Tuesday, July 17, 2018

My City My Responsibility - Climate Friendly Lifestyle Workshop!


Dear All, 

Group of teachers at the workshop
Till last week I was busy attending workshops on many aspects of Sustainability and stuff...but this time we arranged one :) Samuchit got an opportunity to conduct the monthly Climate Friendly Lifestyle Workshop in R. Jhunjhunwala college, Ghatkopar, Mumbai yesterday. It was a pleasure to undertake the workshop here for the enthusiastic teachers and active students of this college. Great thanks! to Dr. Anil Avhad for organizing this workshop so well. It was good to know that as a college the teachers here understand the need of this subject and since it is not part of the curriculum they are taking tremendous efforts to create awareness among the youngsters and make them responsible citizens of tomorrow
Dr.Priyadarshini Karve presenting
Pournima Agarkar explaining the calculator



Just a brief background of our workshop flow, Dr. Priyadarshini Karve is the main speaker and she explains the science behind climate change, how real it is for us in India and why urbanites need to take the required action. She explains the importance of carbon footprint which is a measure of greenhouse gases that are generated as a result of our day to day activities that directly or indirectly contribute to climate change. Then I run through our carbon footprint calculator step by step so that all the participants get a hang of calculating their own footprint. Since there were around 45 participants in all, we decided to take sample information of a typical middle class family and calculated the footprint. Later we asked all participants to calculate their footprint using own information so that they get to know how much do they contribute to climate change.



Group of students

Its been our experience that after calculating the footprint, all the participants are kind of sad or worried. In this workshop some participants were literally scared of sharing their carbon footprint numbers with us. Since the desired limit is 2 tCo2eq and Indian urbanites tend to have a footprint of 3 to 4 tCo2eq in general or more, its sometimes shocking to know that we are to an extent the cause of the global problem. However, this calculator itself shows the pathway towards a low-carbon lifestyle leading us to the global solution. Generally when we say Think Global and Act Local, we don't really know what needs to be done as an individual locally or what we should change in our day to day lives in order to reduce the impacts of climate change. Our workshop gives you a guideline towards the required actions.  

So if you are curious to know your footprint and want to lead a low-carbon lifestyle tune in to Samuchit's facebook page or website next month or write to me to know about our next workshop! I will be happy to help you. 

Pournima Agarkar.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

My City My Responsibility - Reflecting on #UrbanLab workshop about smart spaces Part II

Dear All, 

In continuation with my previous blog, for the issues that we faced during the quick survey, we had to suggest a prototype of solution. Issues like lack of dedicated spaces, loss of local culture, low awareness levels about municipal initiatives in the area and improper storm water drainage were the highlights of our survey.  




Our prototype design 

Since our group was about creating smart spaces, we created prototype of spaces for the street where we surveyed. The spaces we created included an Art Katta (here Katta means a place where people can meet, discuss, design or just hangout if possible under the shade of trees). Art Katta is a place where people can meet and co-create articles out of waste/recycled material as smart art. Similarly we created a Food Katta for setting up eateries and also like a marketplace for selling/buying of organic fruits and vegetables. We created a bus stop having toilets with access to differently-abled persons. We also demarcated parking spaces for private and public vehicles,  and provided street lights that were designed in the form of a lantern to give it a nostalgic look. Street walls would depict our history through paintings. Instead of creating an open space with trees, we thought of creating a biodiversity park having native trees especially fruit and flower bearing trees to attract more native birds, butterflies, bees and other pollinating insects etc. We included cycle tracks in green colour and walking areas in dotted yellow lines. The whole idea was to give all the spaces aspects of sustainability and usability. For creating awareness, we came up with an app for citizens that could give all the above information about the spaces. Our aim was to connect spaces and people through 3E's which is explore, engage and enjoy. 

