Regional Conference on ‘Liveability in Cities: Focus on Cooling Action’

National Conference on ‘Liveability in Cities: Focus on Cooling Action’

The Sustainable Habitat Programme of CSE organised a regional conference on “Liveability in Cities: Focus on Cooling Action” for the North zone (Punjab, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh)on February 13 and 14, 2023, in Amritsar. This was the third conference in series, which convened several subject experts, policy makers,government officials and practitioners for discussing and sharing their perceptions on the rising issue of heat waves, need for cooling strategies and their implementation. The conference was attended by 120 participants from the field of planning, architecture, and engineering.

The panel of experts includedDr. Kulwant Singh (Chief Executive Officer, 3R Foundation, New Delhi), Mr. Karunesh Garg (Chief Environmental Engineer, Punjab Pollution Control Board), Mr. Inderjit Singh (Senior Town Planner, Department of Town & Country Planning, Punjab Development Authority), Mr. P.P. Singh (Chief Town Planner, Government of Haryana), Prof. Manjit Singh (Former President, Institute for Spatial Planning and Environment, Panchkula), Dr. Harjinder Singh, (Principal - Ace Planning, Victoria, Australia).

CSE has been researching on identifying and evaluating the contributors of heat in various cities. This ongoing research was presented through a case study of Pune to initiate discussions on the challenges associated to escalating heat waves and strategies required to combat it through improved urban planning and designing.

CSE also released two publications titled ‘Mass Housing and Liveability: Mapping of the Ground Reality’ and ‘How Accessible are Low-income Settlements?’ at the conference. These reports bring forward the issues of accessibility and liveability in cities, in addition to the strategies needed to improve them.

The first day of the conference began with Prof. Ashwani Luthra (Head, Guru Ramdas School of Planning, GNDU) inaugurating the session and speaking about the accolades the university has achieved under National Assessment and Accreditation Council’s evaluation criteria on environmental sustainability, owing to the suggestions provided by CSE. Following this, Mr. Rajneesh Sareen (Programme Director, CSE)delivered a keynote address in which he emphasised how lack of climate-responsive planning and design has caused our cities to spiral into public health concerns and poor liveability with compromised thermal comfort and deteriorated air quality.Further, the Guest of Honour, Mr. Krunesh Garg spoke about the importance of creating liveable spaces for everyone, while mentioning the imperative to strengthen the approval procedure for building constructions. Prof. Sarabjot Singh Behl(Dean, Academic Affairs, GNDU) in his presidential address highlighted that determining liveability is a complex process, which depends upon several parameters including biodiversity, ease of navigating about the city, green spaces, visual aesthetics, social diversity, cultural vibrancy and many more. He also stressed upon the necessity of appropriate management of available spaces in the city for infrastructure, wherein, bylaws and façade control plays a crucial role.

In the technical session, Mr. Rajneesh Sareen talked about the key policy levers of India's Long-Term Low-Carbon Development Strategy and concluded the session with several opportunities to bend the growth trajectory towards climate-sensitive development. The next session by Mr. Sugeet Grover, Dr. Nimish Gupta and Ms. Mitashi Singh combinedly captured the drivers of heat gains, reductions, sources and sinks in an urban area. The session also covered a range of tools and datasets for evaluating each driver's intensity. Thereafter, Dr. Nimish presented the findings of CSE’s case study conducted on-site in Pune, which detailed how various drivers collectively play a significant role in urban heat gains. Mr. Shailendra Kaushik then gave information on the green mobility, wherein, he outlined the nurdles and likelyfuture of electric vehicles. In the next session, Ms. Anannya Dasdiscussed about the accessibility of low-income settlements and the challenges low-income groups confront as a result of the expanding infrastructure. The technical session wrapped off with Ms. Mitashi Singhdelivering a lecture on CSE’s analysis to understand accessibility.

The final session of dayone began by releasing two CSE publications titled ‘Mass Housing and Liveability: Mapping of the Ground Reality’ and ‘How Accessible are Low-income Settlements?’ by the experts.This was followed by a panel discussion moderated by Mr. Rajneesh Sareen, involvingDr. Kulwant Singh,Mr. Karunesh Garg, and Mr. P.P. Singh. Dr. Kulwant Singh opened the discussionby providing insights on how circular economy and extended product responsibility may contribute in development of a sustainable waste management approach. Further, Mr. Karunesh Garg shared his thoughtson the measures being planned for treating five lakh metric tonnes of legacy waste in near future. Mr. P.P. Singh further detailed about the affordable housing scheme and anurgent requirement of norms concerning climate change.

Day two of the conference commenced with Dr.Rituraj Kaur (Assistant Professor, GNDU), Dr. Avinash Kaur (Professor, GNDU), and Dr. Jatinder Kaur (Professor, GNDU) combinedly presenting a case study of GNDU campus.Dr. Rituraj Kaur started the case study by detailing about the plantation activities undertaken in the university campus for minimizing the heat island effect. After that, Dr. Avinash Kaur spoke on how different tree species contribute to cooling and how this has benefited the university campus. Dr. Jatinder Kaur further elaborated the case study and concluded itbyexplaining the benefits of green spaces in minimizing urban heat island effect and improving resident’s health. Thereafter, Mr. Sugeet Grover explained how passive potentials could be maximized by using district/low carbon cooling systems. The session was supported via explanation of several case studies.

The final session of the day was a panel discussion moderated by Mr. Rajneesh Sareen, which had experts including Prof. Manjit Singh, Dr. Harjinder Singh, Dr. Kulwant Singh, and Dr. Kiran Sandhu (Associate Professor, GNDU). The session extensively discussed ideas on the possible actions that could aid in micro-climatic enhancement in the form of cooling actions and policy interventions. Mr. Rajneesh Sareen concluded the discussion with closing remarks on developing cooling strategies and possible roadmap for its implementation. Prof. Luthra concluded the conference with a vote of thanks.