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Surat India’s first LEED-certified Green City

Last month’s issue of the Clean India Journal featured an interview with Mili Majumdar, Managing Director of Green Business Certification Institute Pvt Ltd, India, an autonomous body which analyses various parameters to identify and certify buildings, businesses and communities as ‘green’. The first Indian city to be thus certified is Surat, whose public officials and citizens have joined hands to measure, modify and track their impact on the environment as well as their own quality of life. Here is a case study of how Surat went from one of India’s filthiest and failing cities to being among the cleanest and most sustainable urban centres.

In 2018, the Green Business Certification Inc. (GBCI) awarded LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Platinum certification to the city of Surat. LEED enables city planners to measure, monitor and plan their city’s performance. The first city in India to receive LEED for Cities certification under the Platinum level, Surat achieved a score of 87 out of 100 points on Arc, a digital platform that uses data to help measure and improve sustainability performance across the built environment, from buildings to cities and beyond. Using Arc, the city was also able to able to benchmark itself against similar cities globally, regionally and locally on 14 metrics based on their energy, water, waste, transportation and human experience performance.

Located in the state of Gujarat, Surat extends up to an area of 326 square kilometres and has a population of 5.32 million. Surat is the 8th largest and fastest growing city in India and is known for industries such as textile processing, diamond cutting and polishing, petrochemical, thermal power, fertilizer and heavy engineering. It is the textile capital of India and the diamond capital of the world.

Surat has been demonstrating leadership globally, as well as nationally, and has secured a number 4 rank among 100 participating cities under the Smart City Mission announced by the Government of India. But not too long ago, Surat faced floods every monsoon, and in 1994, reeled under a plague epidemic that caused the largest migration of Indian citizens since independence. Since then, it has come a long way.

Surat is now a Gold level ISO 37120 certified city, has adopted a City Resilience Strategy developed in partnership with ACCRN, SMC and TARU and stands as the fourth cleanest city in India under Swachh Bharat Abhiyan. “Surat is a resilient city. It has built several resiliency parameters. If any kind of extreme event were to hit Surat, it would be able to cope with it,” said Mili Majumdar, MD – GBCI.

Surat has been awarded full points in Arc under the energy, water and transportation categories. It has undertaken crucial initiatives to address increase in energy demand due to growth in the commercial and industrial sector, making it one of the most progressive cities in India. These initiatives are based on a committed target of 10% reduction in energy demand and entails energy efficiency measures like adopting ESCO model, smart grid applications and demand response as well as an increase in renewable energy production from solar energy installation, wind-mills and biogas-based power plants. The Surat Municipal Corporation has invested INR17 crore in offshore wind energy, and commissioned biogas plants that have generated energy worth INR25 crore since inception. Because of these measures, its per capita carbon emissions stand at 4.46 tonnes, among the lowest in the country.

Additionally, Surat has been successful in providing quality water to 96% of its population and treats millions of gallons of wastewater to meet water demand in industries and landscaping. It has an installed capacity to convert 400 lakh litre of waste water per day into industrial grade water, through 10 sewage treatment plants and 60 sewage pumping stations. It has also taken initiatives for efficient use of water and reduction in losses by a water audit and leakage mapping.

Surat has also been very conscious in managing waste produced in the city. While it diverted about 3% of solid waste from its landfills at the time of certification, it aims to divert almost 80% of its waste by composting, vermicomposting, bio-methanation and using waste-derived fuel. It has put in place separate systems to process construction and demolition waste, biomedical waste and plastic waste.

Transportation is one of the largest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions in cities worldwide. Some of the initiatives adopted by Surat to manage the transportation experience of its residents are development of a Bus Rapid Transit System (BRTS) and reducing traffic congestion on roads. Since the last two years, a 106 km BRTS corridor has been operational in the city.

Presently, 450 buses are on the road, with plans for scaling up to 1,000 buses this year.

Last but not the least, with the use of e-governance for administration, the administration has been able to provide a better experience to the people of Surat.

Surat’s LEED journey started when it won the LEED Performance Challenge held in 2016. In order to achieve LEED for Cities certification, Surat Municipal Corporation played a vital role in following an integrative process to bring together various departments to understand the value of LEED and collate data on the 14 metrics tracked in Arc.

M Nagarajan, Deputy Commissioner, Surat Municipal Corporation, says, “Our growth is 60% every decade, while the national average is around 17%. Surat contributes 5-6% to India’s GDP. It is a matter of pride for us because we are able to put a number to our activities as a model city.”

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