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Mercury rising in Indias Metros: TERI Study.

The Energy and Resources Institute - Tue, 23 Oct 2012 08:15 GMT
Author: Samarth Pathak, The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI)
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An ongoing study conducted by researchers at India’s The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) University reveals that the surface temperatures of the national capital New Delhi and financial nerve center Mumbai have risen by up to 2-3 degrees Celsius since 1998. By: Samarth Pathak (TERI)/New Delhi, India An ongoing study conducted by India’s The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) University has revealed that New Delhi and Mumbai have ‘warmed up’ in the last 14 years. Backed by the Indian government’s Department of Science and Technology, the TERI University research uses satellite remote-sensing technologies and has been under way since May 2011. Satellite data from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) for 1998 and 2010 have been used to compare the surface temperatures in New Delhi and Mumbai. Rising mercury in New Delhi Preliminary findings of the ongoing study have disclosed that the surface temperature of the Indian capital has risen by up to 2-3 degrees Celsius since 1998, turning the city into a virtual “urban heat island (UHI).” The study has also pointed out that the temperature difference between urban and rural areas reaches up to 5-7 degrees Celsius during the night, when the UHI phenomenon is more pronounced. As per the study, the impact of UHI can be observed notably during the monsoons, when increased humidity with increased temperatures create severe human discomfort and adverse health impacts including fatigue, muscular cramps, heat exhaustion, and heatstroke. In summers, UHI patterns up health risk due to enhanced heat wave impacts. UHI also causes a tremendous surge in air conditioners and electricity usage, adding the higher dimension of global warming to the regional scale problem.     "This study employs satellite datasets to map land use patterns and changes in land surface temperature over the span of 15 years. The research highlights concretisation of previously vegetated areas increases land surface temperature,” asserted Dr. P.K.Joshi, who heads TERI University’s Department of Natural Resources. “These changes in surface thermal environment eventually alter atmospheric temperatures. This may have varied implications on human discomfort, health, urban environment and others. This also has repercussions in terms of increased energy demands and changes in lifestyles. Such observations are crucial from view of following a sustainable path for development," Joshi added. Clearly, these findings raise concern for the National Capital Region of Delhi, which is one of the largest urban agglomerations in India with a population of nearly 21 million people. A significantly high proportion of this populace lives in relatively small areas across the city, thereby placing huge pressure on the limited natural resources. Mumbai is getting hotter too… The situation in India’s financial nerve center and entertainment capital, Mumbai, is no different. With a plethora of employment and job opportunities, Mumbai—like New Delhi--has been attracting thousands of migrants every year. Moreover, the density of suburban Mumbai—estimated at nearly 20,925 people per square kilometre—also puts overwhelming pressure on key natural resources--agricultural land, forests, infrastructure and water. Seeking to study the impact of urbanisation in Mumbai, TERI University researchers meticulously measured and compared land surface temperatures for Mumbai and surrounding areas for the years 1998 and 2011. It was found that the temperatures across Mumbai have also risen by 2-3 degrees since 1998. Disclosing the findings, TERI University’s research scholar, Richa Sharma, said, “Incessant urbanisation exhibits simultaneous increase in land surface temperatures and over time, the city ends up as an island of heat. Mumbai and its residents have been facing this onslaught since the past two decades. Such a situation may eventually result in unprecedented repercussions such as heat waves, health impacts, human discomfort, and increased mortality among the elderly.” The Urban Heat Island Phenomenon Experts believe that the UHI phenomenon is a direct consequence of the threats posed by rampant and unsustainable urbanisation, which involves modification and changes in land use patterns, increased pollutant emissions, reduced green covers, increased grey structures and energy inefficient habitats and practices. These changes eventually disturb the surface energy budget of the environment and play an important role in evolution of urban climate, characterised by Urban Heat Island (UHI). Simply put, UHI is the phenomenon where urban areas experience warmer temperatures compared to their rural and semi-rural hinterlands. Solutions? Environment experts at the TERI University believe that more informative understanding of urban system dynamics is required in order to avoid such dramatic shifts in urban ecosystems. They also advocate the need for an effective and planned approach towards development of cities.     “The UHI phenomenon cannot be completely reversed but steps can certainly be taken to mitigate it by adopting a planned approach to urbanisation. These measures include increasing proportion of vegetation cover in city, controlling rampant constructions taking place throughout the city, along with implementing more stringent rules for air quality controls and effectively greening the city. Building water retentive pavements and installing reflective roofs can be adopted to combat surface heat. Above all, the need of the hour is to strongly monitor the process of urban sprawl and put in place stringent policies for sustainable urbanisation,” opined Sharma. In order to establish more concrete results, researchers are also carrying out further analysis and studies across India, in order to come up with feasible and result-oriented solution aimed towards building a sustainable urban future.

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