Climate change is here, need to adapt to ways to handle it: Maharashtra environment minister Aaditya Thackeray

By, Mumbai
Dec 22, 2020 01:32 AM IST

As Mumbai became the sixth Indian city earlier this month to be chosen as a member of the C40 cities, state environment minister Aaditya Thackeray in an exclusive interview to HT spoke about the roadmap and strategies to make Mumbai the most active city among the C40 group in South and West Asia region.

As Mumbai became the sixth Indian city earlier this month to be chosen as a member of the C40 cities – a global network of cities committed to tackling climate change – state environment minister Aaditya Thackeray in an exclusive interview to HT spoke about the roadmap and strategies to make Mumbai the most active city among the C40 group in South and West Asia region. The minister addressed key aspects for the most vulnerable districts in the state in the fight against extreme weather events, droughts, extreme flooding and annual sea-level rise.

Maharashtra environment minister Aaditya Thackeray.(Twitter)
Maharashtra environment minister Aaditya Thackeray.(Twitter)

Being included as a member of the C40 cities allows Mumbai to be a part of an international conglomerate of leaders fighting climate change. What is your strategy to make Mumbai the most active city in the South and West Asia region?

Mumbai has been at the forefront of fighting climate change and also has borne the brunt of climate change. We realise the need for climate change action and have been working on mitigation and adaptation measures. Our electric buses, (under construction) sewerage treatment plants, ongoing urban forestry are some of our mitigation measures. The pumping stations that we need now due to excessive monsoons, is one example of adaptation. However, we can’t just stop here and look inward. C40 will help us track global measures in various cities around the world to fight climate change.

What are some of the other cities in Maharashtra that you plan to propose that could be part of the C40 cities and why?

We may have Pune or Nashik or even Thane as a part of it soon. More so, the experience and knowledge-sharing by Mumbai would help us work towards making other cities better in terms of environment, and ideally carbon-neutral at some point, in the decade.

Among the districts in Maharashtra, Mumbai has been identified as one of the most threatened ones according to the climate vulnerability index. How do you plan to reduce risks to the city?

We have to realise that climate change is already in our backyards. It is no longer something that is restricted to the poles and glaciers. We will have to work on it on macro as well as micro levels. We have to adopt and adapt many lifestyle changes from governments working towards electric mobility and renewable energy, to citizens auditing their travel and carbon footprint, to solid waste management and waste reduction.

Similar to the state climate action policy, will Mumbai get a city-specific climate action policy (compatible with the Paris Agreement goal as deemed by C40 cities)?

Our state’s “Majhi Vasundhara” (climate change mitigation programme) actually focuses on local action for climate change. It [the programme] pushes for climate change action not just for Mumbai but also for each urban and rural local body, so that collectively we realise how important it is to curb our carbon footprint.

Is there a need to revise existing development plans to be more climate resilient or curb future construction along the low-lying areas through sustainable development, factoring in issues such as coastal flooding, sea level rise and extreme weather events?

It’s now time for us to move beyond just plans. We need to act. Plans for 2030 are too far away. With the number of climate change events occurring, it’s time for collective, quick action on mitigation and adaptation.

How do you intend to keep the seamless balance between conserving the environment and wildlife while ensuring infrastructure development is not compromised upon?

Both are needed and what brings both together is sustainable development. Every infrastructure work can be planned in a way that is sustainable. Infrastructure growth, urbanisation and industrial progress can go hand-in-hand with the environment. There are enough technologies, methods and incentives for that. For example, while Maharashtra will now cross over 1 lakh crore of investment this year itself, we have also protected a forest (Aarey) in a city like Mumbai, declared two sanctuaries and more than 10 conservation reserves.

Similar to introducing climate mitigation and adaptation in the curriculum of school students, what would be your strategy to boost availability of more green, open spaces, and the city to adopt a more environmentally sensitive way of life?

Awareness and action are important. Awareness can be generated through curriculum, elected representatives and common conversations. We also must encourage schools, industries, farmers and corporates alike to carry out certain green deeds and have some basic lifestyle changes.

What is your vision for Mumbai from an environmental point of view by 2030?

There’s a lot really to achieve in the coming years: better waste segregation at source, electric mobility, renewable energy dependence to be higher, more public transport options, sewerage treatment plants to help us re-use water, rainwater percolation and harvesting pits, urban forests, pro-sustainability infrastructure creation, formal housing from slums for a better lifestyle and pedestrian pathways to connect the last mile. The above is a list of the ongoing efforts and those that we need to strengthen.


    Badri Chatterjee is an environment correspondent at Hindustan Times, Mumbai. He writes about environment issues - air, water and noise pollution, climate change - weather, wildlife - forests, marine and mangrove conservation

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