Rourkela among 15 cities of world to win Global Mayors Challenge, gets $1 million prize

Bhubaneswar: Odisha’s Rourkela city is among the 15 cities of the world to win the 2021-2022 Global Mayors Challenge conducted by Bloomberg Philanthropies.

The prestigious worldwide innovation competition recognised the cities for designing the boldest and most ambitious urban innovations to emerge from the global COVID-19 pandemic.

“The yearlong competition launched in 2021 elevates the most promising urban innovations to emerge from the pandemic,” said Bloomberg Philanthropies in a press release.

As many as 631 cities from 99 countries had participated in the competition.

Rourkela bagged the winner tag for providing “cold-storage units to women co-ops to empower female food vendors, reduce food waste, and increase access to fresh foods”, the release said.

Rourkela is also the only city from India to secure place in the Top 15. Rourkela’s idea was to set up a digitized cluster based on solar cold storage and use electric vehicles to distribute perishable commodities to various categories of consumers.

This makes the city eligible for a grant of USD 1 Million from Bloomberg Philanthropies and technical assistance to carry out the innovation over the next 3 years.

Under Global Mayors Challenge, Rourkela has developed a sustainable model which augments the income of women and small time traders of the city while promoting the use of technology. As part of the project, Rourkela Municipal Corporation (RMC) has developed a cold storage facility at the local Veer Surendra Sai (VSS) Market in partnership with a NIT Rourkela based startup and managed by Women self help group members.

With this solution, the local farmers and fruit traders have been able to enhance their income by preserving their produce and preventing any wastage. In addition, fresh vegetables and fruits are delivered to people’s doorsteps, especially in times of COVID-19. All of this is being managed by members of women self help groups using mobile apps. While developing the ecosystem and helping all the stakeholders, the model helps the women largely in augmenting their livelihoods.

Dr. Subhankar Mohapatra, Commissioner, Rourkela Municipal Corporation (RMC) expressed his happiness after winning the challenge. He appreciated the role of team RMC, Technical Partner Koel Fresh, research students and alumni of NIT Rourkela who have shown commendable effort in the last 6 months. “Through everyone’s contribution, Rourkela has clinched the Top 15 position in the world. The role of the women who manage the show is also worth celebrating. The prestigious Bloomberg Philanthropies Global Mayors Challenge 2021 award will not only help us to take the innovation forward but also inspire all stakeholders,” said Dr. Mohapatra.

“I congratulate Team RMC and all the stakeholders for this global recognition. With its uniqueness, the project immensely helps women SHGs, small vegetable and fruit vendors of Rourkela while delivering a smart service at the doorstep of the people. Moreover, this sustainable idea also promotes technology and aims to adopt eco friendly energy which are the key goals for the future generation,” said Nikhil Pavan Kalyan, Collector & DM, Sundargarh while addressing the press.

The other winners are Amman (Jordan); Bogota, (Colombia); Butuan, (Philippines); Freetown (Sierra Leone); Hermosillo (Mexico); Istanbul (Turkey); Kigali (Rwanda); Kumasi (Ghana); Paterson (US); Phoenix (US); Rochester (US); Rotterdam (the Netherlands); Vilnius, (Lithuania); and Wellington (New Zealand).

The winners will now enter a three-year implementation period with the USD 1 million grant and robust technical assistance.

During this time, the cities will work diligently to evolve and scale their ideas into a real-life programme to improve residents’ lives. Cities will also work to share their ideas with additional cities around the world to enable these tested innovations to spread, the release said.

The winning ideas address one or more of four current issue areas in cities including economic recovery and inclusive growth; health and wellbeing; climate and environment; and gender and equality.

The winners were selected based on four criteria: Vision; Potential for impact; Feasibility; and Transferability. The ideas provide a powerful snapshot of the innovation priorities of hundreds of the world’s cities. The most common themes of the winning innovations focus on reducing unemployment, improving health, and addressing climate change, the release said.

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