Transforming infrastructure to make cities smarter, healthier, and more sustainable was the topic of a workshop in New Delhi, India on January 11-12, 2016. International experts from policy and academia looked at ways the U.S., China, and India can address issues of air pollution, energy security, and a clean energy future while being economically competitive and technologically innovative. The workshop was inaugurated by Ms. Kathryn Stevens, Deputy Director of USAID.
Faculty, students, city officials, decision makers, urban planners, and industry leaders from all three countries addressed opportunities for urban infrastructure development in cities in the sectors of energy, transportation/transit, industrial development, and water and waste management systems. Specific topics covered were:
- Urban planning, design, and policy for next-generation infrastructure systems
- Infrastructure financing and metrics for evaluation
- What should smart cities be measuring?
- Air pollution and health
- Food-energy-water security
- Solutions such as Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), industrial symbiosis, district energy systems, decentralized water and waste management
Policymakers from the United States joined this workshop and reflected on the similarities and differences between issues in the three countries. For example, the issue of waste management had high priority everywhere. While Indian cities are trying to reduce open waste burning, U.S. cities like Minneapolis are working to increase recycling yield, as Stephanie Zawistowski (Sustainability Policy Aide for Mayor Betsy Hodges of Minneapolis) explained.
Other examples of U.S. policy and investments towards sustainable infrastructure were given by Anne Hunt (Sustainability Policy Advisor for Mayor Chris Coleman, St. Paul, MN), Melissa Hortman (member of the Minnesota House of Representatives), and Ken Smith (President and CEO of District Energy St. Paul).
For a group of 22 students from all three countries, the workshop formed the conclusion of their visit to India as part of the PIRE Winter School, and offered a chance to reflect on their experiences. “The workshop gave us a wonderful chance to communicate with distinguished professors and policymakers from three countries”, says Yuanchao Hu, PhD student from the Chinese Academy of Sciences. “It motivated me to come up with research questions, and informed me of where we are now and how far we still need to go to build healthy, sustainable, and livable cities across countries.”
The workshop was hosted by ICLEI-South Asia and the University of Minnesota, in collaboration with Yale University, Georgia Tech, and IIT Kanpur, with funding from the National Science Foundation PIRE project and ICLEI-USA’s USAID-PEER award.