Kochi is the commercial capital of Kerala and the second biggest city on the Western Coast of India. Due to its coastal location and network of backwaters, Kochi is vulnerable to sea level rise, increased precipitation, and flooding. The most prominent reasons for the Kerala floods of 2018 are the mismanagement of water and diminishing green cover. The conservation of urban forests, wetlands, and water edge-management takes on the important role of supporting biodiversity and the fight climate change. With major developments in the city, there is a need to strike a balance between development and the environment. Tackling urban heat and heat islands is a crucial component of the sustainability plan, and Kochi City is looking forward to being part of Cities4Forests and adopting strategies to create healthier, livable, and prosperous urban areas.
“We need to think of a sustainable urban core, for our children, for the future. Urban forests represent diversity and sustainability. Kochi is committed to protect and conserve its natural heritage consisting of the green cover and water resources. We strive to be an inclusive and resilient community. ”
Former Mayor of Kochi
Kochi City is a beneficiary of several infrastructure projects under the Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation. Parks and green spaces constitute a component of this initiative. As of April 2019, there are five park projects amounting to Rs. 5 Crores, of which one project has been completed.
Kochi has been selected as part of the Smart City Mission of India, streamlining around Rs 2000 Crores worth of projects. As of now, Rs 20 Crores worth of projects are being implemented, which include street design, public bicycle sharing, and solar panels in government buildings.
Kochi has prepared a Biodiversity Register initiated by the State Biodiversity Board, which aims to mainstream and integrate biodiversity conservation and management into the planning process at the national, sub-national, and local levels.
How Trees Helped Close The Flood Gates Of Kochi
The massive floods in Kerala these last two years are a powerful wakeup call, forcing us to reckon with several truths:
- Extreme weather events like floods are becoming more frequent and more damaging;
- Our urban planning and infrastructure need to be equipped to handle extreme events;
- Forests and green infrastructure are powerful, but often overlooked, tools for disaster prevention and resilience.
The state of Kerala is bestowed with abundant blue and green infrastructure, but mismanagement has led our residents to be increasingly vulnerable to extreme climate events. Earlier this year, Kochi was invited to be part Cities4Forests’ global network, which we wish to leverage to help us create healthier, more liveable, and more resilient urban centers that interact with our local forests.
In Kochi, we need to think of a sustainable urban core for our children and for our future. Urban forests in our city represent the diversity of the city and its sustainability. Kochi is committed to protect and conserve its natural heritage, which includes our trees, vegetation, and water resources. We strive to be an inclusive and resilient community.
Through Cities4Forests, Kochi will identify potential restoration opportunities in blue and green infrastructure and use that knowledge to improve our resilience to the changing climate. We believe in leveraging our community’s knowledge and skills, and thus earning the support of our community. The conservation of urban forests and wetlands, and the management of the water bodies take on an important role for supporting biodiversity but also for fighting climate change and its adverse effects. With major developments in the city, there is a need to strike a balance between development and environment and move forward in a more sustainable way. Tackling urban heat and heat islands is a crucial component of our sustainability plan.
Accessible, inclusive and safe public spaces have always been a priority of the Kochi Municipal Corporation. Connected open spaces have the potential to create safe spaces for our residents to walk, cycle and build communal space. ‘Thanalkoottu’ organized by WRI India in Fort Kochi last year was the start of a community movement towards the same. We believe that such activities help in fostering ownership towards the city and its green infrastructure. We are now focused on how we can develop and rejuvenate abandoned and unused public spaces.
To achieve these goals, Kochi is thinking big about how to finance our forest and green infrastructure enhancements. As mayors and city officials, we are always working on tight budgets yet looking for ways to accomplish more. Through Cities4Forests, we will look to raise additional finance by understanding:
- How do we make the economic case to taxpayers, landowners, and companies?
- How do we attract investors, both public and private, who see the financial value of forests?
- How do we track and capture the flows of benefits from our forests?
Finally, we aim to communicate the value of forests to our residents. It is crucial that our taxpayers, our voters, and our schoolchildren know the downstream consequences for when you cut down a tree or when you plant one. Kochi is still rebuilding our damaged roads and replacing our bridges, but we are a strong and resilient city that cannot be deterred. As we build and rebuild, we hope to make our city greener—and stronger—in the process. I am excited that Kochi is part of the Cities4Forests initiative, and I invite all stakeholders to engage with this program.
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