Showing posts with label Bhubaneswar. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Bhubaneswar. Show all posts

July 26, 2018

Act now to spur urban climate resilience

Like most cities in India, Bhubaneswar is being driven to its knees due to extreme rainfall and intolerable temperatures, underscoring the urgent need for climate-smart urban planning 

After intense overnight showers, Bhubaneswar woke up on Saturday, July 21, morning with half the city under water. The situation at the capital of the eastern state of Odisha in many ways typifies poor urban management in India that is crumbling under adverse climatic conditions.

Residents in many parts of the city were stranded in their homes and the condition was so dire in some parts that the state’s disaster response team has to start rescue operations. Roads in the state capital looked like gushing streams. Disaster response forces moved to waterlogged areas with floating pumps to drain out water.

“Such situations have become annual events for the city of Bhubaneswar with heavy downpour becoming normal during rainy seasons,” Arun Samal, an accounts professional, told

Delayed monsoon

“There was only scanty rain since the onset of the monsoon till middle of July. Then, suddenly, we get two months’ rain within a week,” Samal said. “Such heavy rain for a short span would hardly help agriculture or serve any purpose but to make life miserable.” Within 24 hours till 8.30 AM, July 21, Bhubaneswar received a rainfall of 195 mm, according to Skymet Weather.

As the onset of monsoon was delayed this season, rain deficiency during June was 27% over Odisha. “As the rains continue to evade the state even during the first few days of July, thus until July 7, the deficiency mounted to a whopping minus 30%,” Skymet said.

According to India Meteorological Department data, rainfall in Bhubaneswar’s home district Khordha was deficient by 19% as on July 7. But, by July 21, the district received 29% surplus rainfall because of a few days of heavy rainfall. Although this cannot be directly related to climate change, untimely and intense rainfall is considered as one of the impacts of climate change.

Rise in the daytime ozone-mixing ratio due to high temperature during June could be provoking favourable conditions for higher ground level ozone formation and resulting in shifting the monsoon activation time to July, a study on surface ozone variation at Bhubaneswar suspected.

“Such pattern of a dry monsoon with a few days of extreme rainy days is induced by the phenomenon of climate change,” Prasanna Mishra, a retired bureaucrat and long time city resident, told

Summer heat

Even as extreme rainy days bring the city to a standstill, the heat on summer days is also becoming unbearable. This year in February, the highest temperature in Bhubaneswar reached 35 degrees Celsius, 7 degrees above normal. In March, the city remained the hottest in the country with 39.8 degrees. The mercury in the city touched 45.8 in April and continued to remain above 40 degrees during the next two months, with a lingering heat wave in the month of June, the month of monsoon’s onset.

“With high temperature and humidity, Bhubaneswar converts into a heat island during summer months almost since the past two decades,” Akshaya Pradhan, a physics teacher at the city based Biju Patnaik College of Science and Education, told

According to research, if wet bulb temperature (wet bulb temperature is a combined measure of temperature and humidity in the ambient air) exceeds 35 degrees Celsius, metabolic heat in humans can no longer be dissipated. Exposure to it for six hours would result in death even for the fittest of humans under shaded, well-ventilated conditions.

A sizable part of the Indian subcontinent is likely to experience more frequent and intensified heat waves and associated physical stress during the extended period covering the pre-monsoon to monsoon seasons, the research indicated.

Unruly expansion

Even though climate change is responsible for the extreme weather conditions experienced in Bhubaneswar, the impacts can be minimised through proper land use, said Mishra.

“Unfortunately, the city is expanding in an unruly manner. The natural channels for rainwater drainage are chocked at all ends and water bodies in the city have vanished to make space for housing and other commercial activities,” he said. “Despite strong guidelines, plans for high-rise buildings and apartments are being approved indiscriminately, without considering aspects like water drainage, sewage and waste management.”

Since most of the city is covered by concrete, there is no scope for the rainwater to seep into the soil, which would also recharge groundwater, said Niranjan Sahu, a tent house owner. “Because of this, groundwater level is continuously depleting,” he said.

Planned for a population of 40,000, Bhubaneswar now accommodates nearly a million people. As it expanded, things went erratic and now people face the problems, said Brundaban Dalabehera, a real estate developer.

