Dear CEE friends, Enthusiasts  and Volunteers

It is past the 50th year since the World Nations assembled in Stockholm on June 5 to discuss the looming problems of Environmental Mismanagement. The world over World Environment Day is celebrated every year by conducting talks, discussions, planting trees, removing waste and so on. This year United Nations has declared the Theme #OnlyOneEarth which was used at the first Global Environment Gathering in Stockholm in 1972.

Two decades later in 1992, The  World Environment Gathering was held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. This has been coined as EARTH SUMMIT 1992 which produced the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development. Toeing in line with the Rio declaration Centre for   Environmental Efficiency believes in Sustainable Development where both Environment and Development are to be brought hand-in-hand.

GDP of the nations are indeed improving compared to the earlier decades but our GDP generation, by overexploiting the natural resources in the most inequitable way, creates intra-generational and inter-generational sustainability issues and are to be addressed properly.

The Centre for Environmental Efficiency puts forward effective Environmental Management Tips based on two strong indicators, Environmental Efficiency (EE) and Carrying Capacity (CC).  It is an attempt to reorient our development trajectory from a GDP-oriented linear economy to Environmental Efficiency-oriented Circular Economy. There will be lesser throwaways that create negative externalities. Circular Economy is the business of this era where everything is reduced, reused and recycled. It is also to be verified whether our investments in the form of money, energy and natural resources are reaching real human development.

We have ONLY ONE EARTH and we have to meet the human aspirations most equitably, both intra-generational (present generation) and inter-generational (between present and future generations). In this respect thinking aloud about where to start implementing sustainability at the local level, it is felt appropriate to conduct a PANEL DISCUSSION on the following topic under the aegis of CEE on online mode.`


We have arranged a Panel of Experts to discuss the various issues related to design, enforcement and legality to achieve the most effective pedestrian pathways contributing to local sustainability at the community/city level. Aggregation of local level achievements, ensure Sustainable Development at the national level. LET INDIA BE A ROLE MODEL COUNTRY as already percapita consumption(ecological footprint) is well below the global average.

Architect # MariaAntonyKatticaran will moderate the entire event. Author Trustee #DrMayMathew will be explaining how this theme is related to #EnvironmentalEfficiency and Sustainability.

Those who like to participate can register

Image Courtesy: Freepik

Proposed semi-high speed Silver Line Corridor connecting different hierarchy settlements

1. Kerala State is faced with many inter-connected sustainability issues which are pulling back the state. Issues are due to both global and local reasons

2. Kerala State is at the receiving end of ‘climate change phenomenon’ as the studies find that the Indian Ocean is the global heat hub based on Ocean Currents and sea surface elevations. Immediate action plans are to be carved out locally to save our people.

3. Though the State of Kerala is getting very good rains fed by NE and SW monsoons lions share of the rainwater is reaching the sea within hours as the rivers are steep and fast-flowing and due to anthropogenic reasons.

4. Scattered Settlement pattern has been evolved over a very long period due to the uniform distribution of natural resources spread throughout the length and breadth of Kerala

5. The scattered settlements and our rural ecosystems are complimenting till a few decades ago due to the limited consumption patterns of our forefathers

6. As the people are distributed all over Kerala regional transport networks were also developed following the population distribution

7. Basic Health and education components of human development flourished though percapita income remained low.

8. People of Kerala could not make meaningful livelihood in their home land.

9. People have to migrate to the metropolitan cities in India and abroad to earn their living

10. When the remittances increased people’s life style also changed

11. Consumption trends in rural areas attained the same standard as the urban settlements (if not more) which no longer complimented the rural ecosystems. Human-Nature interactions started contradicting.

12. Now Kerala is under the clutches of the chronic disease ‘urban sprawl’ with declining urban density which is causing more revenue expenditure and fewer revenue receipts while we are losing the integrity of ecosystems around us due to the same reasons

13. Ecosystems ensure providing, regulatory, supporting and cultural services

14. Two effective indicators have been evolved to correctly quantify the urban sprawl phenomenon known as Environmental Efficiency (EE) and Carrying Capacity(CC) which has global to local applications and which are like two sides of a coin.

15.EE&CC though carved out from a global perspective can effectively be quantified and dealt with local solutions

16.Using the capabilities of Remote Sensing and Geographical Information Systems it is possible to create EE&CC maps of the regions based on the drainage basins and can be aggregated to form the EE&CC map of the entire state.

17. This is by using proxy indicators of EE&CC in the GIS platform

18. Factors contributing to the Environmental Efficiency are the land utility of the parcel of land, accessibility of the parcel of land, per capita built-up area consumption, disturbance to the land versus productivity multiplication of the land, based on whether it is a bulk development

19. Four types of land parcels can be identified EE-rich, EE-prone, CC-rich and CC-prone areas. Urban Sprawl can be contained by transferring the developing rights from CC-prone areas to EE-prone areas.

