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Partnerships for enhanced engagement in research (PEER) SCIENCE
Special PEER-PIRE Cycle (June 2012 Deadline)

NSF-PIRE collaboration: developing low-carbon cities in India: field research on water-energy-carbon baselines and low-carbon strategies in Indian cities

PI:  Bharani Emani Kumar, ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability, and Rakesh Yadav, Resource Optimization Initiative (ROI)
U.S. Partner: Anu Ramaswami, University of Minnesota
Project Dates: January 2013 - January 2016

Project Overview 

The overall goal of this project is to conduct innovative, interdisciplinary research that facilitates the development of low-carbon cities in India through mitigating greenhouse gas emissions while also offering local water efficiency benefits; reducing waste, pollution, and climate vulnerability; and promoting governance for sustainable development. In alignment with several key USAID priorities in the country, this project addresses climate change, renewable/ sustainable energy interventions, water sustainability, climate risks, and environmental engineering solutions in cities in India.

India PIRE Photo 1 
Students preparing a material flow diagram (Photo courtesy Dr. Yadav).

India PIRE Photo 2 
ROI and Yale students being trained at Mysore (Photo courtesy Dr. Yadav).

The project will apply an interdisciplinary framework to integrate urban infrastructure engineering, industrial symbiosis, urban planning, environmental/climate sciences, social sciences, and public policy. Research opportunities will be offered to about 50 students from the United States (with separate funding from the National Science Foundation) and 50 students from India drawn from diverse disciplines, which should contribute to training the next generation of leaders in the two nations. The hope is to build capacity among academic institutions in India for innovative interdisciplinary research and education on sustainable cities and build capacity among nongovernmental organizations to translate research insights to community-based action for sustainability.

Summary of Recent Activities
According to the report submitted by Bharani Kumar Emani, one of the two lead PIs on this project, his team members based at Coimbatore visited various local government offices in Coimbatore city to collect information required for the project. Based on the interactions with the officials, Dr. Emani advised U.S. partner Prof. Anu Ramaswami that the project may require specific data request formats that can be shared with specific officials. Working in consultation with ICLEI –SA team, Prof. Ramaswami’s group at the University of Minnesota prepared brief data request formats that have been subsequently handed over to the relevant departments in the city. These data formats cover the water, energy, solid waste and sewerage sectors. While the interactions at the municipal level have been useful and the city teams hope to circulate requested data soon, collecting information from peri-urban areas covering larger districts or metropolitan areas may take more time, as this falls outside the jurisdiction of the city authorities. In the meantime, the project team has shared with the U.S. partners secondary data sources where similar information can be gathered. The plan in the next few months is to follow up intensively on the data collection in Coimbatore.

India PIRE Photo 3 
U.S. & Indian researchers at the Triveni Engineering offices (Photo courtesy Dr. Yadav).

India PIRE Photo 4 
U.S. & Indian researchers doing industry survey work (Photo courtesy Dr. Yadav).

Meanwhile, the second project PI, Mr. Rakesh Yadav, completed the fifth week of the project’s summer school in Delhi. Mr. Yadav also held several meetings on the project with Prof. K.S. Lokesh, a department head at Sri Jayachamaraja College of Engineering (SJCE), as well as officials from the Mysore Regional Pollution Control Board (PCB), officials from the District Statistical Office, and managers from private industries in Mysore. The PI and his team also hired two project leads and trained 11 students (9 female) from SJCE to complete the field research in Mysore. Together they initiated and partially completed industrial surveys in Mysore, although some follow-up is required after the data analysis is conducted. They also initiated industrial surveys in Coimbatore, during which a female project lead has been recruited and four more students have been trained. During the closing months of 2013, the team plans to analyze their data, observe and document existing symbiosis, and report on potential symbiosis in Mysore, including preparing Material Flow Diagrams for industries in Mysore. The PI and his team also plan to develop a website dedicated to the project and organize a one-day training program on “How to Conduct Industrial Symbiosis Surveys in India” aimed at local and international students and researchers as a target audience.