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UK, Kerala partnership in climate change: the Aluva story

The Municipal Council of Aluva is keen to ensure that the city can adapt to impacts of climate change.

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The UK government, which has tough standards to mitigate climate change in the UK, is one of the world’s leaders in low-carbon development and supports programmes worldwide on future-proofing cities. The Municipal Council of Aluva, with support from the Kerala government, is keen to ensure that the city protects its heritage while developing the capacity to grow into a world class city that can adapt to serious climate impacts.

In early 2013, discussion started between UK and Kerala under the ‘Connecting the Dots’ initiative, through the Environmental Committee of the Kerala Legislative Assembly, in Trivandrum.

In March 2013, select MLAs and councillors from Kerala, along with local experts, participated in a discussion which contextualised climate change to Kerala and identified local solutions to a global issue. They later showcased innovative local solutions and expressed their intention to scale up activity when the Rt Hon Eric Pickles, British Cabinet Minister for Communities & Local Government visited Kochi and Aluva in June 2013. Pickles met key Aluva stakeholders at a meeting convened by Shyam Srinivasan, CEO & MD of Federal Bank. WS Atkins as UK experts shared their experiences from working in other parts of India through the UK’s prosperity projects on low-carbon master planning.

In November 2013, HRH The Prince of Wales during a discussion with the Chief Minister of Kerala, highlighted UK’s expertise in sustainable planning and quoted Aluva and the intent to support Kerala more broadly. Following interest from Aluva Municipality, discussion followed on matters of detail: a meeting in February 2014 included discussion with architects.

Based on local appetite to scale up and collaborate, the British High Commission’s Prosperity Fund then commissioned a project to support the Aluva Municipality.

In September 2014, Bharat Joshi, British Deputy High Commissioner in Chennai, led a delegation of experts to Aluva for the first project discussion. He highlighted UK experience and related work for future-proofing of Indian cities such as Madurai.

The Aluva Project

The project will address long-term climate impacts and minimise short-term impacts of unplanned development, with an urban design framework. It will combine local city knowledge and international expertise to establish a framework to guide growth in an integrated manner to respond to the challenges of urbanisation, climate risks and impact on existing and future local communities. It will enhance resilience to risks and define and catalyse a series of early-win exemplar projects to reduce energy intensity, improve liveability and build support for further action. It will provide a model at state and national level with potential for replication in other peri-urban municipalities and metropolitan areas in India to move to a more sustainable growth trajectory while addressing the needs of local communities.

Aluva occupies a strategic location between Kochi Airport and the main route to the port. Kochi metro and freight corridor terminates at Aluva and a large bus depot and railway station serves a wider area. Local communities and authorities are keen to address industrial and urban development challenges that are leading to pollution and high energy use. They are also keen to find a balance between meeting needs of the contemporary and growing urban population, while respecting the organic evolution of the city, and recognising that traditional materials and local traditional architecture have much to offer in both enhancing liveability and mitigating climate change and resource scarcity.

The project aims to deliver a mechanism built on local stakeholder consensus that can enable capacity building to understand and act upon short-term urban and long-term climate change through a series of processes and tools. This is the first time an integrated analysis of Aluva’s development pathway will be prepared and used to explore scenarios for Aluva’s future development.

  • W S Atkins: will provide expertise in urban planning, economics, climate change, waste, water, and transport focusing on developing a future-proofed urban strategy for Aluva providing a comprehensive assessment of environmental risks and integrated solutions that can generate social and economic benefits.

  • INTBAU: will offer expertise from UK specialists Alireza Sagharchi, Robert Adam, Lucien Steil, Peter Verschuren and Jagan Shan (NIUA) to develop the urban design framework with W S Atkins, and ensure that the framework for climate-proofing is prepared. This approach integrates resilience via technical solutions, with a human scale community based framework, and is informed by a process of learning from tradition of urban settlements and traditional forms and types, values and integration of local craft skills and labour; aims to protect local and national heritage and to balance the pursuit of economic value with development of social, heritage and natural resources.

The approach to engagement with the city will build from the approaches developed by W S Atkins set out in the planning and design handbook for integrated development and future proofing cities, in order to tackle the risks to future growth. The project will leverage learning from previous pilots in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka.

The British government and sustainable urban development in India:

Sustainable urbanisation is a thematic focus across British government teams in India, with each working around complementing elements of the narrative.

The UK Department for International Development (DFID) has around thirty years involvement in India’s urban sector. We currently have urban programmes in 14 cities in Madhya Pradesh, 29 cities in Bihar, and 41 urban local bodies in West Bengal. DFID has also a programme with the Asian Development Bank and Rockefeller Foundation to help 25 cities across South Asia improve their resilience to climate change, especially through better planning.

Research Councils UK (RCUK) supports the UK’s thought leadership on the sustainability of cities and urban transitions. Specific topics have included ICT, low-carbon cities, water and energy resource management, urban health, demographic transitions.

The British High Commission’s Prosperity Fund in India directly supports action in areas of strategic importance to the UK and India, helping deliver on our goal to build Britain’s prosperity. One of those goals is promote sustainable growth. Among other things, the prosperity fund helps create a cohesive technical, policy and financial environment to build urban low carbon and resource efficient cities. Our work, on the hand has developed and piloted resource efficient master planning tools in various cities (e.g. Atkins’ work in Mysore and Madurai), and on the other hand has built local capabilities to create low carbon policies and attract financing. Aluva is the latest example of this growing work in India and we have collaborated with Atkins and INTBAU to help deliver the project.

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Published 11 November 2014