Cities are home to an ever-growing proportion of the world’s population, putting pressure on transport infrastructure, the environment and quality of life.
Kolkata, with more than 14 million citizens, is the third-most populous urban area in India after Delhi and Mumbai and is among the largest and most populous cities on Earth.
At the Bengal Global Business Summit in February 2019 the Institute of Future Cities at Strathclyde signed agreements with the University of Calcutta; the Department of Environment, Government of West Bengal; and Bengal Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCC&I) to look at the opportunities and challenges created by urban living.
Richard Bellingham, Institute for Future Cities director, said: “We are delighted to be working in partnership with key government departments, influential businesses, and leading academics to develop innovative solutions for the key issues for cities in India.”
Deb Mukherjee, BCC&I senior vice president, said: “The Bengal Chamber of Commerce and Industry in partnership with the Institute of Future Cities at Strathclyde hopes to add value by addressing the urban challenges that beset a densely populous city like Kolkata and help deliver on our promises for a Sustainable 2030 Kolkata.”
Together the partners will identify barriers and solutions to sustainable economic growth; resilience of critical urban systems and infrastructure; environmental sustainability; and health, wellbeing and quality of life for the citizens of Kolkata and West Bengal.
The Environment Department has a key role in coordinating action on sustainable development, environmental management, and climate change for the whole of the state of West Bengal.
Bruce Bucknell, the United Kingdom’s Deputy High Commissioner in Kolkata, said: “Great to see the beginning. Look forward to some fantastic work between the UK and West Bengal on cleaner air and better environment.”
The five-year agreements will see the exchange of ideas, data and expertise and the creation of joint funding bids for research and consultancy, scholarships, a joint Masters programme, joint workshops and conferences and reciprocal visits.
In the first year of the agreement the partners will work together to create projects on the development of low-carbon energy for Kolkata, strategies for future city development, optimisation of urban systems such as transport and health, and pollution and noise reduction. Improving air quality has been identified by the partners as a key priority.
Mr Bellingham said: “Rapid urbanisation, and the opportunities and challenges that come with that, are affecting cities around the world, not just in India.
“Each city has its own particular set of circumstances, opportunities, challenges so tailored solutions for each city need to be developed through a deep understanding of the city in question and those solutions need to be capable of delivery at a city-wide scale.
“Our partnership sets out to understand the specific challenges and opportunities for Kolkata and develop solutions that will be relevant to many cities across the world. That is why we are tackling air pollution – an issue that has huge impacts on millions of lives across the world.
“Delivering effective solutions needs partnership so we are interested in hearing from potential partner organisations with interest in city issues across India. With support from the Scottish Government we have also created new scholarships to assist Indian students to join our MSc in Global Sustainable Cities.”
Mr Bellingham hosted a workshop with the BCCI on Tuesday, February 5 on a Strategic Vision for Emission Control, attended by members of the Government of West Bengal, the West Bengal Pollution Control Board, GP Energy Solutions and Bruce Bucknell, the United Kingdom’s Deputy High Commissioner to India.
Strathclyde’s work in Kolkata is financed jointly by the Scottish Government and the UK Government’s Global Challenges Research Fund.
The Institute for Future Cities brings together governments, businesses, academics and citizens to imagine and engage with the future of our cities, and explore how to make cities more successful, healthier, safer and more sustainable for us all.