“European cities need green and blue to tackle the heat”
Heat in cities may be a new issue in Germany, but it is a familiar one in India. GIZ project manager Vaishali Nandan talks about the challenges and learnings in dealing with the issue.
Heatwaves with temperatures of over 40 degrees are becoming a regular occurrence in Europe, even in central and northern parts. Temperatures are even higher in urban areas with high population densities and concrete buildings. In India, urban heat has been a concern for several decades now. Vaishali Nandan is managing the Climate Smart Cities project for Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH in India. The project supports cities to plan and implement climate-friendly solutions for urban infrastructure including to develop measures to ease urban heat. In the interview, she talks about the challenges of urban heat and potential instruments to address the issue.
The weather in Europe has brought the issue of urban heat to the forefront. This has been a major issue in India for a while. What are the consequences of urban heat?
Vaishali Nandan: Climate change is leading to longer and more extreme heat waves: In northern India, we experienced temperatures of almost 50 degrees for several days in MAy this year. Urban areas are particularly affected: Tarmacked roads and concrete buildings radiate incoming heat, thereby increasing the overall temperature of the surrounding area. This creates the phenomenon of urban heat islands, where the temperature is significantly higher than in other parts of the same city. For the inhabitants of the city, this leads to illnesses like dehydration and heat strokes. The indirect impacts involve burdening of health services, shortage of water and electricity, and infrastructural damage among others.
What is GIZ doing to address this issue in India? What are potential solutions?
On behalf of the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, we are developing climate friendly measures and implement solutions in three “Smart Cities”: Bhubaneswar, Coimbatore and Kochi. In all three cities, our project identified heat islands with particularly high temperatures. These areas had common traits: They were densely populated and had lots of concrete areas with little room for green areas or water. Based on these results, we are developing evidence-based planning solutions to reduce the temperatures in heat islands. Thereby, we are helping urban practitioners to prioritize and implement solutions for cities to adapt to global climate change.
In Coimbatore, the city has identified 100 spots of vacant land where public parks with local trees are being developed, with 34 parks already in development. In Bhubaneswar, we supported measures to prevent flooding during the rainy season, using various rainwater retention techniques. The water diverted from flooding will be used to water plants and trees thus helping cool the area. In Kochi, we developed a green building concept for the new municipality building and a guideline for the city, that shows how institutional buildings can be developed in a climate-friendly way. And in the cities of Coimbatore and Bhubaneswar, we supported the city to sustainably manage construction and demolition waste from buildings.
Could these efforts be adopted in Germany and Europe?
I think the challenge in European and Indian cities is quite similar. When I look at maps of European cities, I don’t see green and I don’t see blue in the densely populated areas of the cities, much like in Indian cities. Efforts should focus on reducing heat islands and provide more room for water and plants there. These measures can be quite simple, like growing plants and vegetation on roofs or collecting rainwater to use it as a cooling instrument. Moreover, buildings in Europe have so far been designed with a focus to stay warm in winter and avoid heat loss. With consistently higher temperatures, keeping them cool in summer should also become a priority.
About the Climate Smart Cities Project:
To tackle the issue of urban climate change including urban heat, the Indian government with support of the project has initiated the Climate Smart Cities Assessment Framework (CSCAF) under the Smart Cities Mission for 100 cities in 2019, the third round of assessment for 200 cities was launched in 2022. The cities aim to develop solutions to make urban living healthier and at the same time ease the pressure on the environment. GIZ has been supporting the Indian government on these efforts since 2018. In three pilot cities, the project identified heat islands with particularly high temperatures and is introducing measures to mitigate and adapt to the effects of climate change. Find out more about the project here.