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Measuring circularity in Cities- Useful indicators for building a circular city in India

As major engines for economic growth, cities can drive the circular economy agenda forward to unlock economic, environmental, and social benefits. Along with the Sustainable Development Goals and climate objectives, the transition to a circular economy will support city leaders as they deliver against their priorities, which include housing, mobility, and economic development.

Cities are growth engines in need of supervision and control. They are the major contributors to climate change and responsible for up to 76% of the carbon emissions. Even though they occupy less than 2% of the Earth surface, they account for 75% of natural resource consumption and 50% of global waste production. When looking at the “how to achieve progress” it becomes clear that common collaborative action between different stakeholder groups within cities – such as citizens and private initiatives, entrepreneurs, NGOs, policymakers, academia – is needed. The transition cannot be achieved by any single actor. It will require collaborative efforts across the value chain, involving individuals, the private sector, different levels of government and civil society. Companies need to design products with circularity in mind and build components that can close loops in production. Individuals have a key role in creating demand. The public sector needs to play its part in making available the necessary infrastructure and formulating policies and regulations that incentivize innovation without imposing burdens that dampen growth.

The prospects of a Circular City excited the imagination but dreaming up what a “Circular City” will look like in the future is nothing less than a Utopian exercise. What is appealing for the citizens in Copenhagen or London is surely not going to be the same for a citizen in Mumbai or Sao Paulo. Today there are many cities that are defining themselves as a “circular city” but, to date, a clear definition of this does not exist. In the transition towards the circular city, tools (such as evaluation, governance, financial, business tools) would play a fundamental role. The aim of this article is to come up with an indicator framework for Indian Cities that also complement the Smart Cities Mission in India. In another article, we would try to understand what is the difference in the approach and indicator framework between the Smart Cities Mission and Circular City Framework.

While in Europe there are many cities that are on the part to Circularity and have through participatory approaches come up with a Circular City Vision, Mission Statement along with planned activities for the next years, the discussion in India and other emerging economies is at a very nascent stage. Moving Towards the Circular Economy/City Model this is the first-ever discussion article written (to our knowledge) on a set of indicators for a Circular City in India. This is certainly a living document which would be updated as and when cities in India decide on a Circular City transition.

About the Author

Shivam Rai (LinkedIn) is a sustainable and circular economy enthusiast. Currently pursuing his Master’s in Quantitative Finance at Pondicherry University, he developed a flair for the field of sustainability while preparing a paper on the Circularity of Oil & Gas Industries (with a primary focus on the circularity of plastic used in the industry) for the XVI International Forum Contest for Students and young researchers.

Piyush Dhawan (LinkedIn) is the Cofounder of the Circular Collective was awarded the prestigious German Chancellor Fellowship last year to work on the topic of Circular Economy. He has for the past decade been working with Bilaterals and Multilaterals on a range of topics including business and biodiversity, Vision 2030 for Haryana and Future of Indian Cities. 

The indicators could be downloaded in pdf format here

CE Indicators India
Download PDF • 151KB

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