A complete recovery from the pandemic will be made possible largely through green solutions. Here are three successful Made-in-India climate solutions that have been gathering international momentum.
1. ITDP India Programme in Chennai
The first of the award-winning climate solutions comes from the city of Chennai. Commuting in Chennai has many factors working against it, from high road fatalities, shortage of local transport to soaring private car ownership. Despite increasing air pollution, cars are status symbols for us Indians, and Chennai is no exception. This fact was rightfully acknowledged by the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP) India Programme when it began a collaboration with the Chennai City Connect Foundation in 2009, to infuse new life into walking and cycling in the city. Since then, Chennai has transformed 100 km of “complete streets” that have wide footpaths and ample lighting.
The programme broke barriers in how sustainable mobility is perceived. The ideas implemented in the project went on to become such a success, it won the 2020 Ashden Awards held last week. The prestigious prize champions the most exciting green solutions across the globe every year. The project also won the 2015 Sustainia Awards for “improving sustainable transport”.
The genius of the project was debunking the notion that cars own our streets. ‘Car-free Sundays’ were a step in that direction. People had the streets to themselves for one day. Car-free days have become quite popular in other Indian cities after Chennai took the lead. The city is rolling out a 120-kilometre Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system. On-street parking management is a large-scale plan to have 12,000 car parks spread across Chennai. The spaces will boost revenue upward of 550 million bucks per year. A city-wide street network for walking and cycling is in the works.
2. Ahmedabad Heat Action Plan
This joint project bagged the 2018 Earth Care Award for Leadership in Urban Climate Action. After a deadly heatwave hit the rapidly urbanizing city of Ahmedabad in 2010, the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) partnered with the NRDC (Natural Resources Defence Council) and IIPH (Indian Institute of Public Health) to improve the city’s heat disaster response with a comprehensive early warning system and preparedness plan for extreme heat. Identifying the city’s most heat-vulnerable residents (children, the elderly, slum communities, and outdoor workers), the Ahmedabad Heat Action Plan was launched in 2013.
The project deploys a three-pronged approach to reduce heat-related health risks:
1. Building public awareness of health risks through trainings, public advertisements, and community outreach.
2. Implementing an early warning system that coordinates government agencies, health officials, emergency response teams, and media outlets to alert the public of impending heat waves.
3. Increasing capacity among health care workers to recognize and treat heat-related illnesses.
Cutting-edge research is the foundation of the Ahmedabad Heat Action Plan and heat preparedness scaling efforts. The climate solutions plan saved numerous lives during its first three years of implementation, in addition to preparing the city’s 7 million residents for future deadly heat waves. Based on the Ahmedabad model, NRDC and IIPH are collaborating with other Indian cities to craft their own early warning systems and heat preparedness plans.
3. S4S Solar Conduction Dryer
This innovation has won the 2012 United Nations Environment Leadership Award. It was the Grand Prize winner of the Dell Social Innovation Award out of 2600 innovations from 90 countries. Farmers’ markets may cut out the middle-man, but they don’t protect small holder farmers from the low shelf life of their vegetables. A young student from Mumbai ended up solving this problem vegetable vendors have been facing for aeons.
Vaibhav Tidke was grocery-shopping in the market when he noticed how vendors sold their produce at throwaway prices every evening, since it was bound to rot. Rather than ignore the problem of food wastage, he decided to do something about it. Vaibhav teamed up with his friends and developed a solar conduction dryer, which expands the shelf life of fruits and veggies by 6 months. He came up with a neat little business model to thus process extra fruits and vegetables and supply them to the market.
Under their startup, S4S Technologies, Vaibhav and his friends-cum-business partners made women farmers their target audience. Women were a natural fit for the model, since they are experts at preserving foods through sun-drying. Remember how your grandmother would dry red chillies on the terrace for making pickles? The 6-foot dryer is easy enough to assemble and dismantle for the average farm-hand. It makes the list of zero-maintenance climate solutions since there’s no additional maintenance. The dryer works on solar energy – a clean energy source – doing away with the stress of electrical fluctuations common in village farms.
S4S Technologies follows a rent-based model in order to make the contraption more affordable for women farmers. The startup also helps sell their fresh produce to individuals and reaches out to restaurants and distributors with the dried products. Marico Innovation Foundation and Nestle India have helped the startup keep up the standard of quality.