“Atmanirbhar India will only be possible if our cities are productive and I see that process taking place,” said Mr Hardeep Singh Puri, Minister for Housing & Urban Affairs, Minister for Petroleum and Natural Gas, Government of India, while delivering the inaugural address at Connect Karo 2021, a week-long virtual conference organized by World Resources Institute (WRI) India, to discuss sustainable development in India.
Mr. Puri highlighted that the Indian Government is delivering the most comprehensive and ambitious program of urban rejuvenation undertaken anywhere in the world today. Quoting estimates which state that the urban Indian population is bound to rise up to 630 million by 2030, he also pointed out that in the past seven-and-a-half years, the government had invested more than Rs 11 lakh crore in urban development. “But apart from the physical targets what we have got right is our collaboration with organizations like WRI India, Omidyar Network, and other members who have constantly given us ideas on how to actually make our cities demonstration hubs.”
He further said, “India’s urban areas will drive the economy in the coming years. By 2030, cities will contribute to 70% of India’s GDP. The best-performing cities globally contribute five times more to the national GDP of their respective countries. We need to generate a similar density of economic activities in our cities to become a USD 5 trillion economy in the near future and USD 10 trillion in the long run.”
Puri was speaking at the Connect Karo 2021, WRI India’s flagship that brings together Indian and global leaders committed to designing inclusive, sustainable, and climate-forward Indian cities, that started here on Monday. Held virtually amid the Covid-19 restrictions, the convening is expected to host more than 150 thought leaders, policymakers, financial experts, academics, scientists, and civil society members and discuss the way forward to building clean, green, and just Indian cities that are economically and environmentally sustainable and disease-free. Over the week, the experts will address critical challenges faced by Indian cities, including urban planning, water infrastructure, air quality, transport, safe and accessible streets and neighborhoods, and more, to gain insights and share key learnings.
Mr Puri highlighted the important upcoming sessions at Connect Karo including a series of masterclasses for various electric vehicle (EV) stakeholders, the road map of hydrogen in India, the need to build climate-resilient cities, and cities that are accessible to children and vulnerable groups alike.
Other line-ups for the first day of Connect Karo include:
- Unveiling of the vision for a climate-forward Mumbai and the role of climate leadership to help cities act with a focus on mitigation and adaptation by Mr. Aaditya Thackeray, Guardian Minister for Mumbai suburban.
- Launch of ‘Basics of Hydrogen’ – a paper on the hydrogen roadmap for India by WRI India. The paper will discuss hydrogen’s potential as an alternative fuel and the technologies that can be used to produce it.
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Ahead of the unveiling of the Mumbai vision, Mr Thackeray said, “Climate change is here, in our backyards, we are living with extreme climate risks every day and the window for acting on climate is closing on us. We must act now, and the Mumbai climate action plan goes beyond policy, it is focused on action.”
In the course of the Connect Karo week, upcoming sessions will also include the launch of the Safe Access to Schools (SATS) tool, a web-based geo-analytics tool that focuses on road safety indicators around schools. The SATS tool for road safety will address the gap in implementation of safety measures around schools by providing integrated data sets that can be utilized by city agencies, traffic police, civic groups, schools, and researchers in their coordinated efforts to plan and implement a safer school environment for children.
The sessions will also include the launch of an innovative and interactive ‘Route EValuator’ by WRI India. This tool is aimed at helping State transit agencies evaluate the merit for the deployment of e-buses on specific routes and develop corresponding implementation plans. Further, ‘Tracking India’s Evolving E-mobility Start-up Landscape’, a commentary that will offer an analysis of the different areas of innovation that startups are addressing, and the mix of traditional and climate funding opportunities available, will also be launched.
Speaking at the conference, Ms Roopa Kudva, Managing Director, Omidyar Network India, said, “If we have to improve the quality of life of every Indian and give the access to public services and social protection schemes, we have to meet them where they live and work and increasingly this is in our urban centers. Getting urbanization right would go a long way in mitigating risks from climate change. Compact, connected and coordinated cities that design public spaces and transportation around pedestrians are more inclusive, productive, and resilient.”
Dr OP Agarwal, CEO, WRI India, said, “India is one of the fastest-growing economies in the world today. Its urban population is projected to multiply to nearly 814 million by 2050. To harness such expansion and drive a sustainable model of growth, it is important that we focus on building cities that are clean, green, and just. At Connect Karo, we envision bringing together significant stakeholders to accelerate a climate-forward, nature-based, and inclusive urban development.”
Mr Jamshyd Godrej, Managing Director and Chairman, Godrej & Boyce, and Chairman WRI India, stressed the importance of stakeholder partnerships in achieving the required change: “We are facing a climate emergency today that requires companies, investors, governments and communities alike to transform to a cleaner, low-carbon and socially equitable way of living and doing business. Collaboration is the key to drive such concerted action. Convenings like Connect Karo are essential in bringing together multiple stakeholders and enabling better coordination between them.”
With WRI India marking its 10th anniversary, Connect Karo will facilitate discussions and knowledge sharing to fulfill our mission of development with a focus on sustainability, equity, and livability goals in the coming decade.
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