Most cities across the world have long ceased to be environmentally sustainable.
They may bear the bulk of economic burden of a country or region, allowing for millions of people to eke out a livelihood, or even make a good life for themselves, crucially paying the lion’s share of the taxes that financially sustain the spending of nations and states, enabling welfare programmes and social benefit schemes and supporting unending migration from villages, but they have become environmentally unsustainable themselves.
Indian cities, especially its six big metros, have metamorphosed into ecological-disaster-attracting hubs, bearing the brunt of global warming. Sadly, there is little alternative for young, ambitious Indian youth from anywhere in the country who are trying to make a career but to live and work in big Indian cities and larger towns.
As over an estimated 46 million residents of Delhi-NCR realised when they woke up on Monday after a scorching summer spell with temperatures crossing 50 degrees Celsius. They found themselves in a rain-inundated city, with flights delayed or cancelled, roads impossible to ply through and, for many of the less fortunate, homes invaded by rainwater and debris from their colonies, making life impossible.
When temperatures fall in a city by 11 degrees overnight, the citizens may temporarily rejoice, but the governments must be alarmed. In point of fact, they shan’t be, because cities might be economic powerhouses but are not politically too rewarding, or lucrative.
Every other major Indian city — Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata, Bengaluru and Hyderabad — have faced similar sudden rains and floods, dry spells and every element of nature’s fury showing its carefree dance of destruction, forcing the city life on its knees or to a standstill.
India must protect these cities, not with tactical, hyper-local green steps, like banning plastic, planting saplings or cleaning lakes, but by creating a 100-plus-kilometre urban radius around to ensure these disasters are mitigated at a greater level of effectiveness.
Whether one takes an optimistic view of man’s ability to fight ecological disasters in the future, or not, we must increase the vigil and take the fight up several notches. India must set aside the romantic and profound view that its soul lies in villages for a moment, and introspect and find that its heart, and brain, are still urban.
Save your cities, India, before it is too late....