20. Transfer of Development Rights(TDR) can be carried out in GIS platform using block-chain technology which effects in winding up of our urban centres to achieve compact urban form through urban planning measures

21. This ensures EE-rich urban centres while our supporting regions would be CC-rich

22. Rainwater will be regulated ensuring freshwater availability round the year without flood or drought

23. As per the State Urbanisation Report there are six hierarchical urban settlements in Kerala

Semi-high speed silver line project connects

• Kochi the first order city

• Thiruvananthapuram and Kozhicode –second order cities

• Kollam, Chengannur, Trissur & Kannur — third order

• Kottayam fourth order

• Tirur-fifth order

• Kasargod sixth-order

If different hierarchy settlements are connected human development and economic momentum of first and second-order cities decline as people’s choices will be based on demand and supply. The economic and human development momentum of first and second order cities trickles down to lower order cities

25. Urban Sprawl tendencies will be aggravated further reducing the EE&CC of the state.

26. First and second-order cities in Kerala will be turning as mere node points of a linear city with lesser human development momentum and more travel time resulting in human development loss.

27. Tax base of Government diminishes as higher-order cities will decline which are engines of economic growth.

28. Revenue receipts will be diminished while revenue expenditure gets multiplied

29. External borrowings further aggravates the situation while the brunt of global warming and urban sprawl hits Kerala drastically

30. People start migrating to higher-order cities outside the state for better quality of life while the remaining ones will be getting into turmoil and miseries

After going through you may decide whether K rail Silver Line Project is a boon of bane?

To hear the full narration click here 

Remedial measures can be rightly corroborated with the recommendations of Post Disaster Need Assessment Report(PDNA) under the aegis of UN

To access the Post Disaster Need Assessment Report(PDNA) by UN subsequent to 2018 deluge in Kerala click here 



The Indian Ocean is the Global Heat Hub and the Arabian Sea at the Western Boundary of the Indian Peninsula carries more heat being landlocked on its three sides, it is learnt from research publications and experts. Mini-cloudbursts, depressions, floods and landslides may be harbingers to the disasters in the offing on colossal scales. Though it is a global-scale phenomenon it has to be dealt with local solutions to save and protect millions of inhabitants and fulfil their aspirations.

Fig 1. Screenshot of Guardian Environmental Network Publication

This paper discusses the possible Spatial Planning Solutions based on innovations to bring environment and development hand-in-hand more so the southern part of Central Kerala flanked by  Vembanadu Estuary abutted by the Arabian Sea in the West, Chalakudy and Achancovil rivers on the North and South each, and the Western Ghats at the east. There are many ecological hotspots, reserved forests/protected areas and a network of reservoirs which also include  Mullaperiyar Dam which caters water to our neighbouring  State of Tamil Nadu and which is under dispute to be decommissioned or to be strengthened. This region is the highly urbanised region in the State of Kerala which includes  Kochi Urban Agglomeration(UA) the biggest UA in the State. 

A study conducted by a consortium of experts from the Kochi area under the aegis of the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change(MoEFCC) identified an area of 14931 which is named as Greater Kochi Region. There are seven west-flowing rivers Chalakudy, Periyar, Moovattupuzha, Meenachil, Manimala, Pampa and Achancovil which drain down from the Western Ghats to the Vembanadu Estuary. The traditional economic base, Cochin Port is located right in the Vembnadu Estuary merging with the Arabian Sea. Apart from Kochi Metropolitan Declared Area containing the biggest urban agglomeration in the state, there are many urban local bodies. The earmarked area mainly includes three districts in full (namely Ernakulam, Kottayam and Idukki) and three districts in part (Thrissur, Alappuzha and Pathanamthitta). The highest mountain peak of Anamudi to the lowest areas of Kuttanadu(below mean sea level) is located in this area. The identified area consists of 7 drainage basins. Both from an environmental and development point of view, this area deserves attention considering the eco-system limitations and development potential of the area. 

Kochi UA is declared as a million-plus city as per the Census of India 1991. This was the only UA in Kerala having a million-plus status in 1991 as per the   Census Report. After the Government of India’s 73rd& 74th Constitutional Amendment Acts of 1992 and Kerala Panchyat Raj & Municipalities Acts of 1994, Govt of Kerala declared Kochi Metropolitan area extending to 732 Sq. Km and comprises two development authorities, Greater Cochin Development Authority (632 Sq. Km) and Goshree Island Development Authority (100 Sq. Km). This is the original jurisdictional area of Greater Cochin Development Authority Constituted in 1976 by upgrading the status from Cochin Improvement Trust formed in the year 1968. 

