Urban cities and climate crisis

As a matter of relevance the report from The Hindu appeared on the same day when Prof. John Chan was in Cambridge delivering his talk on Urban Cities under Global Warming with focus on Asia and it couldn’t have come at a better time for me when I was wondering what went wrong for Chennai during the recent floods?


Cty: The Hindu

Prof Chan spoke about the impact of rising temperatures in mega cities esp Hong Kong and Singapore.WP_20151211_14_04_23_Pro He and his colleagues have done extensive work in analyzing data on temperature, rainfall and sea level. And some of their key findings were

  • Of course average annual temperature is rising. More importantly just by getting skyscrapers in the city there is an increase in the average temperature  unless the designs are planned well.
  • The number of hot nights (avg night temp >28C) and cold nights (avg night temp <12 C) are rising in Hong Kong. This clearly indicates we are swinging between extremes.
  • The return period of extreme rainfalls is shorter. What was taking forty years to return now takes less than 5 years. The record for the highest rainfall is now broken in less than 5 years. That’s definitely not good.

What can be done?

  • Accept that the tipping point is now up on us. We have to just prepare to reduce the damage. Examples include how Hong Kong built a storage tank below a football field and Kuala Lumpur built a tunnel that acts as a tank during heavy rains.
  • HK field

    Cty HK Magazine

  • Analyzing temperature data is really critical. Gather data and analyze them. Lack of data for remote locations in big countries is a dampener.

And Chennai?

Experts blame the Chembarabakam reservoir for causing the damage. Maybe true. But that definitely is not the root cause. The cause is town planning. I found this article for support. If the town was better planned the disaster could have been avoided. But it cannot be done, here is why..


Cty ET

  • Urban planning requires fund to be spent on the main city. We could build something like what Hong Kong or Kuala Lumpur built in the city by spending a lot of money.
  • But, the priority for a developing country like India is enabling people get a better life. That means building a link across every small village across the country. That means our money is spent in developing this network.
  • In Chennai’s case, there has been rapid progress in the last decade. But little was done in the old part of the city which has the largest residential population and where the impact of the floods was highest. Instead most of the development happened around Chennai in the roads that led to the city. It created more jobs and made life better for a lot of people.

So, could we strike a balance? It is really tough. No wonder India was seeking climate justice at the Paris Conference. We are growing and our funds are spent in sustaining this growth but we are loosing our footing. We have no answer for climate crisis for which we had no rule to play until now. But, the reconstruction cost in recovering from a disaster like from the Chennai floods is really high. That makes me wonder should we just spend money in planning existing cities rather than expanding?

That probably calls for Sustainable Development.

Bengaluru in 2030

This post is a prediction of how my city, Bengaluru will look in 2030. It is a contest entry for the Masdar 2015 engage blogging contest. Hope you enjoy! I would appreciate if you could post a review or rate the post on the contest page here.


Sun,January 27th ,2030

The batteries in my new Mahindra ElectrO had almost dried up after participating in yesterday’s Republic day rally which was organised by the Bengaluru Electric Cars club commemorating the 80th Indian Republic day. Waking up at 4 AM is a routine for me, but it was more important today considering that I had to charge my car batteries. I log on to the BESCOM (Bengaluru Electric Supply Company) app on my phone to check the electric grid status, the source of power and the tariff. The night grid  during this time of the year is powered by wind and the tariffs are below the peak tariff rates (25% lower) and will remain so until 8 AM when the peak loads are expected to kick in. So I immediately plugged my car batteries to the charging port. It feels good to drive an electric car even better to know that the electricity in the batteries are predominantly from renewable energies.

As I was fixing my bicycle for the usual Sunday ride, I got an update from another utility company Bengaluru Water Supply which read “ The water supply to your locality will be cut off at 7 AM due to maintenance work in the supply line”. Such messages remind me of the first time the water board embraced technology in updating consumers the time of water supply to each locality around 2014[1]. As I left home I picked up the garbage to be handed over at the  Processing Unit in my apartment complex. Bengaluru Apartment complexes that have more than 100 residences are mandated to setup waste processing units within their complex and the same model is replicated by the local municipality in every ward. This is a huge success story considering 15 years ago the city was dealing with the ‘garbage menace’.

