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4 June 2024 : Indian Express Editorial Analysis

1. Heat proofing the city

Topic: GS3 – Environment – Disaster Management
Context:
  • When Delhi’s Mungeshpur automatic weather station recorded an unprecedented heat peak of 52.9 degrees Celsius on May 29, it was met with incredulity. Initially, this extreme temperature was attributed to a technological fault.
  • However, the incident highlights a broader, more concerning trend: a consistent and long-term rise in the summer heat index in Delhi. This trend reflects an altered climatic reality, characterized by rising temperatures and increasing relative humidity.
  • Recent analyses by the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) indicate that this phenomenon is not isolated to Delhi but affects other major urban centers across India, pointing to a significant increase in urban heat stress.

Urban Development and Heat Trapping:

  • The continuous expansion of built-up areas is a major contributor to rising temperatures. For instance, Delhi’s built-up area increased from 31.4% in 2003 to 38.2% in 2022, while Bengaluru saw a surge from 37.5% to 71.5% in 2023.
  • This expansion replaces natural, heat-absorbing landscapes with heat-trapping concrete surfaces.
  • Furthermore, most urban development projects fall short of the World Health Organization’s recommended minimum of 9 square meters of green space per individual, with many cities offering far less.
  • The diminishing green cover exacerbates the urban heat island effect, as evidenced by the CSE study, which shows that areas without shade have significantly higher land surface temperatures (LST).

About Urban Heat Island:

  • It occurs when urban areas witness higher temperatures than their rural surroundings.
  • Occurrence: Urban heat islands result from complex interactions between built environments, natural factors, and human activities.

Everything You Need To Know About

    • This is mostly due to human activities, buildings and infrastructure in cities that absorb and retain heat more effectively than natural landscapes.

 

Disappearing Water Bodies:

  • The reduction in surface water bodies further aggravates urban heat stress. Between 1999 and 2021, Delhi lost half of its surface water, Pune lost 31.8%, and Jaipur lost 21.5%.
  • Water-sensitive urban design, which can reduce ambient temperatures by 3-8 degrees Celsius, is critical but often overlooked.
  • The lack of awareness and policy action regarding additional heat sources, such as vehicle tailpipes, industrial processes, and air conditioning, compounds the problem.

Equity Impacts of Urban Heat:

  • The increasing heat risk and urban heat island effect have significant equity implications.
  • Heat hotspots in urban areas often coincide with regions inhabited by poorer populations, who are more vulnerable due to preexisting health conditions and greater exposure to the elements.
  • The elderly and children are particularly at risk, with estimates suggesting a 370% increase in heat-related deaths among the elderly by mid-century according to the ‘2023 Lancet Countdown and Health and Climate Change’.

Inadequate Response to Climate Change:

  • Despite the pressing need, current urban planning and policy responses remain inadequate. While cities are beginning to develop heat action plans, these are primarily focused on emergency responses rather than long-term systemic changes.
  • Effective heat management requires comprehensive planning, including the expansion of green spaces and water bodies, creation of shaded areas, and improvement of the thermal performance of buildings.
  • However, existing regulatory frameworks and instruments, such as environment impact assessments, urban development plans, and energy conservation building codes, are not sufficiently enforced or leveraged to effect meaningful change.

Recommendations for Resilient Urban Planning:

To build resilient cities capable of coping with rising temperatures, a deeper and more sustained approach to urban planning is needed. This includes:

  • Expanding Green and Blue Infrastructure: Increasing green spaces and restoring water bodies to enhance cooling effects.
  • Heat Vulnerability Mapping: Conducting comprehensive assessments to identify and address vulnerable groups and areas.
  • Thermal Performance Audits: Evaluating the thermal performance of buildings and materials to improve design standards.
  • Building Climate Data Platforms: Developing platforms to monitor and analyze ambient heat, land surface temperatures, and humidity.
  • Performance-Linked Funding: Aligning and augmenting funding across sectors to support the implementation of heat management plans.

Conclusion:

  • Addressing urban heat stress requires a multifaceted approach, integrating immediate emergency responses with long-term systemic changes.
  • By expanding green spaces, improving water management, enhancing building designs, and leveraging data-driven insights, cities can better manage rising temperatures and protect vulnerable populations.
  • Comprehensive and enforceable policies are essential to prevent the lock-in of urban heat traps and ensure sustainable urban development in the face of a changing climate.
Are Heat Islands the same as Climate Change?
  • Heat islands and climate change are not the same, but they are related
  • Differences: Heat islands happen when cities are hotter than their surroundings, whereas, climate change is the long-term warming of the Earth due to gases in the air trapping heat.
    • While heat islands don’t directly cause climate change, they make cities hotter, which can make climate change effects worse.
  • Concern: Cities are getting hotter because of both heat islands and climate change.
    • As more people live in cities, the problem of heat islands gets bigger. This means cities will face even more heatwaves in the future.
    • So, while heat islands don’t cause climate change, they make it worse for people living in cities.

Case Study of Ahmedabad:

Everything You Need To Know About

  • A Success Story: If there is a success story in heat tracking by an Indian city, it is certainly Ahmedabad, which turned a new leaf after the heatwave of 2010 which led to deaths of more than 2,000 people.
  • Heat Action Plan: In 2012, Ahmedabad developed a heat action plan.
    • This initiative included the deployment of temporary monitoring stations, satellite-based heat maps and early warning systems to identify areas vulnerable to extreme heat events.
    • The data collected from these systems is helping inform decision-making and design interventions to mitigate the heat stress.

