Every day, we are witnessing new ways that climate change affects daily life in cities across the globe. Concerns over public health, access to basic sanitation, resource depletion and extreme weather events are starting to impact our everyday conversations and planning.
This is especially true in India. In 2017 alone, more than 1.2 million people died from air pollution in India – and according to the BBC, 22 of the world's 30 most polluted cities can be found here. Mumbai, Kolkata, Surat and Chennai are among 45 major cities that are at elevated risk due to rising sea levels. Northern and central India have seen intensifying heatwaves over the past decade that are claiming lives across the country. Added to all of this, are the recent water shortages we experienced and the fact that about 160 million people in India lack access to clean water.
It is no secret that these and future catastrophes will impact the most vulnerable among us the hardest, and with 1.2 billion Indians living below the poverty line, we need to act now to ensure a sustainable and resilient future for all.
One area that presents India with enormous potential is our building sector. Globally, buildings account for more than one-quarter of greenhouse gas emissions, and it is estimated that by 2050 the total floor area of all buildings on the planet will double. The construction sector in India is responsible for about 22 percent of our total emissions.
Green buildings offer a global solution for cities, communities and neighborhoods around the world to address environmental concerns, reverse climate change and enhance the health and wellbeing of their inhabitants. Through sustainable design, construction and operations, green buildings are reducing carbon emissions, energy and waste; conserving water; prioritizing safer materials and lowering our exposure to toxins.
India offers some of the greatest potential for investments in sustainable infrastructure. Sustainability is not a new concept here, and in recent years, India has taken on a greater leadership role. Our commitment to reducing carbon emissions has gained global recognition. This is in large part due to strong leadership from our government, who has set strong emissions reductions targets. In addition, green building in India has also seen a dramatic increase over the last several years and the future of sustainable real estate in India remains bright.
Yet there is still much work to be done. As we all know, many of our fellow citizens still lack access to very basic needs for themselves and their families like affordable energy, clean water and air, basic sanitation and access to healthcare. We can go a long way towards raising quality of life for all and reap enormous benefits by ensuring our development efforts incorporate sustainable design. If the real estate and construction industries were to embrace and invest in sustainability more, it would go a long way in catalyzing the transformation in both our new and existing building sectors – through education, awareness, the evolution of the supply chain and mainstreaming of green investments.
We need to adopt the mindset that buildings must not just do “less harm,” they should do more to create a better quality of life for all of us. Our buildings should give back to the community more than they take – and it is up to us to start planning for this future.
We need to reimagine how to scale and grow buildings, communities and cities to meet the needs of our growing population, while ensuring that in meeting this new demand, we create better, healthier, more inclusive experiences around them.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house