Today the whole world is facing serious climate change issues, as a result of uncontrolled carbon emissions from various sectors mainly transport sector. Our Kochi is one of the areas that suffers the most from its bitter effects. Unscientific transportation is one of the major problems facing Kochi in this regard. Based on this, several projects are being formulated and implemented to make Kochi’s transportation sector more environmentally friendly. The Kochi Municipal Corporation, with a view to address this pressing issue, included a plan to introduce a new policy for freight transport in its annual Budget for the year 2021-22. The project is carried out under the coordination of C-HED with the support of ICLEI South Asia under ‘EcoLogistics: Low Carbon Freight for Sustainable Cities’ supported by International Climate Initiative (IKI) project. As part of the project, a stakeholder consultation meeting was convened on March 24, 2021 to discuss the draft action plan for freight transport in Kochi. The meeting was held in the presence of Hon’ble Mayor of Kochi, Deputy Mayor, Secretary, Councillor Sri. Antony Kureethara, other officials of Kochi Municipal Corporation, RTO, representatives from KMTA, KMRL, various trade and industrial organizations.
An online workshop on ‘Explore Issues and Solutions for Solving Housing Challenges of Migrant Workers in Kochi, Kerala’ was organized as part of Rapid Response Policy Engagement project on March 16, 2021 as part of the comprehensive planning of the recommendations received from the stakeholder workshop held on March 5, 2021.
Hon’ble Mayor Adv. M Anilkumar presented the city’s vision and action plan related to the living conditions of various migrant workers in Kochi. Kerala State Planning Board member Dr. Ravi Raman spoke on issues including policy formulation to be adopted by local governments in this regard. Many experts in this field also participated in the discussion. Presentations were done by the experts in the field, Smt. Banasree Banerjee, Smt. Uma Adusmiley, Smt. Renu Desai, Dr.Binoy Peter, Dr.Angelique Chettiparambil and Mr. Rushil Palavajjhala regarding different models in India and around the world. Experts from inside and outside Kerala analysed and spoke on these models. The online workshop was coordinated by C-HED with the support of CMID and University of Reading, UK.
Kochi, one of the major urban agglomerations in the state is seriously pondering on the need for sustainable energy transition. It has been very proactively discussing and engaging with various stakeholders to identify the opportunities and challenges of clean energy projects within the city. In this regard, the urban energy transition project, the brainchild of the Hon’ble Mayor, intends to take support from relevant State Government agencies like State Planning Board (SPB), ANERT, KSEB, Energy Management Centre and other relevant institutions to identify the high-impact opportunities that can be implemented in the city to align with the state’s sustainable energy policy. The Kochi Municipal Corporation in coordination with the Centre for Heritage, Environment and Development and with the support of WRI India organized a stakeholder consultation workshop which was attended by the above mentioned representatives.
The city of Kochi is an important place of employment for migrant workers in Kerala. Workers from Tamil Nadu have been living and working in the city for decades. In addition, workers from Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, West Bengal, Bihar, Odisha, Uttar Pradesh and many more can be found in the city today.
The migrant workers in any urban centre are often forced to live in unhygienic and unsafe conditions. The case to some extent in Kochi is the same. They are often denied the access to safe and fair accommodation in the city. At the Kaloor bus stand, under the metro line and in the suburbs, we can often see many elderly people and women among those who end up on the roadside. In this regard, Kochi Municipal Corporation has decided to prepare and implement a comprehensive plan to address the housing crisis of migrant workers in the city, with the aim of ensuring that no one is left behind or homeless has introduced ‘Rapid Response Policy Engagement – Affordable Rental Housing for Internal Migrant’ project in its annual Budget for the year 2021-22. The aim is to engage with relevant stakeholders to collectively devise a policy for ensuring access to affordable rental housing for internal migrants in Kochi. The project is being spearheaded by the Kochi Municipal Corporation with the technical support of the University of Reading, United Kingdom and coordinated by the Centre for Heritage, Environment and Development in association with the Centre for Migration and Inclusive Development (CMID).
In this regard, the first Stakeholder Consultation Workshop for the project was held on March 5, 2021 under the aegis of the Hon’ble Mayor, in the presence of the Chairs of various Standing Committees of the Kochi Municipal Corporation. Representatives from Labour Department, National Health Mission, Department of Town and Country Planning, GCDA, Kerala State Housing Board and GIZ attended the workshop.
