I'm writing this at a terrace in Mangalore, India. This is my third visit to the country, but I had either forgotten how hot it is, or this time it's simply a bit hotter. Maybe both. Anyways, some of the clothes I have with me will probably not be needed at all. A shirt a day; yesterday I used 3. Lot of laundry for someone.
This made me think - US has similar climate which is coped with huge amount of air conditioning. It's either hot (outside) or way too cool (inside). And of course it uses up huge amounts of energy.
Part of India is like that, too. Hotels would have AC. Normally, they tune it way too cool, maybe because they think that would be "elegant" or "western" or whatever. If all the big private houses (like this one) would do AC, the country's electical grid would collapse (ehem, collapse more often than now :).
The solution is two-fold. Be smart about how to live in the climate. I will surely learn that in a week - i.e. sitting on the terrace now is comfortable. Indoors, it's not. Shopping is done in the evenings, not at bright daylight. Any Indian would know this! Instead of using the technology (AC) to its maximum, use just as much as is needed. This is something *Indians* should teach the US people, not the other way round!!!
As to those newly built colossal houses with absolute need of AC, they should be self-sufficient with electricity. Put sun panels on the roof and living can go on despite shortages in the city electrical grid. I *really* doubt they do this. They just have big batteries somewhere in the basement and that's it. Indians aren't very ecological as far as I can think, but in this climate, they could be. It's just a matter of opinion, learning and appreciating!
A better solution for this climate would be appartment houses with smallish terraces covered with plants. US has had some prototype houses like this; the amount of cooling the plants on the outer walls cause is huge (something like 30-50% less AC need). And they give shade and they are according to the local building tradition.
Currently I have not seen any such compound in India. I was googling for "ecocity India" and it gives some faded hits. There should be a Masdar for India, soonish. Otherwise this will simply become a copy of the US apartment + enough AC + integrated garage model that eats up too much common resources.
Currently, India still produces about 1/5th as much CO2 as US or China (which are pretty even)*. In order to keep it like that, *smarts* is needed, not greedy copycatting of the west. India is known for being smart, so we still have hope. On the other side of the coin, energy here is abundant if we just start collecting it. My sweat confirms that!
Nanosolar is the manufacturer of roof top sun panels that I would actually consider using. They have started manufacturing but are not selling to individual houses, yet. But they will. Anyone in India reading this, being their installer / distributer will be a big business in 2-10 years. Sign in.
About Ecocity India, the closest I've found is Falcon GEC (Global Eco City). They seem to compare it to Masdar and similar Chinese projects, but it kind of has a wanna-be feeling to it. I wouldn't trust that project, yet.
A document on Pune from 2006 looks more interesting. Pune is a university city in Maharashtra and by the reputation of it would make a splendid big-scale sample on how a complete city can be remade to be more sustainable. Let's wish them luck and hope the project proceeds.
More: ecocities-india.org lists some cities which are going to do general "clean up" for making them more enjoyable, healthier and ecological. This is an incremental approach and should really be part of any city planning, anyways.