The economist Nitin Desai, the environmentalist Sunita Narain and the writer P. Sainath spoke at the South Asia Sustainability Hub & Knowledge Network launch event on 28 January in Delhi.
The new hub joins five other hubs around the world in the Pathways to Sustainability Global Consortium, which the STEPS Centre convened to link up research and action on environmental and social change around the world. Other hubs are located in China, Africa, Latin America, North America and Europe.
At the launch, P. Sainath said that urban development was based on many false assumptions. “Affordable housing has a serious crisis worldwide, but there isn’t anything being done,” he said.
Sunita Narain said she hoped the hub would help to link knowledge and policy. “I’m proud to be a part of this moment. We have a huge challenge of unmet needs,” she said.
“This is a key moment for India as it responds to climate change, rapid urban development and other big environmental and social challenges,” said Prof Pranav N. Desai of Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), director of the new South Asia Sustainability Hub. “It is vital to act now to make sure its citizens get a more equal share of the benefits of development. This means listening to poor and marginalised people when we make decisions about the future.”
Other speakers at the event included Fiona Marshall and Ian Scoones from the STEPS Centre, as well as Tikender Singh Panwar, Dipak Gyawali, Priyanie Amersinghe and others. For a full list, see the launch event page.
Watch the playlist for speeches by Nitin Desai, P. Sainath and Sunita Narain.
Climate change and India
India emerged as a key player in international climate talks in Paris last month. The country has fast-growing energy demands, but many areas are vulnerable to flooding, droughts and other environmental damage linked to climate change.
- In the Sundarbans, defences against rising sea levels are patchy and many people have lost land and livestock to floods. Long term health and livelihood impacts are being felt in after tropical cyclone Aila hit the region in 2009.
- Mumbai is vulnerable to sea level rises due to its location near the coast and the loss of mangrove forests.
- In the drylands of Kutch, people depend on scarce water supplies. Changes in rainfall and drought patterns may seriously affect their livelihoods.
Challenges for India’s cities
The urban landscape of many cities in India has transformed, with transport improvements, shopping malls and waste to energy plants. But adverse effects are felt by people in informal settlements and those living at the edges of cities, where there is competition over land and resources.
People’s lives could be improved by sharing skills, ideas and innovative ways of working together, and including vulnerable groups in the planning process. For example, agriculture is very important for poorer people in peri-urban areas – but it is often not recognised in urban planning, and is in competition with urban development projects like housing or parks.
The launch was part of a week-long programme of events which included a workshop on climate change and uncertainty, a conference on sustainable urbanisation and a policy-focused workshop on risks and responses to urban futures.
The hub will build on work on these and other themes, and join forces with researchers in Latin America, Africa and elsewhere during 2016 as the Global Consortium develops ‘transformative networks’ to address sustainability challenges.
About the South Asia hub
The South Asia Sustainability Hub & Knowledge Network (SASH&KN) aims to develop a growing network of institutions and people committed to exploring pathways to sustainability in South Asia. It is part of the STEPS Pathways to Sustainability Global Consortium.
The South Asia Sustainability Hub & Knowledge Network (SASH&KN) is hosted by the Transdisciplinary Research Cluster on Sustainability Studies (TRCSS) at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU).