priorities. The DP for old city area was mired in political squabbles and all political parties had locked horns over reservations. "Now, the state government has taken over the plan for old city areas. The state will seek help of experts to ensure that the plan is comprehensive. We ensure that city will get an environment- friendly plan, which will address all concerns of the present and future," said Pune guardian minister Girish Bapat.