India experienced almost one extreme weather event per day in the first nine months of 2022. And the state of Rajasthan is no stranger to this phenomenon, with its capital city, Jaipur, ranking 22nd on the Global Climate Vulnerability Index.
One viable way of addressing the impact of extreme climate events is through Nature-based Solutions (NbS). NbS offer integrated and cost-effective strategies to address climate risks in cities while providing various social, ecological and economic benefits to its residents. NbS also hold significant promise for Jaipur as a means of implementing localized climate action. This potential stems from the wide array of available NbS solutions, many of which align with the city’s longstanding traditional practices related to water conservation and heat mitigation.
As such, WRI India, under the Cities4Forests initiative, piloted nine NbS interventions informed by the local climate profile, context and corresponding climate induced risks for Jaipur. This blog discusses four of these interventions.
Urban Farming at Jaipur Central Jail
The Jaipur Central Jail is an 18-acre facility located in the heart of the city with barren parcels of land situated within the complex. Owing to its low green cover, and its proximity to areas with high urban density, the campus experiences extreme heat stress during the summer months.
The WRI India team, working alongside the Cities4Forests initiative, decided that urban farming could serve as a two-fold solution: addressing urban heat and ensuring food security within the campus. Training of selected inmates on the development and maintenance of the urban farm also enhanced their skills and future employability. This initiative increased inmate access to green spaces while providing organic food to over 1000 inmates and jail officials.
This pilot project proved so popular that the involved inmates, due for release, are now training their fellow inmates to take over maintenance responsibilities, thus ensuring the long-term success of the urban farm. The Rajasthan State Prison Department is now exploring avenues to replicate this program’s success to other prisons across the state.
Rooftop Farming at Mamta Public School
A community institution situated in a densely built, low-income settlement within the city, Mamta Public School has limited access to green and open spaces.
The Mamta Public School building experiences intense heat during summer months because of its exposed rooftop. In this case, the team opted to pilot a rooftop farming solution to mitigate heat and subsequently provide food security to community members.
School authorities played a key role in convening multiple stakeholders. WRI India staff engaged local residents, students and their parents through a workshop and created a community farming group to explore adding more rooftop farms at other locations in and around the school. The team worked with the school principal and teachers to pinpoint suitable rooftop locations for the installation of portable farming units. This selection was based on areas in need of heat protection and access to water supply and drainage. The local implementation partner was responsible for creating the rooftop farms and provided training to the teachers on nurturing the saplings and harvesting the resulting produce.
Versha, a resident of the community, best describes the difference this pilot made by saying, “Back in my village where I grew up, I ate fresh fruits and vegetables that we grew in our backyard and the fields nearby. The small houses and limited space in the city do not allow us to do that anymore. This rooftop farm is allowing me to do what I miss so much!”
Urban Forest at JECRC University
The Jaipur Engineering College and Research Centre (JECRC) University campus, located in the city’s outskirts, witnesses high land surface temperature due to inadequate vegetation and barren land parcels around it.
In this pilot, developing urban forests was recognized as an effective strategy towards heat mitigation and microclimate regulation.
WRI India staff had the unique opportunity to work with a student-led greening initiative that helped leverage critical skills needed for implementation, monitoring and maintenance of the newly planted saplings. The students were introduced to the impact of climate change and NbS, alongside the opportunity to explore potential careers in the climate and sustainability sectors. Additional opportunities towards building heat resilience on the campus, such as rooftop and urban farming were also identified, and their implementation strategies were explored.
Water Body Intervention at Harish Chandra Mathur Rajasthan State Institute of Public Administration
The state training institute, located along the city’s forest reserve area, offered the potential to mitigate urban heat and improve subsurface water recharge due to the natural advantage of the terrain.
WRI India, looking to harness this potential, identified an existing trench and restored it as a seasonal water body. Employing indigenous materials and plant species, the pilot engaged local community members to integrate their knowledge and practices of indigenous water conservation practices.
Additionally, the area encircling the water body was developed as an urban forest to minimize soil erosion, regulate the microclimate and improve local biodiversity. This intervention was demonstrated as an NbS proof of concept through a knowledge sharing workshop attended by over 90 administrators.
Our experience of having worked in Jaipur indicated that currently there is a general preference for gray-infrastructure oriented solutions – i.e., human-engineered traditional approaches to water management such as storm water drains. Cities should adopt an integrated approach that combines blue-green and gray solutions to identify cost-effective strategies and harness the various ecological and social benefits associated with blue-green solutions. Through the interventions piloted, we sought to build evidence and strengthen the case for hybrid infrastructure (blue-green-gray) and NbS amongst the city’s stakeholders.
These four pilot programs were not just limited to identifying local challenges and opportunities for NbS interventions. WRI also aimed to integrate local and indigenous knowledge to create more robust outcomes. While these pilot programs have laid the groundwork for NbS in Jaipur, the potential for large-scale action lies on its adoption and inclusion within the urban development framework.
Himanshi Kapoor is a Senior Program Associate of Urban Development for WRI India’s Sustainable Cities & Transport program.
Siddharth Thyagarajan is a Senior Program Associate of Urban Development for WRI India’s Sustainable Cities & Transport program.