Kochi Corporation in association with Kerala Lalithakala Academy conducted Canopy Art-Holic Art Camp of painters on March 4th -6th, 2021 at the Chatiyath Queens Walkway. The three day camp organised as part of the ambitious Arts Space Kochi (ASK) project had 10 renowned artists brushing the colours of the expression of nature on to the canvas. As the camp progressed for the day, the Hon’ble Mayor visited the camp and exchanged thoughts with the artists. before the camp called it wrap, we also had the City Police Commissioner Sri. C.H. Nagaraju visiting the camp and sharing his hopes and opportunities for the artists to display their work across the 30 police stations in the city. The event was a very interesting start for the Canopy Art-Holic Painters Camp.
The camp was co-ordinated by Centre for Heritage, Enviornment and Development (c-hed). Artists Sajith Puthukalavattom, Shinoj Choran, Sunil Vallarpadam, Amrutha V R, Jagesh Edakkad, K T Mathai, Seeyem Prasad, Sajeesh P A, Uthara Remesh, Vipin K Nair participated in the camp.
As part of the Road Safety Month campaign, Kochi Municipal Corporation (KMC) jointly with Transport Department, Government of Kerala and Kochi Metropolitan Transport Authority (KMTA) have launched the Road Safety awareness event in Kochi on February 16, 2021. The event was supported by Centre for Heritage, Environment and Development (C-HED) under the initiative ‘Art Space Kochi’ (ASK). The campaign was launched by Adv M Anil Kumar, Hon’ble Mayor of Kochi. The initiative was organized under the ‘Integrated Sustainable Urban Transport Systems for Smart Cities’ (SMART- SUT) project funded by German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) jointly implemented by Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH and the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (MoHUA), under the umbrella of the Green Urban Mobility Partnership between India and Germany.
The event had an exhibition of a map of Kerala with around 2300 red dots commemorating the lives lost on the road and a ‘tree of life’ celebrating life. Further, Chakyar Koothu and a music concert by Sri. Cochin Mansoor on the themes of safety and life was organised under the ASK initiative. Inaugurating the event the Hon’ble. Mayor Shri Anil Kumar said that improving road safety is one the key goals of Kochi. To achieve that, city needs to improve public transport, walking, and cycling facilities and Kochi is in right direction. All the agencies working on transport policies and projects shall work together with emphasis on improving safety aspects. Appreciating the theme of the event, he mentioned that road safety awareness and education is very important and need of the hour. He mentioned some basic rules on road usage including following traffic rules, usage of helmets by two wheelers and cyclists, using footpaths by pedestrians.
The Chairmen and Chairpersons from the Kochi Municipal Corporation and Division Councillor attended the inaugural ceremony. In addition, officials from KMTA, Shri. Jafar Malik, CEO, Shri. Adarsh Kumar G Nair, Special Officer and Shri. Shaji Madhavan, RTO Enforcement Ernakulam, Shri. Vijayan, ACP, Traffic police, also participated in the event.
As part of Arts Space Kochi a live music events was held at Durbar Hall and Koithara Park in Kochi on February 14, 2021. The performances were done by the music band of young techies named ‘Untagged’. The event was inaugurated by the Hon’ble Mayor Adv. M. Anil Kumar. The event was held in association with Greenix village, Kochi under the coordination c-hed.
The Kochi Corporation has prepared a local biodiversity strategy and action plan which sets 29 goals for the city to achieve on biodiversity conservation by 2025. The city is the first in the country to develop a ‘scientifically informed and participatory’ action plan, according to Mayor Soumini Jain’s message in the plan.
The plan was readied as part of the Integrated Subnational Action for Biodiversity (Interact-Bio) project being implemented in the city by the civic administration’s Centre for Heritage, Environment and Development (C-HED), which is collaborating with ICLEI-South Asia. The plan is meant to function as a tool that the local government can use to take action related to the conservation of biodiversity and climate resilience. It identifies nine focus areas including islands, lakes, agriculture, green and open spaces, inland waterbodies, marshes and mangroves, and seashore and sandbars. The 29 goals under these focus areas include mapping of agricultural land, identification of new cultivable land, conservation of paddy fields, transitioning to a low emission city and protecting green spaces.
Actions to be taken include setting up decentralised sewage treatment plants, developing a geo-referenced map of inland waterbodies, establishing a special purpose vehicle for management of the Vembanad Lake and sea-wall construction using eco-friendly methods like setting up mangrove nurseries.
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.