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Making Indian cities disaster, climate resilient: Towards actionable urban planning

By IMPRI Team 

Three-Day Online Certificate Training Programme on “Making Indian Cities Disaster and Climate Change Resilient: Towards Responsive and Actionable Urban Planning, Policy and Development”:

Day 1

A three day Online Certificate Training Programme on the theme “Making Indian Cities Disaster and Climate Change Resilient: Towards Responsive and Actionable Urban Planning, Policy and Development”, a joint initiative of the National Institute of Disaster Management (NIDM), Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India, was held at the Centre for Habitat, Urban and Regional Studies at IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute, New Delhi.
Inaugurating the session Ms. Karnika Arun, Researcher at IMPRI, welcomed the speakers and participants to the program with an introduction to the eminent panellists.
Day 1 of the program included Prof Anil K Gupta, Head ECDRM, NIDM, New Delhi and Mr Tikender Singh Panwar, Former Deputy Mayor, Shimla; Visiting Senior Fellow, IMPRI as conveners, and eminent speakers Prof Chetan Vaidya, Independent Urban Advisor; Former Director, School of Planning and Architecture (SPA), New Delhi and National Institute of Urban Affairs (NIUA), New Delhi, Ms Bedoshruti Sadhukhan, Senior Programme Coordinator, ICLEI South Asia, and Prof Souvanic Roy, Professor, Department of Architecture, Town and Regional Planning, and, Founder-Director, School of Ecology, Infrastructure and Human Settlement Management, Indian Institute of Engineering Science and Technology (IIEST), Shibpur. The patron for the session was Shri Taj Hassan, IPS, Executive Director, NIDM, New Delhi.
Commencing the program, the convener for the session, Prof Anil K Gupta, stated the difference between Indian cities and cities of other developed countries regarding size, expansion, and urban villages. Talking about resilience, he said that the resilience of a city depends on the resilience of its citizens and the physical and social infrastructure such as water supply & sanitation, solid waste management, traffic and transportation etc. The receiving end of the urban system, i.e. the peri-urban areas, are much more vulnerable to climate change and disasters due to the lack of standards and guidelines for planned development in such areas.
Mr. Tikender Singh set the stage for panelists by sharing significant issues related to urban management, the current state of climate change, and the recurring frequency of disasters in the Indian Subcontinent.
Prof Chetan Vaidya, Independent Urban Advisor; Former Director, School of Planning and Architecture (SPA), New Delhi and National Institute of Urban Affairs (NIUA), New Delhi
Prof Chetan Vaidya gave a presentation on “Making Indian Cities Disaster and Climate Change Resilient”, which covered a wide range of topics from understanding Climate Change (CC) to Climate Action plans and Green Financing. In between, he also talked about the various initiatives undertaken by India regarding Urban Climate Change.
Talking about Climate Change Strategies, Prof Vaidya defined mitigation as making the impact of climate change less severe by reducing the emissions of GHGs (greenhouse gases) into the atmosphere. He said that adaptation and mitigation are two sides of the same coin. Urban India’s initiatives regarding Climate Change were then stated by Prof Vaidya, such as National Mission on Sustainable Habitat (NMSH), 2021, C-Cube established by NIUA, MoHUA and Climate Smart Cities Assessment Framework (CSCAF) etc. He also mentioned Sustainable Urban Solutions adopted by Indian Cities to combat Climate Change, such as Introducing energy-saving LED street lights, developing Miyawaki forests, decentralized collections and treatment of solid waste, rainwater harvesting etc.
