Liveable Leh


Ladakh, at 13,000 feet high in the Himalayas is in difficult terrain for urban settlements. Like other mountainous regions, it faces magnified risks from climate change – floods, failed crops and landslides, which can decimate lives, livelihoods, infrastructure and the environment. This project will strengthen capacities of the local government, the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council (LAHDC) to make Leh, its prominent capital city and surrounding areas more environmentally friendly, and a symbol of resilient and sustainable urban development.

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Specific objective: We alone cannot reverse climate change, but we can prepare to cope with it. LAHDC will (i) train its officials and strengthen institutions to conceptualize and develop Leh as a resilient and liveable mountain city; (ii) prepare implementation plans to aggressively improve public services that have deep environmental impact (sewage treatment, waste management, green public spaces and transportation); and (iii) educate its 30,000 residents and 250,000+ tourists on issues around climate change.

Target groups:

1) Functionaries and elected representatives of Ladakh
2) District / State level agencies involved in sanitation and public services
3) ~12,000 people from the poorest, under-served urban settlements in Leh

Final beneficiaries:

1) 270,000 residents of Leh
2) 250,000+ annual visitors to Leh and surrounding areas
3) The sister city Kargil—2nd largest city in Ladakh after Leh
4) Urban towns of 11 mountain states of India

Estimated results:

Result 1: Capacity Building of local officials: Rigorously developed abilities of local officials to visualize Leh as a world-class “liveable” city and sustainable tourist destination.
Result 2: Development Planning: Created specific, actionable plans to develop Leh into a model sustainable and resilient city, specifically around solid and liquid waste management, transportation, open and public spaces and urban agriculture.
Result 3: Implementation to improve service delivery: Established city-wide FSM services to make Leh India’s 1st ODF+ hill town

Main activities:

For Result 1: (1) Conduct series of 16 workshops by urban planners, climate change experts and thematic specialists for city officials, elected leaders, local CSOs and businesses; (2) Twinning with an appropriate European town and exposure visits; (3) Monthly town hall public discussions
For Result 2: (1) Appoint consultants who work with specific officials and CSOs to develop thematic intervention plans—water/wastewater, solid waste management, traffic/air pollution, green spaces; (2) A global design competition to source ideas and generate excitement; (3) Prepare detailed plans and tender documents; (4) Identify funding sources for implementation
For Result 3: (1) Design and built a Faecal Sludge Treatment Plant with high quality scheduled cleaning services for the entire city and nearby areas

Description of the action:

Science shows that climate change is most rapid at high altitudes and Leh at an elevation of 3,500 meters, therefore, faces risks and opportunities. Warmer weather allows a wider variety of crops to be cultivated locally, but reducing snowfall and glacial retreat are already reducing water supply and will continue to do so in the future, impacting human life and cultivation patterns.

Leh is also facing pressure of urbanisation and tourism, which has grown from 90,000 visitors in 2009 to over 215,000 in 2015, packed into a 5-month short tourist season. While driving prosperity and employment, it is straining water and sanitation resources, causing traffic congestion / air pollution, and increasing solid waste generated and dumped to 14 tons per day—impacting quality of life in the town and peri-urban areas.

LAHDC is a democratically elected council that developed the “Ladakh Vision—2025” with extensive community consultation, to build Ladakh into an economically and environmentally resilient, selfcontained and sustainable region. LAHDC was awarded by UNDP and Global Environment Fund as a progressive, capable local authority, and other regions have learnt from LAHDC’s pioneering work in greenhouse farming at high altitudes, and solar and micro-hydro energy projects. Leading local CSOs were involved in drafting Vision-2025, consultations were held in 2015 and 2016 on how to implement this vision, and LAHDC officials visited CSOs and government in Bangalore to seek ideas. All stakeholders believe it is imperative to accelerate the execution of the Vision, and this action will help LAHDC move towards implementation, specifically with regards to water, sanitation, solid waste management (SWM) and traffic.

  • Capable, knowledgeable and transparent government is absolutely essential for effective urban management. The first set of activities, therefore, is to strengthening the capabilities and knowledge of LAHDC and its partners—CSOs, citizen groups and local businesses—in the above-mentioned areas.
  • A series of 16 capacity building exercises and workshops conducted by
  • global and Indian experts who understand local realities, will help LAHDC understand international cases, and evaluate options Extreme climatic conditions and peak pressure during tourist season need to be accounted for
  • Exposure visits and a twinning relationship with a high-altitude European city will be considered
  • Project management courses for about 70 juniors, middle and senior staff of LAHDC and local CSOs, to create a strong cadre who can implement initiatives effectively The key outcome will be that LAHDC and the community will have the capabilities to make and implement the right decisions for the region.
  • The second set of activities revolves around detailed planning by engaging a 5-6 specialist consultants:
  • Select viable technologies and O&M policies
  • Develop detailed project reports and tender documents for waste and sewage management
  • Develop new regulations for traffic management and creating green/walking/cycling zones in central Leh
  • Build greater awareness about climate change at high altitudes—partner with other climate change funders and leading universities internationally, to organise a global urban sustainability design competition for Leh. Ideas will be shared with other cities in similar positions. This award will cover the cost of these planning processes which are often not well funded in government budgets. LAHDC will raise funds from government and corporate to execute these projects. The outcome is that the city becomes prepared to implement priority projects with deep people participation. To improve local service delivery, the third set of activities will rapidly develop two important projects:
    (i) a faecal sludge treatment plant; and
    (ii) urban green spaces including one large central park in Leh.
  • Leh’s sewerage system covers only 50% of the city. Therefore, a FSTP is critical to treat sewage and faecal sludge as it prevents pollution of water bodies, and water can be re-used for agriculture
  • By-products of the FSTP will be used to develop green public spaces and urban faming plots, which, along with new regulations, will improve walkability and reduce use of vehicles in central Leh
  • A large central park will also be an educational exhibit with games,
  • information and update for visitors and residents, encouraging them to support and participate in the city’s initiatives.

An active citizen engagement program using phone voice messages and mobile app will deliver customized information to citizens and seek feedback for accountability in partnership with a firm like Awaaz De. 48 months will be needed to implement this program. The first 18 months will focus on capacity building, planning and citizen engagement—but shall continue through the entire period. Implementation of infrastructure projects can begin during year 2, and active work is possible for only about 7 months of the year, which are also busy periods for the government and residents due to heavy tourism. We therefore have to plan things such that internal preparation and training can happen during winter, and execution during the summers