Fig 2: Kochi Metropolitan Declared Area in Ernakulam District

This area delineation was done after a Scientific Regional Study conducted by the Department of Town Planning in the 1960s. The Study Report is known as ‘Development Plan for Kochi Region’. This report could not be made a legal document as there were no provisions in the Town Planning Acts prevalent in the state then. Provisions were there only to do Master Plans for the Towns/Cities as per the Madras Town Planning Act of 1920 and Travancore Town Planning Act of 1932 which were not repealed till 2016. These acts have been replaced by the Kerala Town and Country Planning Act of 2016 in line with the Constitutional Amendment Acts of 1992.

The influence Region of Kochi scientifically earmarked by the team of experts in the 1960s was going beyond Ernakulam District Boundary. While constituting the Greater Cochin Development Authority, the area was delimited to contain in Ernakulam district to ensure administrative convenience. It is ironic to note that the earmarked area remains the same even after 56 years. Efforts have been made by the Greater Cochin Development Authority to re-delineate the area by including highly urbanized Community Development(CD) Blocks of adjoining districts of Thrissur, Kottayam, and Alappuzha which do influence Kochi Core area along with  Ernakulam District in full which comprises both urban as well as rural areas. This is to inculcate a symbiotic relationship between urban and rural areas in the region by promoting balanced human development in the urban areas while ensuring ecosystem services in the rural areas. As per the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment Report of 2005 (MA 2005) apart from the fresh agricultural and forest products for consumption the ecosystems have supporting, regulatory and cultural services.

Fig 3. Re-delineation recommended by the Greater Cochin Development Authority
(Source: Greater Cochin Development Authority)

Blessed by the northeast and southwest monsoons, Kerala has a very good physical quality of life. The availability of potable water and fertile land all over Kerala is enriched by 44 rivers which ensured water-based transport systems too. The rivers mainly are short, steep and fast following. The Greater Kochi Region earmarked under the aegis of MoEFCC have 7 west-flowing rivers originating from the Western Ghats and merging with the Vembanad Estuary. The Greater Kochi Regional delineation has been carried out based on the river systems and drainage basins. It is more justified as water-based environmental imbalances can occur due to climate change and related changes in rainfall patterns that have already been noticed in the region.

Fig 4. Greater Kochi Region identified under the aegis of MoEFCC (Source: Dissemination Package)

Kerala’s urbanisation is limited to 47.7% only on economic performance criteria – more than 75% of the male working population engaged in non-agricultural activities- among the four-fold criteria of the Census of India. If this 4th criterion is set apart the whole of Kerala can be urban. Kerala’s trend is unique compared to the rest of the country.  There is no dedicated research to correlate the socio-economics visa–a-vis urbanization characteristics of this peculiar phenomenon in the State. One thing is confirmed that Kerala’s Urban Density is diminishing decade after decade which are signs of urban sprawl.

Fig 5. Diminishing Urban Density Trend in Kerala State

The business-as-usual scenario of Kerala is depicted below and urban sprawl can be the sole reason for the Kerala situation where the economic base of the state is the NRI remittances. A large number of Kerala houses remain locked and non-performing. The ecosystems are under-nourished due to the lack of eco-system integrity while the economy is not attained in urban centres due to pilferage in the form of fossil fuel losses and spare capacity. 

Fig 6: Exodus due to Urban Sprawl- Infographics


Based on research reports of UNDP and Global Footprint Network two strong indicators of sustainability have been evolved which are Environmental Efficiency and Carrying Capacity (EE&CC) and which are like two sides of a coin. After HDR 2010, the HDI concept of UNDP has been improvised by calculating the ‘Inequality Adjusted Human Development Index(IHDI)’. Necessary discounting on health, education and income achievements are carried out in lines of inequality prevalent in different sectors and the geometric mean is considered as they are mutually dependent.

Similarly, Global Footprint Network, California based International NGO, led by Dr Mathis Wackernagel, combines three factors of consumption namely energy, land-use and productivity and is expressed in Global Hectares(gha). Productivity of the land is incorporated in the calculations by comparing the average global productivity of the particular land use. Ecological footprint(total consumption) and biological capacity are calculated in global hectares wherein forest land for carbon dioxide sequestration is the major part.

Two strong indicators, EE & CC, are evolved based on an Output / Input Approach and Capacity /Consumption Approach. As per the Global Footprint Calculations, the World has started over-shooting from the 1960s and the phenomenon is aggravating to multiple scales as the years pass by. The Pandemic spread, floods, hurricanes, forest fires and heatwaves are killing millions of people and causing discomfort and anxiety. They are harbingers to dire situations in the coming years.

