Dignitaries on the dais, Ladies and Gentlemen.
I am delighted to be here today and to share a platform with senior decision-makers from the Government and business leaders, whose presence here demonstrates the importance that India and States like West Bengal attach to sustainable development issues. It is great to see such an important gathering taking place here in Kolkata.
Because, in many ways, Kolkata is the right place to be having this conversation. It’s a fascinating, vibrant and culturally rich city. It’s a city whose history continues to define its character, even as it rushes rapidly towards its future. But that future is in some ways an uncertain one: in part because of the rapid expansion that lies ahead; in part because of Kolkata’s vulnerability to climate change.
And it is this vulnerability coupled with rapid urbanisation which makes sustainable resource management for the growth of this city so important.
Around the world, resource efficiency in every form is becoming essential as urban development grows at a rate never experienced before. The biggest driver of this is the growth of the middle class population – widely, but somewhat roughly, defined as those who spend between ten and one hundred dollars per day. Globally, this demographic has doubled from 1 billion in 2000 to 2 billion in 2013. This is projected to further increase to 5 billion by 2030. Most of them will be urban dwellers.
This represents a wonderful opportunity for prosperity.
It means that more and more people in the developing world are coming out of poverty.
It means realisation of dreams and aspirations.
But preparing for this expansion in such a short space of time is a challenge the world has never faced before. It has enormous implications for urban economics and resource management in particular.
We need to wake up to this challenge.
The choices that are made today on building designs, waste management, water, energy and food systems, urban ecosystem management, transportation, infrastructure development and retrofitting will have critical implication for urban habitats.
It is therefore vital to have an integrated and innovative approach as we try to future-proof our cities in the light of changing climate, rising energy prices, increasing demand for water and space.
And this is what we are trying to do in Kolkata.
When UK Prime Minister David Cameron visited Kolkata last year, the UK Government signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Kolkata Municipal Corporation to work together towards a low carbon and climate resilient Kolkata.
Through this first-of-its-kind initiative in India, the Kolkata Municipal Corporation has taken an important step to work with various stakeholders and with consultants from the UK and other countries to mainstream climate change and sustainable resource management within its plans. This will help KMC reduce green house gas emissions of the city, respond to the impacts of the changing climate, create green jobs and generate new economic opportunities.
There are three key components of this collaboration.
Firstly, the preparation of a Roadmap for the green growth of Kolkata.
The Roadmap, once developed, will serve as a blueprint for KMC to initiate action on large scale adoption of grid-connected rooftop solar panels across the city, sustainable water resource management and waste water treatment, low carbon and climate resilient infrastructure development, climate-smart municipal solid waste management, low carbon city mobility strategy, energy efficiency action plan and climate-induced disaster management plan among other things.
The second element of the MoU is the development of strategies to strengthen institutional capacity of KMC to implement the Roadmap and improve overall governance. This will involve developing low carbon procurement guidelines for KMC and building capacities of KMC so that Kolkata is better equipped to respond to the challenges and opportunities of climate change.
And the third aspect, which is essential to the success of this initiative, is the Sensitisation programme on green growth of the city for key stakeholders within KMC, mainly the councillors and members of Mayor-in-Council and in the wider community, on green growth of the city.
And today, I would like to take the opportunity to announce that we will be working with the Bengal Chamber of Commerce and Industry and other experts to sensitise councillors on climate change and sustainable resource management so that they are empowered to take constructive action towards a cleaner, greener and climate-friendly city.
We believe that our collaboration with the Kolkata Municipal Corporation will encourage behavioural changes. We believe that it will help ensure bottom-up participatory governance. We believe that it will provide a springboard for coordination across sectors and institutions for sustainable growth of the city. And we believe that the lessons learnt and insights gained can be shared with other cities to help in their sustainability agendas, particularly at a time when India is planning to come up with a 100 smart cities.
Transition is never an easy process. So working together will be critical. There will be barriers, there will be challenging times.
All we need is the right political vision, right leadership and collective wisdom and together we can do the right thing to create not just a smart city, but a hundred more.
I wish you all a productive and successful conference.