The month of February kicked off with a bang as the cities of Kochi in Kerala, India, and Messina, Italy, got together for the first time. The bilateral meeting held on 1 February 2022 was graced by the Honourable Mayor of Kochi, Adv. M. Anil Kumar, joined by Dr Rajan Chedambath, Director of the Centre for Heritage, Environment and Development (C-HED). Representing Messina was Mr Dino Alessi, Coordinator, European Union International Projects, Municipality of Messina, and Ms Josephine Di Pino, International Project Expert, Municipality of Messina.
The Honourable Mayor of Kochi shared his opening remarks by stating how much of Kochi’s infrastructure can be attributed to the efforts of many European Union institutions and that Kochi is looking forward to sharing and reviewing best practices from Messina regarding flood management and other initiatives. Mr Alessi and Ms Di Pino shared their initial remarks on the importance of international cooperation projects and anticipated a productive cooperation between the two cities.
Ms Di Pino made a presentation on behalf of the city of Messina, where they showcased their project MEsM@RT. The project aimed at applying the ‘Smart City’ paradigm for the redesign and modernisation of urban infrastructure services for the stakeholders involved in running the city. Developed on 4 vertical areas of intervention, namely territory monitoring, video surveillance, environmental monitoring and water distribution management, MEsM@RT serves as a continuous monitoring system and support in urban planning through the adoption of new technologies especially in the sector of natural disaster management. It includes an IoT platform, big data platform, remote sensing, device manager and video analysis monitors. She also provided information about their other projects on ecological transition and afforestation.
Dr Chedambath spoke about Kochi’s characteristics, demographics, and unique characteristics. A water-based city, Kochi has 48 km of waterfront development, a water transport system which is converged with other modes of transport and is a much sought-after tourist destination. Being a city that is almost at sea level, any change in sea level will affect the city. According to a report by TERI, the sea level will rise by 0.3 mm every year and if so in 10-20 years Kochi will be inundated. With high intensity of rainfall that Kochi receives over a short duration, the city’s blocked canals are aggravating the flood situations. He also added that 8.6% of the city’s total area is categorised as ‘very high’ and ‘high’ vulnerable zones for urban flooding.
Dr Panagiotis Karamanos, country coordinator for the IURC programme in India, mentioned that our next step of action would be to identify a specific pilot project within flood management to work on while also simultaneously working on the Urban Cooperation Action Plan, which will serve as a roadmap for the future. He also discussed a cluster event on flood management that is being planned for the month of March including the Indian cities of Kochi, Surat, Panaji, Porbandar and the European cities of Messina, Rotterdam and Almada. The meeting was wrapped up on a note of enthusiasm with both cities eager to share and learn through this programme.