Need of futuristic planning

“As the city now aspires to become the sports capital of India, it needs to address the issues that are vital to offer quality life to its denizens,” Dalabehera told

In order to protect the environment and avoid such man-made calamities, the city needs to restore its natural drainage systems on a priority basis, said Ramesh Swain, an architect and Bhubaneswar’s leading town planner.

“City planning needs to be futuristic considering what the city would be 20-30 years ahead and what would be population pressure and possible issues. People also should be educated to partner in the process,” he said.

Climate change impacts are being experienced globally and cities across the world are facing issues induced by it. Building resilience should be the priority to ensure sustainable urban growth.

Already ranked as a smart city, Mishra claimed, with two rivers and a wildlife sanctuary surrounding Bhubaneswar, Odisha’s capital city can become climate-smart and a model eco-friendly city if it is allowed to grow in harmony with nature and a bit of green is added to its development planning.

This article first appeared on the India Climate Dialogue, on July 23, 2018

June 02, 2017

Air pollution in India, a threat to human lives bigger than terrorism

Air pollution in India kills more people than terrorism every year. Yet there is no international war against pollution as there is against terrorism
Terrorism has drawn global attention and most countries have joined the effort to contrast it. But the international community is yet to wage a war against air pollution despite the enormity of the hazard it poses for global health. In India, for example, terrorism has taken 65,900 human lives between 1994 and 2017, which is almost half of deaths caused by air pollution in a single year.
92 per cent of the world’s population lives in areas where fine particle levels exceed the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) air quality guidelines, according to the report State of Global Air 2017. Worldwide an estimated 6.5 million deaths (11.6 per cent of the total) were associated with indoor and outdoor air pollution in 2012, according to the WHO. 

Air pollution in India

China and India together accounted for 52 per cent of global deaths attributable to hazardous particulate matter (PM) in the air. Whilst the number of deaths in India has risen 24 per cent over the past decade, the situation has improved in China with a 3 per cent drop since 2005, a Greenpeace analysis estimates.

India has witnessed economic growth, the rapid expansion of cities, industrialisation and fast-paced development of infrastructure since liberalisation during the 1990s. With this the scale of air pollution has increased too making it a major health hazard and killer of people surpassing the number of casualties caused by terrorism.

An estimated 1.2 million people died from the effects of air pollution in 2015 in the country due to ambient particulate matter pollution, according to Global Burden of Diseases. Reports find that the country has recorded a nearly 50 per cent increase in early deaths linked to fine airborne particles between 1990 and 2015. Pollution levels in the country have been rising at an alarming rate. Coal consumption almost doubled and oil consumption increased by 60 per cent from 2005 to 2015. 

A national problem

“A poisonous mixture of smoke, fog, air and other chemicals form ‘smog’ and cause the havoc that we saw in Delhi post-Diwali festival last year,” says Doctor Viyatprajna Acharya, biochemistry professor at Bhubaneswar-based SUM Hospital, commenting on the consequences of the use of firecrackers during the festivities. Yet the problem of deadly air pollution isn’t restricted to the capital region or the country’s metropolitan cities. It has become national in entity, costing the economy an estimated 3 per cent of GDP says a recent report on air quality in Indian cities.

In addition, “young adults exposed to passive smoking for a minimum of two years showed signs of oxidative stress and subtle changes in their lipid profile, placing themselves at higher risk of cardiovascular disorders or even cancer due to mutagenesis at their genetic level,” says Doctor Acharya based on the findings of her research on the effects of passive smoking.

India’s response to the threat of air pollution

In order to address the issue of air pollution India constituted a Steering Committee in 2014 whose members include health sector workers and those in non-health sectors such as renewable energy, petroleum and natural gas, rural development, as well as development partners such as the WHO.

Though more than 200 cities and towns are included in the government-run air quality monitoring network, “measurements in most are only taken twice a week and aren’t available in realtime,” Greenpeace points out. “Lack of realtime monitoring means inhabitants can’t check current pollution levels to protect themselves, and the government is unable to issue public warnings”.

Given its gravity and the number of annual casualties tackling air pollution must be a priority for the government and the approach to deal with it needs to be focused as well as holistic.

The article was first published on May 31, 2017, at the LifeGate.