Our group photo
Moreover, the whole experience of surveying, brainstorming and co-creating a prototype gave us a good hands-on experience on developing a space, which I feel is one of the most effective ways of learning. However, the experience would have been richer with a more diverse group. So, I feel considering a multidisciplinary approach and involving effective decision making criteria through activities like brainstorming with all the stakeholders is one of the ways that can make our development a better process if implemented in the correct manner. 
The overall learning experience was indeed beneficial for me and I thank IGSI and BNCA for this opportunity. Post workshop, all our inputs would be presented by our coordinators to the concerned local authorities. I am eager to know their thoughts! Will get back when I learn more! I also invite other workshop participants to share their experience/opinions in the comments.

Pournima Agarkar. 

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

My City My Responsibility - Reflecting on #UrbanLab workshop about Smart spaces (Part I)

Dear All,

I would like to share my reflections on a workshop, that I recently attended on Development of smart spaces under the #UrbanLab series of workshop organised by Indo-German Smart Initiative (IGSI) in Pune city supported by Dr. Bhanuben Nanavati College of Architecture (BNCA) and National Institute of Urban Affairs, Delhi. 

I missed the first day, however managed to sync in with a group of creative architects on the second day who were working on creating smart spaces. Our task with this topic was to identify the need and issues related to creating smart spaces and coming up with alternatives. 

Before proceeding further, I would like to highlight that the location where the workshop was conducted was a seminar hall named Bhauudeshiya Bhavan on baner road a municipal initiative for social development. This place apparently had NO USABLE TOILETS as good as having no toilets which I think is a basic need for any community space. The space for toilets was demarcated but not built. There was enough parking space, though! I wonder what's the intention of designing a community place without a provision of a functioning toilet??? In this era of Sustainability where we talk about inclusive designing having toilets for all the members of the society considering the differently-abled persons, senior citizens, women etc..This particular community space lacked providing a basic feature that too in an area which is being developed under the smart city area development scheme. (Note: The organizing team was completely unaware of this aspect and some last minute scrambling had to be done to deal with the problem.) 

Anyway, I was glad to have a group where all of us believed in understanding the NEED of creating a smart space in the first place, instead of just creating something for the sake of it. Also I understood that creating a smart space was not only about creating something new, its also about making optimum usage of any existing space.

Interviewing the local milk supplier
For instance, consider roads. The basic features a road should have is a proper storm water drainage system, access to parking spaces, usable cycle tracks, walkable footpaths, solar powered LED street lights etc... however while conducting a random survey on the Highstreet road in Baner all the above mentioned features of a road were missing on this 'so called posh' street which comes under the smart city area development plan. We observed water logging on the roads due to inappropriate storm water drains, footpaths were tagged with cycle track boards and the recently introduced PEDL cycles under the Pune Cycle Plan were parked on footpaths. However this footpath was blocked even for walking due to some concrete structure and pipes. On the other side, we could see a lot of paved area right in front of the hotels that were completely vacant probably because it was morning time.

Privately owned company buses were parked on the road reducing the driving space of the road. The road on one side had tall corporate companies with glass facades and hotels, bars plus luxurious residential societies on the other side.
Vacant space in front of hotels

We were searching for some localites to ask our queries, we met just one local milk supplier who stayed around 3-4 km away from this street. He mentioned that this place is very crowded in the evenings causing heavy traffic jam in the area since most of the people come to hang out in these hotels and bars. When asked about improvement in quality of life, he replied that he is happy just because of the increased income growth and schooling facility for his children but was sad that his family does not like to come to his shop and that they saw a loss of local culture. He felt like he has lost his hometown. A local person felt like an alien in his own place. 

Another highlight of this area is the Energize Park  - a smart 
Energize Park
initiative by the municipality to create an environment friendly public space. The park has solar powered street lights, seating areas, library (but no books! Basically it is just a space for reading i guess!), a yoga center and lots of greenery. However one of the residents of this area said that we don't really visit this place because our society's open space is much better and greener. Some people visit the park mostly in the evening, but some people don't know that such a place even exist.

I feel this is another example of a planning disaster because this space seems to be created either without even checking if it was needed at this location or may be they have failed to promote its significance and hence it is under utilized.

With all these observations and inputs we were supposed to come up with a prototype of solution. 

I will write about our solutions prototype in my next blog. Happy learning!!!

Pournima Agarkar.