Event Summary Report:
Sustainable and Resilient Communities – Kolkata Dialogue
Climate Change, Health & Disasters – Insights for the G20

Press Club Kolkata, Monday, May 29, 2023: The #C20 India 2023 Working Group ‘Sustainable and Resilient Communities – Climate, Environment and Net Zero targets’ is one of the 14 official Engagement Groups of the G20 that provides a platform for Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) around the world to voice people’s aspirations to the world leaders in #G20. The working group addresses climate resilience and #SocialJustice, environmental sustainability, and net zero emissions management,  and showcases the importance of compassionate approaches for building sustainable and resilient communities.

To make #ClimateResilience a reality, it is crucial to implement policies and actions that promote a just and equitable transition based on key dimensions. The Sustainable and Resilient Communities WG has been organizing a series of policy dialogues by engaging with all stakeholders that include civil society organizations, policymakers, and people from academia and industry.

The objective of these dialogues are to create a platform for bringing together a multitude of voices that can help develop policy recommendations for some of the most pressing challenges facing communities today.
The Kolkata dialogue, CLIMATE CHANGE, HEALTH & DISASTERS – INSIGHTS FOR THE G20, deliberated on two main themes, PREPARING FOR HEALTH IMPACTS OF CLIMATE CHANGE &  DISASTER RISK RESILIENCE IN TIMES OF CLIMATE CHANGE to gather inputs for Sustainable and Resilient Communities Working Group of C20 for submission to G20.

Climate change is the greatest challenge of the 21st century. Burning fossil fuels (coal, oil and gas) for electricity, heat and transport is the major driver of climate change-induced disasters like droughts, floods, cyclones, heat waves, cold waves, sea level rise and extreme weather events that are threatening lives, livelihoods, infrastructure and sustainable development goals. Evidence from #Kolkata demonstrates the limitations of resilience plans to address underlying conditions of vulnerability. Among eight megacities most vulnerable to disaster-related mortality, seven are in Asia: Tokyo, Osaka, Karachi, Kolkata, Manila, Tianjin and Jakarta. 411 million people living in 330 cities above 300,000 population are exposed to drought risk. Three of them are Delhi, Karachi, and Kolkata.

Sanjay Vashist, Director, Climate Action Network South Asia (CANSA) started the discussion by saying that climate change is the greatest challenge of the 21st century. Burning fossil fuels (coal, oil and gas) for electricity, heat and transport is the major driver of climate change-induced disasters like droughts, floods, cyclones, heat waves, cold waves, sea level rise and extreme weather events that are threatening lives, livelihoods, infrastructure and sustainable development goals. Sustainable development is our duty as stakeholders. South 24 Parganas is most disaster prone zone in West Bengal.

Jayanta Basu, Director, (EnGIO) stated that the total area of Sundarbans has shrunk by 210 km² in the last 60 years which is more than the size of entire Calcutta and Sundarbans has always been a shield as an ecological wall for the state. Protecting Sundarbans is equivalent to protecting the cover of India.

Mr.  Debasish Kumar, MLA and Member, Mayor in Council KMC said that there is a need of specific climate plan(the national health and city policy) , Health calls for Kolkata. West Bengal has been termed as hotspot of climate change. Without the support of central government it is not possible for state alone to take up states against disaster and better health management. Dr Tapan Mukherjee, Advisor Health, Kolkata Municipal Corporation (Chair of the session) stated that climate change affects health, cleaner and safe drinking water. Climate change can’t be stopped but slowed down via reducing global warming.

Dr Subrata Roy Chowdhury, CMOH Kolkata Municipal Corporation said climate change also leads to vector borne diseases. Indian may lose its GDP and listed up in poverty list due to climate change. Bhutan is seen as a model which is a carbon negative country. More than 70% of the country is covered in trees. This large amount of tree cover has seen Bhutan becoming a carbon sink meaning that it absorbs more carbon dioxide than it produces. Talk about Kolkata it is known for its heterogeneous topography but there has been in presence of polluting vehicles. This city is losing its greenery and health care is a major concern of Kolkata municipal corporation which brings the primary health care service at grassroot level. From average rainfall of 1494.8 MM in 2018 to 1088.9 MM currently is seen . Global warming is not equivalent to climate change but only a part. Rise of temperature causes dehydration and severe respiratory syndrome and diseases like malaria and dengue. There has been no statistical significant relation between rainfall and vector borne diseases.