I got onto the street and couple of minutes into the ride I saw the public street lights going off, its 6 AM. Bengaluru back then was one of the first cities in India to switch to timer based lighting system in public places, the significance now is that all street lights in the city are powered by battery based solar systems. The technological capabilities of Bengaluru were evident when I saw the Water Board cordoning off a part of the road, to fix the leak in the water pipe even when there was no overflow of water on to the street from below. How do they do it? The water board has placed sensors along the water lines of Bengaluru to monitor water flow and communicate any variations. It’s an integral part of a ‘Smart City’[2].

Bengaluru's first electric bus; trial run in 2014

Bengaluru’s first electric bus; trial run in 2014

I then passed the city railway station, 70% of Indian rail network today is electrified and 50% of the electricity is drawn from renewable energy[3]. In the next junction I saw a line of buses moving from their depots, the Bengaluru city bus network now boasts of a 10000 buses out of which 50% run on electricity and the rest on bio fuel[4]. It was only in 2014 an electric bus was on trial runs. Cubbon park has always been the best part of my ride, it has retained its greenery, It now boasts of 100 different gardens. The best space is the Wi-Fi zone where I get to meet fellow cyclists and other enthusiasts. I took a break here and happened to check the news. “India set to achieve its emission cut targets for 2030” says the Prime Minister. India had agreed to cut its emissions by 30% and have 30% of renewable energy in the mix by 2030 during the COP 21 negotiations in Paris 2015. Also in the news was a security breach caused by a delivery-drone during the Republic Day Parade.

Cubbon park!

Cubbon park!

I then continued my ride passing through the cricket stadium which was the first stadium in the country to use the roof space to install solar power[5]. And then finally I move along the metro track on MG road which reminds me of 2011 when the metro first started its operations in the city. It now caters to 50% of the daily commuters in the city with great efficiency and what’s more, its powered by solar[6].

MG Road; Bengaluru Metro

MG Road; Bengaluru Metro

Its nostalgia as I ride on the final stretch before I turn back and head home; Bengaluru was once a garden city, but around 2000s saw rapid development and associated civic issues. But post 2015, it has seen a resilient development like no other city. The public transport systems have become efficient, private vehicle use have dropped and that has reduced the stress on environment. Piped water supply have become efficient and the ground water aquifers have recharged through massive rain water harvesting systems. The most significant development has been the adoption of renewable energy in the mix. Solar rooftops have a penetration of over 50% and the large scale renewable power projects have contributed to  reduced greenhouse gas emissions. The development in the last two decades have been phenomenal yet sustainable and that makes me feel proud. It is in the feeling, I have unknowingly drifted away from the cycling lane and I’m greeted by a series of honks from a rear vehicle which drives me crazy. I stop at the junction and turn back to check on the car driver and find the front seats empty! It is a driver-less car!

The above post is part of Masdar’s 2015 Engage Blogging contest. I would appreciate if you could post a review or rate the post on the contest page here.

References from 2014 that indicate Bengaluru in 2030 might be a reality

[1] Next drop water.

[2] IBM smarter planet ideas for Bangalore water board. Updates here.

[3] Solar power for Indian Railways. Read more here.

[4] Bangalore buses go green. Electric; Bio;

[5] Bangalore stadium to go solar

[6] Bangalore metro train goes solar

Sustainable cities:The whale Housing

Sustainable Cities needs innovative housing systems and whale housing is one such innovative concept.


The above picture is from Netherlands, “The block contains a total of 214 apartments, commercial space, a semi-public interior courtyard and an underground car park. The striking sculptural form with its angled top and underbelly ensures that all the dwellings and the courtyard garden enjoy sufficient sunlight, fresh air and open views and generates the requisite variation in housing types.”



Read more here.