The challenges emerging as a result of climate change and its varying levels of impacts and threats are leading cities to foster partnerships among stakeholders to bring about significant changes, especially for the urban poor.
These iterative processes are gradually gaining momentum, more so due to the growing need address deficiencies in making city resilient but also because of a strong desire among the stakeholders to form partnerships that will lead to inclusive development. Such processes have not only catalysed awareness but also resulted in the initiation of processes that enable cities to become resilient and significantly reduce their risks. Such partnerships have helped in utilizing the knowledge base and technical competence of its stakeholders to strengthen urban climate change resilience.
The Municipal Corporation in the city of Rajkot in the state of Gujarat, India, has brought about partnerships between various levels of government and the private consulting body ICLEI to be partners in developing the city as a solar city. As a part of "Development of Solar Cities" programme by the Government of India’s Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE), the central government provided support to the selected cities for development of renewable energy and energy efficiency projects and curbing conventional energy demand by 10% in the next five years. The technical reinforcement in this programme was provided by ICLEI. The Solar city programme aimed to minimize 10 percent reduction in the demand of conventional energy at the end of five years (during 11th five year plan period 2007-12). This was achieved through a combination of energy efficiency measures and enhancing supply, especially from renewable energy sources. In the total pool of energy sources, about 5 percent energy was expected to come from renewable energy sources.
To make Rajkot a solar city, the municipal corporation, with a population of over 1,200,000 according to the 2011 census with a total area of 129.21Sq.Kms, undertook a slew of initiatives.
These were geared towards taking sustainable measures through progressive local actions based on stakeholder participation with a focus on environmental conditions. The strategies adopted in this process were very diverse and aimed at making the city more resilient by improving air quality, providing environmentally safe electricity and supporting a green economy. These initiatives were implemented through focusing on amendments to policy, developing bye laws, mass transport initiatives, and building awareness among the citizens on the benefits of energy efficiency.
Initiatives such as solar heating systems, Solar PV on roof tops, Bus Rapid Transit System (BRTS), High Volume Fly Ash (HVFA) Concrete Based Pavement, Rajkot Green Building Norms: 2010, Waste Water Reuse Byelaws: 2009, were taken up by the Rajkot Municipal Corporation (RMC). Initially, these norms were enforced on a voluntary basis as a pilot but were later incentivized and scaled up on a citywide basis. In order to ensure that these initiatives succeeded, for instance, the city municipal corporation encouraged citizens to adopt solar water heating by giving them a subsidy through property tax, which was tax relief up to INR 500 per year for five years for the residential units using solar water heating systems and INR 1000 per year for five years for the commercial units using solar water heating systems. Rajkot Urban Development Authority revised its building bye laws in the General Development Control Regulations Act (GDCR) and included a clause for mandatory provision of “Solar assisted water heating system” (Clause No 17.22, Page No 101/102) and later rooftop rain water harvesting was also made mandatory through GDCR. As a result, it’s now mandatory for every building to have a solar heating system and rain water harvesting system. To implement these initiatives, the RMC got technical support from the ICLEI on introducing various measures for energy efficiency while building the capacity of the staff at RMC. In addition, ICLEI also built capacity of the RMC in the area of renewable energy and energy efficiency.
Alongside developing Rajkot as solar city, RMC also took policy measures to improve its public transport through its Low Carbon Mobility Plan 2011 on a public private partnership model; energy saver units for street lighting; a cycle sharing initiative; and DeWAT System in sewage in one location in Rajkot. DeWAT is an effective and efficient wastewater treatment solution that minimizes water and soil pollution in housing complexes/settlements. The initiatives in transportation helped in decongesting the city and reduce its carbon foot prints.
The initiatives to tap renewable energy and bring energy efficiency produced benefits to the city in terms of energy savings of up to 30 percent; minimum maintenance cost for instance in the Solar PV Power Plant at RMC West Zone office total annual savings up to INR 400,000 (approximately USD 6,000), energy conservation; alternate power supply solutions.
The programme contributed to a substantial reduction of carbon emissions across the city. Most importantly, these could be up-scaled at city level for greater benefits. Though high capital investment acted as a potential deterrent in the initial stages of the project, however, the attractive rate of return on investment and its prospective impacts on the environment of the city was a key driver for the corporation to undertake such initiatives.
The challenges emerging due to budget allocations and technical proficiency were also overcome by the city government while implementing the initiatives by forging partnerships. This enabled the RMC to tap the benefits of renewable energy and optimize the use of energy. In the process, it led the city to work towards its holistic development by incorporating “sustainability” and “greening” as key focus areas.