As a part of Cities 4 forests initiative by World Resource Institute (WRI India) a multi-stakeholder consultation workshop to assess the indicators of the Urban Community Resilience Assessment (UCRA) tool for Kochi was conducted at c-hed. The workshop was to identify the scope to apply the UCRA Tool in the vulnerable neighborhoods of Kochi city. Stakeholders from various departments and agencies attended the workshop. The workshop started with an inaugural address by Dr. Rajan Chedambath, Director, c-hed. Ms. Lubaina Rangwala, Managing Associate, WRI India presented about the Urban Community Resilience Assessment tool and Urban resilience in Kochi. The session ended with a group exercise where the stakeholders shared their views and opinions on different indicators of urban resilience in Kochi.
C-hed : A True Planning Institute
By Conor Noone, Curtain University, Perth, Australia.
Here is a small piece on the past 2 months I have spent as an intern in Kochi, India.
I first heard of the Centre for Heritage, Environment and Development (C-HED) when I began my internship with the German development organisation GIZ in December 2019. I was tasked with strengthening their team as an added human resource and to provide an external and foreign perspective. As someone who is studying urban planning in Perth, Western Australia, I was excited at the prospect of joining an institute that has been dedicated to this field for so long.
The C-HED first began their work in the year 2002, at the behest of the then Council with the consent from the Government of Kerala, who was keen for the Kochi Municipal Corporation (KMC) to take on more responsibility in increasing the liveability for residents in their city. To assist in managing the many issues that come with urban planning in modern cities C-HED was therefore formed as a semi-autonomous research and development wing of the KMC. Their duties included preserving the extensively long history of Kochi, evident through its built heritage, protection of the city’s precious and quickly disappearing natural assets and advocating for sustainable and smart procedures in urban development.
To achieve all this, the C-HED is tasked with many duties. The most important of these include; research and studies into the issues that press Kochi today, educating and creating awareness for such issues through programs and outreach, and leading the coordinated efforts in mitigating challenges that threaten the livelihood of Kochiites. For the past 18 years C-HED under the leadership of Dr. Rajan Chedambath have been dutifully carrying out this mandate, under successive mayors and governments. You have probably heard of some of the projects they have initiated. For example;
In 2002 they created a vision document and strategic plan for the KMC, outlining the prospective direction the City should take with regards to urban development. This document recommended the development of a Kochi Municipality Masterplan, to help planners and civil servants guide the development of the city in a cohesive manner with people, heritage and environment at its core. This eventually evolved into the process of preparation of the Kochi City Masterplan (2005) and the City DevelopmentPlan (2005) a pre-requisite for the approval of DPRs under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission. It was also during this time that they helped host the World Mayors Conference(2005) in Kochi which included over 40 mayors from across India and around the world. This was an excellent opportunity for Kochi to understand new methods of urban development.
In 2010 the C-HED conducted a study on the impact of development on the Kochi Backwaters, a crucial natural asset of the City. It found development, especially through encroachment, has significantly detrimental impacts to the backwaters, with the report recommending various strategies to tackle these issues and mitigate further environmental degradation. A year later C-HED on behalf of the Kochi Municipal Corporation joined the Asian Cities Climate Change Resilience Network, a coalition of over 40 cities from 4 nations. The objective is to plan, implement and finance strategies for mitigating the impacts of climate change, with the assistance of the ICLEI-South Asia. In 2014 the C-HED was also responsible for Kochi’s successful application to take part in the Smart City Mission of India.
The C-HED has been responsible for sculpting many of the city’s policies regarding heritage, culture and the environment. For example, in 2010 the C-HED undertook a study of water supply for Kochi’s inhabitants. It found serious inadequacies in clean water provision and the basis of this research helped determine a water policy for the KMC, one of the first local level initiatives of its kind in India.
Over the course of many years, the C-HED has been instrumental in including Kochi within cross-cultural exchange programs whereby local governments from around the world participate with Kochi in learning about new and innovative ways for urban planning and governance. These partnerships include; Kumla (Sweden), Norfolk City (USA), Pyatigorsk (Russia), Hangzhou (China), Vilnius (Lithuania) and many more.
2016 witnessed the C-HED lead the coordination of a programme (Interact-Bio) initiated by the Central Governments National Biodiversity and Strategy Action Plan which aims to re-integrate biodiversity throughout Indian cities. The C-HED mobilised resources and stakeholders to create biodiversity mapping and local level integration plans throughout the city. Last year they began work on the Mobilise Your City project which seeks increase the connectivity between the Northern and Southern railway stations. Transport being a massive urban challenge around the world that all cities are grappling with.
Since my placement here, I have learned of these achievements and experienced the day-to-day working from within. The C-HED is an interesting initiative due to its autonomous and neutral role as an arm of government concerned with planning. Urban planning for many places around the world is dictated by governments interests at heart. However, as is the case with all democracies, urban planning is subject to many influential forces. I find the C-HED initiative fascinating because as a semi-autonomous institute, they can provide advice, coordination and mobilise resources while remaining free of political influence yet fixated on the betterment of the city and its people.
