Pune, August 29, 2020: City-based NGO Parisar hosted an online event for the release of its report, ‘Clearing the Haze: An analysis of air quality management in six smart cities in Maharashtra’ on 28th August. The event was attended by Smart Cities Mission Director, Kunal Kumar as the chief guest, along with officials from the cities. After a brief presentation on the findings of the report, expert speakers Dr Priyadarshini Karve (CEO, Samuchit Enviro Tech, Pune) and Sarath Guttikunda (Founder, Urban Emissions) commented on the report. The event ended with brief comments from the city officials.
The report is based on a study done in six non-attainment smart cities of Maharashtra – Aurangabad, Pune, Nashik,
Nagpur, Solapur and Thane. To understand how the Smart Cities Mission has dealt with deteriorating air quality in
cities, the study looked at how the cities determined their base level (on a scale of 1-4), projects they proposed to
improve air quality and finally the status of those projects. The study used data received from the smart city SPVs,
and stakeholder consultations.
Following are the important findings from the study;
1. All cities have fitted air sensors under the mission, but there is no clarity on how the data generated by
these is and will be used by the city.
2. Mission city information, such as project status and actual outcomes were difficult to obtain.
3. While it is mandatory for each city to report on air quality in the proposal, there is no logic as to why certain projects have been proposed and to what extent they would help improve air quality.
4. Poor convergence was found between the city AQ action plans made under the National Clean Air Programme (NCAP) and the Smart Cities Mission. While it was announced that the mission would be used to leverage the NCAP in the 43 non-attainment Smart Cities, the analysis shows that this goal has not been achieved
Smart Cities Mission Director, Kunal Kumar addressed the event after the report findings were presented. He stated that it is crucial to understand that cities and their issues are governed by a continuum, and the city’s life cycle and the stage of development they are in currently. That is why cities which are poster boys of clean air today like London and Tokyo, were in fact highly polluted in the 1970s and 80s. In the same way, he said that Smart Cities
are not made in one or two years. To make our cities better, he emphasized on being open to criticism, collaborative in approach and being keen to develop best practices through action, instead of blindly following best practices from elsewhere. On being asked about how information being generated by different sensors set up by the smart city corporation can be used effectively, he promised to have an open data platform of all such data from different cities at one place, and to generate live air quality information through it in the next few months.
This was followed by comments from guest speaker Dr Priyadarshini Karve (CEO,Samuchit Enviro Tech). She spoke
about how the smart city solutions were driven by economic considerations and not sustainability. In a study done
by them, they realised this focus of the mission on creating sellable services through smart technology. She also
pointed out the problem with the Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) approach, which creates parallel governance and
compromised outcomes. She said that air quality isn’t yet a people’s issue, and the main challenge is to bring about
that. In the absence of public awareness about air quality as an issue, governments have no motivation to take
Dr. Sarath Guttikunda (Founder, Urban Emissions) said that the report brought out the need of source
apportionment for better air quality management. He emphasized on the airshed approach to air pollution, where
one considers the surroundings of a city, where pollution is being generated and is affecting the city. He quoted
Nagpur and Nashik to illustrate his point, saying that they have large power plants around the city which should be
considered if air quality is to be tackled effectively. He also reiterated the importance of a centralised database of
air quality information for better planning for air quality improvement.
This was followed by comments by Mahesh Moroney, CEO, Nagpur Smart City and Mrs. Manisha Pradhan,
Environment Officer, Thane Municipal Corporation.
The full report can be found here
New Report: Clearing the Haze – An analysis of air quality improvements in six smart cities in Maharashtra
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