This meeting was the first conference for a new enterprise group – Cities Network Campaign. The group is establishing an organisation of mayors, local authorities and other regulatory bodies in South East Asia to promote networking and to facilitate the sharing of information and a coordinated approach to environmental issues.
The meeting was well attended (>180 delegates) by mayors from major cities in India and southeast Asia as well as international organisations (UN, UNDP, IESA, CDIA, WRI). The agenda was diverse, covering topics from energy efficiency (of end products such as street lighting) and greenhouse gas issues to more localised issues such as water supply and even electric rik-shaws.
Mayors of different cities recounted their experience and provided details of successful case studies. These included metered water systems, e-waste reduction strategies and electric street light optimisation (resulting in reduced traffic accidents and crime in addition to reducing cost).One city had an innovative fly ash use project which meant that 100% of the local fly ash was used and an additional >18% was imported from surrounding areas to meet demand for use in concrete. Unfortunately this project was only described very briefly. On the other end of the spectrum, organisations such as WRI (Mr Wee Kean Fong) provided guidance on community-scale GHG protocols whilst CDIA (Paul Schutenbelt) offered assistance with coordinating environmental protection with economic growth in city development plans. In this respect, the conference was intriguing as the discussions switched from very basic issues, such as access to fresh water and sewerage, to more global considerations such as climate change. And it was clear that, even at the city level, most authorities in South Asia are more than aware of these global issues and are already changing their local activities accordingly.
The mayors held a forum in which they agreed to establish the SAM – South Asia Cities Meeting which would take the form of a committee which meets annually. In addition to networking and information sharing between the cities, international experts would be invited to advise and inform on wider issues. And so in this respect, in future, this meeting will be a means of providing guidance directly to those who have the capacity to propose changes in local authority action in each region.
Although there were no presentations on coal combustion, after my presentation on reducing emissions from coal-fired power plants through cost effective approaches (including efficiency improvements) there was a significant interest from some of the audience. One particular delegate, who works at the State Pollution Control Board in Odisha, agreed that many states and coal plant operators would appreciate more guidance on energy efficiency and pollution control and proposed that a meeting be set up which would bring the coal users and regulators together with international experts to provide more information on this issue.