Dr Arup Halder, Pulmonologist, Kolkata stated that we need to preserve the concept of one earth. Air pollution is one of the causes for respiratory diseases and also low birth rate, premature birth, asthma problems  are seen.

Dr Rajeev Khurana, Founder Trustee, Lung Care Foundation said that every 1 of 3 child in Delhi is suffering from lung disorders. Impact of climate change on elderly people is most.

Bhavreen Kandhari, Founder, Warrior Moms India highlighted that better future for the children by keeping a check on afforestation and taking actions on planting more trees for a better future. She highlighted need for continuous actions towards course correction for climate change.

Dr. Vinod Sharma, Vice Chairman, Sikkim State Disaster Management Authority said that there has been visibility of sea level rise in last 10 to 15 years and clear evidences about climate change and visible impacts of these. IPCC March 21 report has been observed as an eye-opener. Water trouble is also faced in villages mostly water shortages in Himalayan region. Village administrations should look into this. Issues should be known to the villagers and should be involved in the development as they are the part of the stakeholder community facing the impact.

Vikrant Mahajan, CEO, SPHERE India said that G20 countries should unite together to fulfil these commitments. Youth and elderly communities taking part together to fulfil G20 goals is important. Through contributing small but playing a significant role, a lot can be achieved.

D Nariyal, IAS, Principal Secretary Disaster Relief (Chair of the session) spoke about pre and post covid changes. He also mentioned about incidents of repetitive disasters such as series of cyclones in West Bengal. Media to be more active about whether alerts and spread awareness related to lightning issues and river erosion leading to various casualties should be taken into account. Taking technical measures, all to be a  part of state disaster management plan.

Shri. Javed Ahamed Khan, Minister of Disaster Management, Government of West Bengal stated that it is important to spread awareness about disaster management in Sundarbans. Requirement of funding from international funders apart from state and central government. Precautionary measures to be taken for a better future.

Dr. Santanu Sen, MP, Rajya Sabha, Former President of the Indian Medical Association concluded by saying that Global warming is the biggest threat to health and human beings are responsible for this. The main reasons are the excessive use of fossil fuels and greenhouse gases. These are also leading to severe respiratory diseases and allergies. The scarcity of food and water leads to malnutrition.

Key Recommendations:

  • A #JustTransition pathway should focus on providing basic amenities, reducing vulnerabilities and building long-term resilience in a manner that incorporates region/state-specific concerns and needs along the process.
  • Mainstream adaptation into urban planning. This would involve considerations like- increasing green spaces, climate-resilient infrastructure (in building/public infrastructure design, construction & operation), and efficient water and waste management systems.
  • Promote climate literacy and public awareness campaigns and invest in public health research by supporting vulnerable communities and leading community-based initiatives.
  • Integrate health into #ClimatePolicies and advocate for climate-smart policies, promote low-carbon healthcare, and build health system resilience.
  • The G20 should frame Policies addressing climate change and its adverse effects need to have clear-cut, time-bound goals to significantly reduce, reject and discourage the use of agrochemicals by all means- pesticides and fertilizers – as a key strategy to reduce GHG emissions and advance resilience and mitigation.
  • Identify the alternative source of funding from international funders apart from state and central government. Precautionary measures are to be taken for a better future.

Glimpses of the event:

Media coverage for the event: https://youtu.be/U57NNriHZZ0

By Divyanshi Yadav, Communication Officer, CANSA


#C20  #ClimatePolicies  #ClimateResilience  #G20  #JustTransition  #Kolkata