The C-HED’s role in Kochi was recently highlighted on the international stage at the 10th World Urban Forum for Urban Development. This provided an excellent platform of the C-HED to raise its profile and its methodology. As a truly innovative form of urban governance they were able to convey this institutes experiences to a powerful audience which, in the future, will ideally attract many other international agencies to come and work with people in Kochi.
The C-HED demonstrate their capabilities as a true planning institution through this background work they do. The coordination and mobilisation of stakeholders and resources is crucial for any effective planning to occur. The city and its problems are not resolved through engineering or design alone. These are important from a practical sense, but it is through the organisation of these groups of people that results on a large scale can be achieved. This is what C-HED does and this, for me, is what urban planning is truly about.
As my internship comes to an end, I would like to thank my colleagues at the C-HED for the truly welcoming experience and valuable insights they have provided me. I would also like to thank GIZ for their decision to coordinate this opportunity and for mentoring me through this journey. Finally, I would like to take this opportunity to thank the people of Kochi for the way they accepted me with open arms despite language and cultural differences and for making my experience here one that I will soon be nostalgic about.
Centre for Heritage, Environment and Development (C-HED) director Dr. Rajan Chedambath presented our organisations case at the 10th World Urban Forum in Abu Dhabi, UAE. This competition is designed to share and exchange valuable knowledge and experiences between cities all around the world, with C-HED representing Kochi this year. Joining Dr. Rajan on stage and supporting our case was Mayor Soumini Jain of the Kochi Municipality Corporation as well as Ms. Friederike Thonke and Mr. Rienhard Skinner of GIZ, Mr. Octavi de la Varga secretary general at Metropolis, Mr. Hitesh Vaidya director at the National Institute of Urban Affairs and Dr. Monolisa Sen programme coordinator at ICLEI-South Asia. Titled “Institutional Innovations Linking Heritage and Culture: Empowering Urban Local Governments in the Global South”, we made a strong case of how C-HED has been instrumental in transforming urban development in Kochi through local, national and international stakeholder cooperation. We would like to thank all those who have been a part of this experience and we hope we can continue building a sustainable future for Kochi.
The Centre for Heritage, Environment and Development (c-hed) and Ashoka Trust for Reserarch in Ecology and Environment (ATREE), organised a 1 day workshop where we discussed and deliberated on measures for water conservation including developing awareness and strategies to help fight climate change. The event was supported by the Kochi Municipal Corporation and Department of environment and climate change,Government of Kerala.
The workshop was preceded by a technical session by ATREE project coordinator Jojo T.D and district rainwater harvesting project secretary Jose.C.Raphel. The technical session explained the practical steps that can be adopted to save water. The programme was aimed at making people aware of different measures to conserve water. An innovative method for water conservation by using wall-mount urinals in houses was also introduced to Kochi residents. These water conservation methods will minimize the water usage and will reduce the water scarcity issue in the city.
The Kochi Municipal Corporation in association with the World Resources Institute India organized a ‘Mapathon’ in coordination with the Centre for Heritage, Environment and Development, as part of the Cities4Forests project from 9 to 11 January, 2020 at St. Teresa’s College, Kochi to develop monitoring mechanism in Kochi and enhance community participation in restoration.
Kochi is the only city in the country to have been selected for the project last year. In the first phase of the project, councillors from the Corporation’s 74 divisions along with local experts participated in the mapathon which identified the current land use in the divisions using satellite images. The purpose of the mapathon is to establish baseline and assess the trends in tree cover and identify potential areas for restoration in the city. Buildings, green patches, open spaces, waterbodies and roads were also mapped by WRI in consultation with the councillors after which they identified the areas in their divisions where trees can be planted. The three-day exercise will result in a map that can suggest spaces in the city that are conducive to the growth of green patches.
In the second phase of the project, the Corporation will determine the implementation of the project and which trees are to be planted.
Let cities fight Carbon
By Dr. Rajan Chedambath, Director, c-hed
The whole “sensible” world is thinking loudly about ways and means to mitigate climate change and its impact. One of the major causes of global warming and subsequent climate change is carbon emission resulting from fossil fuel led transportation. Transit-oriented development, E-mobility, non-motorized transport, public transport facilities, pedestrianization etc. are certain mitigation strategies that urban and rural centers in the world adopt to reduce the use of fossil fuel. It is scientifically proven that pedestrian oriented population in urban and rural centers can help minimize carbon emissions to a large extent. It is against this backdrop that countries across the globe especially their urban centers started moving towards building and creating more of pedestrian friendly landscapes and streets-capes.
‘Pedestrian first’ and ‘pedestrian friendly’ are certain terms or cliché that we very often use here in India too, especially in the urban context. But in reality, the Indian cities are not at all in harmony with the above; rather they are more of ‘motor-vehicle friendly’ giving damn about ‘carbon foot print’ or reducing emissions. However, off late, efforts are focused on giving a major makeover to this image and many cities in India are seriously working towards embracing a pedestrian friendly streets cape as part of mitigation and beautification measures.
