Community-led Climate Action For Liveable, Sustainable Smart Cities

The initiatives and solutions that are offered by the latter need to be stitched together in building the smart, resilient and liveable cities that we are all aspiring for!

Cities are striving for climate resilience. Evidently, this cannot be achieved without the involvement of city residents and communities especially those that are most vulnerable to impending climate risks. The Mumbai Climate Action Plan, announced on the 13th of March 2022, recognizes the disproportionate impact of climate change-induced hazards on vulnerable communities like the Kolis. It also talks about increasing the resilience of these communities. Ketaki and Jai Bhadgaonkar urban designers and co-founders of Bombay 61 Studio, urban solutions think tank, are driving a community-led project ‘New Catch in Town’. It is a Net Filter System Installation Project for Creek Restoration.

This is part of an international research program TAPESTRY (Transformation as Praxis- Exploring Socially Just and Transdisciplinary Pathways to Sustainability in Marginal Environments) supported by the Belmont Forum and NORFACE and the European Commission through Horizon 2020.  Ministry of Mumbai’s Magic (MMM) a collective that represents the creative and social power of the youth aims to drive youth engagement in the critical role of the Koli community as caretakers of the city’s coastal ecosystems and push for inclusive climate solutions. With the Koli community, the initiative leverages traditional knowledge of the Koli community to showcase an indigenous, community-led low-cost innovation that has the potential to remove up to 24,000 kg of waste from the entire creek system per month. The concept was co-created with the Koli community through participatory workshops and brainstorming sessions by tapping into the existing skills and knowledge of the community.

The installation uses traditional fishing nets and targets the mouth of the Versova creek outlets as strategic locations to maximize garbage removal in an efficient manner. Once installed, around 5000 kg of waste can be collected from just one outlet of a creek in one month. While the waste collection is managed by the community, it also provides room for collaborative ecosystem building by involving waste experts at the segregation and recycling levels.

In the words of Ketaki “The project is the culmination of Bombay 61 Studio’s engagement with the Versova Koliwada community on the issue of the restoration of creek systems since 2016. With the support of the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Bombay and Institute of Development Studies (IDS) Brighton, partners of the TAPESTRY project and MMM; the net filter initiative was brought to realization led by the Kolis of Versova. Some of the key findings from the pilot implementation include around 500 kg of waste collected from 4 net filters installed for three days in the Kavtya Khadi (creek), Versova in Mumbai.

Plastic waste contributed to 79 per cent of the total waste collected, of which multi-layered plastic and single waste plastic form the majority. The feasibility of this project makes it practical for replication and scale-up at multiple creek outlets with scope for modification as per the situated knowledge of the local creek-dependent communities at different locations. Scaling this innovation and installing it at multiple creek outlets can significantly contribute to the restoration of marine life within the creeks, better health of mangroves and the well-being of the communities that depend on these creeks for their livelihood”.

Globally, the narrative of climate action is gradually inching towards climate justice. It is well established in existing scholarship that social inequalities cannot be read separately from climate action. Community is crucial in the design and planning of cities and fosters the localization of Sustainable Development Goals. The initiatives and solutions that are offered by the latter need to be stitched together in building the smart, resilient and liveable cities that we are all aspiring for!

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