Table 2. EE&CC profile of the World and Some Nations

There are several methods by which EE & CC can be brought to the local level

  1. By following the methodologies and calculations done by UNDP and Global Footprint Network for the States, Metropolitan Regions and Local Bodies within the Region and Districts.
  2. By identifying and aggregating the broad and mutually exclusive indicators which are contributing to balanced human development, reducing the ecological footprint or both. There are environmental efficiency multiplying indicators such as the number of people covered by Mass Rapid Transport Systems, wherein both human development enhancements and ecological footprint reductions happen. 
  3. Using the capabilities of Remote sensing and Geographical Information Systems(RS&GIS) it is possible to evaluate the EE&CC status of the region using mutually exclusive proxy indicators contributing to balanced human development, reducing ecological footprint or contributing to biological capacity of ecosystems.

EE&CC mapping for the region can be done based on classified images transformed to vectors and dividing the area into grids of appropriate size, say 1 Km by 1 Km. The following are identified to incorporate as proxy indicators to evaluate the EE&CC status of various grids.

i) land utility based on the degree of common ownership of land,

ii) accessibility in terms of distance and time

iii) percapita built-up area based on the degree of high rise buildings,

iv) ecosystem disturbance reversal and productivity multiplication to positively account for bulk developments.

v) the degree of fragmentation of supporting regions based on ownership and subdivisions carried out.

Using this methodology EE-rich and CC-rich areas can be identified, so also, EE-prone and CC-prone areas. Urban Sprawl tendencies can be sealed by transferring the development rights(TDRs) from CC-prone areas to EE-prone areas. Compact development can be inculcated in EE-prone areas while ecosystems with high integrity can be inculcated in CC-prone areas. If TDRs are accounted in a BLOCKCHAIN Platform it can ensure transparency accountability. Once this is achieved a symbiotic relationship between cities and their region is established where Environmental Efficiency is achieved in Urban Centres while Carrying Capacity is achieved for the supporting regions. 


In this situation, a dedicated agency is required to monitor and regulate the urban-sprawling tendencies in the State and its Regions as they cause a regression to the state in multiple ways. As per the Kerala Town and Country Planning Act of 2016 and subsequent notifications the present Greater Cochin Development Authority is identified as a nodal agency that can do activities such as Transfer of Development Rights(TDRs). It is to be empowered with constitutional backing to perform the mandates effectively. This shall act as the technical secretariat of the MPC for the Greater Kochi Region based on the 73rd & 74th C.onstitutional Amendment Act of 1991, Kerala Municipalities& Panchayat Raj Act of 1994 and Kerala Town and Country Planning Act of 2016. Greater Cochin Development Authority shall be renamed as Greater Kochi Metropolitan Regional Development Authority.

Metropolitan Planning Committee(MPC) shall be constituted for the whole of Greater Kochi Region which is a meso-region above districts containing highland, middle land and low land. The Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel under the leadership of Prof. Madhav Gadgil also mentions the formation of MPCs in line with Calcutta MPC, constituted above 5 districts in W. Bengal.  District Panchayats(Zilla Parishads) and Urban local bodies will be reporting to the MPC. Based on the EE&CC status of grids the Metropolitan Regional Plan is to be prepared to ensure Human Welfare and Prosperity on one side while Carrying Capacity on the other side. If any of the EE-rich grids are prone to hazards, as per the hazard maps prepared, they are to be dealt with engineering solutions.

Once this is set up and the process is implemented similar metropolitan regions can be identified including all the million plan UAs in the State and the abutting regions to seal the Urban Sprawl tendencies to achieve EE rich development and CC rich ecosystems. 


1.World Resources Institute. Millennium Ecosystem Assessment. 2005. Ecosystems and Human Well-being: Biodiversity Synthesis. Washington, DC

2. Khan. B.2015. Indian Ocean Storing up heat from Global Warming. Guardian Environmental Network

3.National Environmental Engineering Research Institute.2003. Dissemination Package.Carrying Capacity based Development Planning for Greater Kochi Region.Nagpur.India

4.Department of Town Planning.1977.Development Plan for Cochin Region.Government of Kerala(Unpublished Report)


6.Global Footprint Network.2013 and 2019.National Footprint Accounts.Data Package.Oakland.USA

7. Mathew. M. 2009. Environmentally-Efficient development management system for Greater Kochi in Kerala State. The Thesis Report, School of Management Studies, Cochin University of Science and Technology, Kochi

8. Mathew.M. et al. 2012.Two strong Sustainability Indicators: Environmental Efficiency(EE) and Carrying Capacity(CC), Global Summit London 2012.

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