Bedoshruti Sadhukhan, Senior Programme Coordinator, ICLEI South Asia based her talk on “Planning for Climate Resilience Cities” and presented her work with ICLEI to plan sustainable urban development, i.e., Low Emission development, Nature-based development, Equitable and people-centered Resilient Circular development. She talked about a combined adaptation and mitigation planning methodology for cities – a 3X3X3 step process. The three steps are Analyze, Act and Accelerate, which help plan climate-resilient cities. She elaborated on the three steps and the whole process in her presentation, highlighting the major takeaways.
There are significant variances in people’s adaptive skills due to these discrepancies. Some of the disparities mentioned by Ms. Bedoshruti were Gender duties and obligations, unequal legal position, education and literacy, inequality in voice and authority etc.
When it comes to developing climate-resilient cities or sustainable development, social inclusion is crucial. These discrepancies directly influence attaining the SDGs, according to the concept of leaving no one behind.
There are significant variances in people’s adaptive skills due to these discrepancies. Some of the disparities mentioned by Ms. Bedoshruti were Gender duties and obligations, unequal legal position, education and literacy, inequality in voice and authority etc. When it comes to developing climate-resilient cities or sustainable development, social inclusion is crucial. These discrepancies directly influence attaining the SDGs, according to the concept of leaving no one behind.
Prof Souvanic Roy, Professor, Department of Architecture, Town and Regional Planning, and, Founder-Director, School of Ecology, Infrastructure and Human Settlement Management, Indian Institute of Engineering Science and Technology (IIEST), Shibpur,  shared his views by presenting on “Mainstreaming Disaster Resilience in Indian Cities.” Talking about urban vulnerability, he mentioned that many Indian cities are vulnerable to disasters due to their location and diversity of geography. He also mentioned various facts and figures related to urbanization and the recurring frequency of disasters in India. There are two types of disaster drivers – shocks & stress, e.g. earthquake is a shock, leading to chronic stress of water scarcity. These disasters and urban complexity also lead to an economic loss of the city. Prof Roy also provided insights about urban resilience and its elements – Health and Well-being, Economy and Society, Infrastructure and Management, Leadership and Strategy. He also talked about ways to enhance urban resilience and focus on community disaster resilience so that all the dimensions of disaster resilience can be achieved at the community or local levels.
Harshit Sharma, an ECDRM Division Young Professional at NIDM, presented a brief lecture on the “Role of urban local governments in Risk Resilience”. In catastrophe management, he stressed the significance of multiple stakeholders by sharing a case study of Odisha’s long-term planning for disasters like Super Cyclone 1999, Fani Cyclone 2019, and Amphan Cyclone 2021.