Present Scenario in India:

  • Now all over India, more than 24 cities and states are in the process of preparing ‘heat action’ plans demonstrating the value of using technology-driven evidence and decision-support systems to tackle urban heat issues.
  • The tech for mitigation is around building materials like cool roofing materials, reflective building materials, different varieties of paints, apart from having vertical gardens, urban forests and green infrastructure. There is work going on in several cities of Gujarat on this issue
Practice Question:  Discuss the impact of urbanization on the heat index in Indian megacities. What measures can be taken to mitigate the effects of rising temperatures and improve urban resilience? (250 words/15 m)

(Source: Indian Express; Section: The Editorial Page; Page: 10)

2. The state we need

Topic: GS2 – Governance – Government policies – Interventions for development in various sectors
Context:
  • India has set ambitious goals for itself with the vision of Viksit Bharat by 2047.
  • These goals include becoming a manufacturing hub in the global supply chain, a critical exporter of value-added services, and a mass supplier of human skills to an aging developed world.
  • While the aspirations are clear, the methods to achieve these goals raise many questions.

Mission Karmayogi: Transforming Civil Services:

Everything You Need To Know About

  • To realize these ambitions, improved governance and efficient civil services are essential.
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched Mission Karmayogi, a national program aimed at transforming India’s three million civil servants into citizen-centric, future-ready, and result-oriented professionals.
  • The Capacity Building Commission (CBC), established in 2021, provides policy guidance and tools to enhance the capabilities of all levels of India’s civil services.
  • Now, three years into the program, questions arise about whether these efforts have increased the civil services’ capacity to help achieve a $30 trillion economy by 2047.

Integrating Mega Infrastructure Projects:

Everything You Need To Know About

  • Historically, infrastructure projects in India suffered from delays due to inter-ministerial permissions and fragmented execution.
  • The PM Gati Shakti platform integrated legal and geographic layers, facilitating the planning and execution of mega infrastructure projects in a de-siloed manner.
  • This platform necessitated training in emerging technologies and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) across various ministries and field-level officials.
  • The CBC collaborated with institutions lsike Gati Shakti Vishwavidyalaya to develop digital training courses, resulting in over 24,000 officials being trained in PM Gati Shakti modules.

Training in Emerging Technologies:

  • The CBC also developed an online learning module on emerging technologies such as Artificial Intelligence, the Internet of Things, and Big Data analysis, available on the iGOT Karmayogi Bharat portal.
  • Over 3,88,000 government personnel have been certified in these modules, enhancing their skills in applying modern technologies to their work.
  • Collaborations with institutions like IIT Mumbai and the Norwegian Geotechnical Institute have also focused on high-tech road construction and geohazard resolution.

Impact on Infrastructure Development:

  • The impact of PM Gati Shakti has been significant. The construction of new rail lines increased from 4 km per day to 12 km per day by 2024, and more than 15 highway projects under Bharatmala 2 were prepared using this platform.
  • Integrated planning has also helped avoid sensitive wildlife habitats in new rail and highway alignments.

Promoting Citizen-Centric Approaches:

  • Mission Karmayogi aims to promote citizen-centric approaches among civil servants. For instance, the CBC partnered with the Ministry of Home Affairs to train police personnel from various Union Territories on a self-reflection course to enhance “sewa bhaav” (service attitude).
  • Training focused on addressing common citizen complaints, resulting in increased citizen satisfaction, as seen in places like Puducherry and Kashmir.

Enhancing Customer Service in Railways:

  • A similar program was developed for Indian Railways, training 1,00,000 station masters, ticket examiners, and reservation clerks in customer service.
  • Independent assessments showed significant improvements in citizen satisfaction across various railway divisions after the training.

Improving Local Governance

  • The role of state governments and municipal corporations is crucial for achieving India’s 2047 targets.
  • The CBC has piloted capacity-building initiatives in cities like Ahmedabad, Nagpur, and Mysuru, training municipal staff in areas like finance, road engineering, and waste management.
  • This training aims to improve the delivery of services such as drinking water, sanitation, and road maintenance.

Fostering a Culture of Lifelong Learning

  • Mission Karmayogi is fostering a culture of lifelong learning among civil servants. Section officers and administrative assistants have completed millions of online learning modules on topics like data analytics and e-governance tools.
  • An assessment by the Indian Institute of Public Administration reported increased proficiency among recently trained staff.

Conclusion:

  • Mission Karmayogi, supported by the CBC and Karmayogi Bharat, has made significant strides in capacity building within Indian civil services.
  • By focusing on continuous learning and skill development, the program aims to dispel the notion of “state failure” and ensure that the state effectively addresses market failures.
  • For sustained success, it is imperative that all government departments and agencies implement their annual capacity building plans facilitated by the CBC, ensuring role-specific learning and development needs are met.

 

Practice Question:  Discuss the significance of Mission Karmayogi in transforming India’s civil services. How does it aim to improve governance and contribute to the goal of Viksit Bharat by 2047? (250 words/15 m)

(Source: Indian Express; Section: The Ideas Page; Page: 11)

 

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