In this context, the city of Kochi has been witnessing a real transformation and a major overhaul in pedestrianizing the city is underway, thanks to the works of Kochi Metro Rail Ltd., Cochin Smart City Mission Ltd., Kochi Municipal Corporation, Greater Cochin Development Authority and other such agencies. The ‘citizen networks’ as pressure groups also play a pivotal role in expediting the process of this transformation. The inspiring works of the Oak Ridge National University from the U.S.A. and International Centre for Local Environmental Initiatives – New Delhi, on the impact of Climate change remain the main background research on climate change and Kochi.
However, the biggest challenge that these newly developed public spaces faces is that of encroachment by street vendors, pop-up shops, advertisers, vehicles and other such impediments, cutting off the path between, obstructing the way and discouraging the people from using them. There are classic examples from Kochi where such beautifully developed spaces are encroached upon in no time by these elements with active connivance from certain ‘power centers and vested interests’. One of the most beautifully pedestrianized pathways, Main Avenue, Panampilly Nagar (Shihab Thangal road) up to Panampilly Nagar South end has been an instant success and is one of the most active open spaces in the city. To our dismay, a real good stretch of this place is now occupied by street vendors and pop-up shops with near-to permanent edifices especially in areas close to the regional passport office. Same is the case with the pedestrianized pathway near Subhash Chandra Bose Park, Children’s Park, Marine Drive and General Hospital. The pedestrian pathway in M.G road also faces the onslaught of such encroachment including that of hoardings and flux-boards making the area highly ‘polluted visually’ as well. It is very distressing to see these encroachments and visual pollution disseminating the whole face of the city. The tragedy is that when the path becomes difficult to traverse, people opt to take roads and resort to vehicles for traversing even the shorter distances, thus defeating the very purpose. These encroachers are certainly not people from impoverished sections of the society seeking self-employment but on the contrary they are part of a ‘big mafia like nexus’.
I don’t think this is an issue solely affecting Kochi but an issue that almost all Indian urban centres face. It is high time that we had really strived to keep our cities pedestrian friendly and also visually appealing not only for their aesthetic value but also for the larger cause of fighting climate change impact. Where do we begin this from? We need to revisit the land-use pattern of the urban centres for sure and need to ensure that there are enough open and public spaces and proper pedestrian pathways connecting them.
We have embarked on a mission to ‘rebuild the state’ in the aftermath of the worst fury of nature. We are gradually re-building the state to a more sustainable future. It is imperative that we should give utmost importance to re-building our cities too so as to ensure a sustainable future for our urban centres as well. In this pursuit, a small proper pedestrian pathway also gathers immense significance. It is time that we had realized the relevance of such small but significant aspect of our urban living.
Dr. Rajan Chedambath (Director, Centre for Heritage , Environment and Development) explains how the city of Kochi can fight climate change.
Read on :
Cities4Forests is a movement conceptualised to catalyse political, social, and economic support among city governments and urban citizens to integrate the inner, nearby, and faraway forests into city development plans and programs. Cities4Forest helps cities from around the world connect with and invest in forests. The project is initiated by a consortium of international agencies like World Resource Institute (WRI), Pilot Projects and REVOLVE with the involvement of mayors’ offices and supported by other sub-national agencies from around the world. The project will be implemented 45 cities from across the world for the project which aims at incorporating forests into the urban strategy to address climate change issues. Kochi is the only city selected from India on the list.
The Initiative was launched on 7th August 2019, in Kochi. The launch witnessed stakeholders from various walks of life – City Administration, engineers, city planners, conservationist, civil society, educational and research institutions come together in a bid to use the platform of Cities4Forests to leverage green infrastructure of the city to improve resilience. Participants shared an aspiration to help reduce deforestation, restore forests (including more trees in cities), and manage forests more sustainably. The goal of the project is to amplify current best practices and extend the deliberate city-forest relationship to the global scale on which cities and forests interact. On behalf of Kochi Municipal Corporation, the Centre for Heritage Environment and Development (c-hed) supported the organization of the event.
After the successful completion of the Mission Clean Kochi Campaign, the Kochi Municipal Corporation has jumped to an advanced second phase with the plan to paint the city blue to ensure a unique identity for the city through the campaign called ‘One Kochi, One Colour’. As part of the project, the walls of buildings, especially those located in public areas in the city will be painted with blue colour. The project will result to the complete makeover of the ‘Queen of the Arabian Sea’. Many associations like the Cochin Carnival Club, Rotary Club, Lions Club, Y’s Men International, CREDAI, Merchants Association et all have pledged their full support for this initiative and have also formed a society which will be in charge of implementing the project.
As the first phase, the carnival route of Fort Kochi was inaugurated by the actor Mammootty by painting a wall in Njaliparambu Junction with blue colour. 5000 litres of paint, which is required to paint at the first phase will be provided free of cost by Berger. The second phase of the project stretches from Rajendra Stadium to Broadway.
The entire programme was coordinated by c-hed for the Kochi Municipal Corporation.