Day 2

Day 2 of the program included eminent panelists Mr. Sameer Unhale, Joint Commissioner, Department of Municipal Administration, Government of Maharashtra, Mr. Himanshu Shekhar Mishra, Senior Editor (Political and Current Affairs), New Delhi Television Limited (NDTV India), and Dr Madhu Verma, Chief Economist, World Resources Institute (WRI), New Delhi. The patron for the session was Shri Taj Hassan, IPS, Executive Director, NIDM, New Delhi and conveners Prof Anil K Gupta, Head ECDRM, NIDM, New Delhi and Mr. Tikender Singh Panwar, Former Deputy Mayor, Shimla; Visiting Senior Fellow, IMPRI.
Starting with the session, Ms. Karnika Arun, IMPRI, welcomed the speakers and participants to the programme with an introduction to eminent panelists.
Mr. Sameer Unhale, Joint Commissioner, Department of Municipal Administration, Government of Maharashtra, gave his insights in terms of urban governance from his past experiences. In his extempore, he talked about the current state of Urban Local Bodies (ULBs). He spoke about how these bodies tackle different disasters and discussed cyclones, floods, landslides and snowfall in hilly areas. Due to climate change, Indian cities need to prepare themselves for more frequent disasters, natural or man-made. Mr Unhale also discussed the inclusive response to the disaster, where the whole town is prepared for the catastrophe, from man, woman, and child to the differently-abled. It helps in making cities much more resilient to disasters and climate change.
The local political leaders, school teachers, and religious leaders play an essential role in making the towns inclusive by communicating information during a disaster or preparedness or responding to disasters.
Mr. Himanshu Shekhar Mishra, Senior Editor (Political and Current Affairs), New Delhi Television Limited (NDTV India) kicked off the discussion by presenting “Climate Change, Urban Flooding and a Climate-Smart Development Agenda – Targets and Challenges for India”.
His presentation talked about the status of various disasters he covered as a reporter, like the Kerala floods-2018, Srinagar floods-2014, Chennai floods-2015, and the fault lines in their disaster management strategy. Mr Mishra also talked about the Sustainable Development Goals, 2030, stating the challenges and policy bottlenecks. India ranks 7th most vulnerable to climate change impact in Global Climate Risk 2021. An integrated approach to planning would be necessary to improve disaster governance measures and strengthen stakeholders’ mitigation and risk reduction capabilities. Talking about gaps in the legislative framework, Mr Mishra said that India’s nodal law to deal with Disaster Management Act is silent on the challenges posed by Climate Change. 10 out of 17 SDGs and 25 out of 169 targets identified are related to Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR).
He also talked about the country’s commitment to COP-26. As a part of best practices, Mr Mishra spoke about “The Stafford Act” of the United States that clearly outlines the broad responsibilities of the State in providing compulsory relief and compensation to disaster victims.
Dr Shweta Baidya Das, Consultant, ECDRM, NIDM, presented a brief presentation on “Integrating Climate Change Strategies for future Human Habitat”, discussing the conceptual framework for City resilience. She also talked about the various interventions at the household level, such as green roofs, use of solar panels, rainwater harvesting etc., that can lead us to sustainable and resilient development. She also talked about the urban and environmental planning interventions such as City as rainwater catchments (Sponge cities concept of China), which are trying to develop flood resilient cities by capturing stormwater and then recycling/reusing it for various other purposes. Other concepts explained by Dr Shweta were Social Interiors, Self-Containment neighborhoods, and Biomorphic Urbanism.
Dr. Madhu Varma, Chief economist, World Resources Institute (WRI), based her talk on “Nature-Based Solutions for Making Indian Cities Disaster and Climate Change Resilient: An Ecological-Economic Approach”.
Nature-based solutions are actions to protect, sustainably manage and restore natural and modified ecosystems in ways that address societal changes effectively and adaptively to provide both human well-being and biodiversity benefits.
She further detailed the classification of Nature-based Solutions (NBS) approaches into five major categories –
  • Ecosystem restoration approach
  • Issue-Specific approach
  • Infrastructure related approach
  • Ecosystem-based management approach, and
  • Ecosystem protection approach
In her presentation, she talked about how nature-based solutions, such as Forest management, reducing the risk of super-fires and also stabilizing soil and reducing water runoff, and expansion of green spaces in and around the city, and reducing heat stress due to Urban Heat Islands (UHIs), could build resilience to multiple climate hazards. Under Economics of NBS, various methods like Ecosystem Services, Economic Valuation, Environmental Accounting, and Payment for Ecosystem services were discussed. Dr Madhu also discussed some case studies. Some of them were Making Conservation Profitable – Water and Diamonds – Watershed Stewards Program – Network, and Economic Valuation of Bhojtal Wetland – Bhopal.

Day 3

Day 3 of the program included eminent panelists Dr Joy Elamon, Director-General, Kerala Institute of Local Administration (KILA), Thrissur, Prof K. K. Pandey Professor, Urban Management, and Coordinator, Centre for Urban Studies, Indian Institute of Public Administration (IIPA), New Delhi, and Prof V. P. Sati Professor, Department of Geography and Resource Management, Mizoram University.
The patron for the session was Shri Taj Hassan, IPS, Executive Director, NIDM, New Delhi and conveners Prof Anil K Gupta, Head ECDRM, NIDM, New Delhi and Mr. Tikender Singh Panwar, Former Deputy Mayor, Shimla; Visiting Senior Fellow, IMPRI.
Starting with the session, Ms. Karnika Arun, IMPRI, welcomed the speakers and participants to the programme with an introduction to eminent panelists.
Ms. Fatima Amin, Yong Professional, ECDRM Division, NIDM, kicked off the day by presenting a small presentation on “Integrated Risk Management for Resilient Cities”. Talking about elements of a resilience framework, she discussed the Context, Disturbance, Capacity to deal with the Disturbance, and Reaction to Disturbance as the four elements of a resilience framework. Holistic and Sustainable planning, innovative and multi-faceted solutions, and inclusive, spatially balanced planning can lead to disaster-resilient cities.
Dr Joy Elamon, Director-General, Kerala Institute of Local Administration (KILA), Thrissur, talked about Risk informed Master Planning, where climate change, climate resilience and disaster reduction initiatives are addressed as part of the master plan of a city or a town.
The benefit of having a Risk-Informed master plan is that it is essential for developing risk-based decisions in the planning process and discusses hazards and their characters, disasters and their characters, and lessons learnt from the past events.
The risk-informed master plan includes policies and strategies, best practices worldwide, and the legal framework. Dr Elamon further said that integrating such a Risk-Informed Master Plan with District Disaster Management Plan, City DM Plan, and Local Area DM Plan can help us make better Disaster Resilient Cities. Sharing risk information with the community is also very important in planning disaster resilient cities. To further understand the resilient cities, Dr Elamon also suggested some studies and tools –
World Bank Report on Urban Risks Assessment.
Since climate data is unavailable at a local level, Dr Elamon suggested that local governments can downscale the available information and then project it according to their needs. Based on these Risk-Informed Master Planning and Climate Data Projections, we can have Disaster and Climate Change Resilient Cities.
Prof K. K. Pandey, Professor, Urban Management, and Coordinator, Centre for Urban Studies, Indian Institute of Public Administration (IIPA), New Delhi, shared a presentation on “Role of ULBs in Disaster Management and Climate Change”, where he talked about the various types of disasters – Man-Made disasters and natural disasters – and the role of ULBs in managing these disasters.
ULBs play a significant role in managing disasters, such as provision and upkeep of drainage networks, efficient collection and management of Solid Waste, checking illegal land subdivisions etc. Talking about Urban Missions and Actions, Prof Pandey discussed parameters like Urban Planning and green cover, water management, waste management, energy and green buildings etc. The disaster Preparedness framework includes indicators like Vulnerability Assessment, Spatial Planning, Institutional Framework, Response Mechanism, Warning Systems etc. Prof Pandey also enlightened us by talking about the various initiatives at State and City levels that are helping us in planning better sustainable cities. Talking about the roadmap for Disaster Management and Climate Change, Prof Pandey shared the strategies to strengthen Local Bodies to combat climate change and Disaster Management.
Prof V. P. Sati Professor, Department of Geography and Resource Management, Mizoram University, based his talk on the case study of a City in hilly areas, “Cityscape Vulnerability and Future of Aizawl City.” Aizawl is among the largest cities by population, situated in hilly areas. Aizawl lies in the highest rainfall area but faces water scarcity and poor quality problems. Talking about city vulnerability, Prof Sati said that the city lies in seismic zone V and has experienced 18 major earthquakes with an average of 7 on the Richter scale. Due to a steep slope gradient, the town also has ten active landslide zones. In his presentation, Prof Sati discussed the various strategies to make Aizawl disaster resilient. It is essential to stop the vertical expansion, and for horizontal growth, proper site selection is required, keeping all of the aspects related to a vulnerability in mind. The role of Municipal Corporation also plays an essential role in making the city disaster-resilient such as proper zoning of the developable areas can be delineated, development and building regulations and other standards.
Dr Kopal Verma, Consultant ECDRM, NIDM, shared a presentation on “Multi-Hazard Disaster Risk and Resilience for Cities”, where she discussed the scenario of disasters in Indian Cities. Insufficient observational and scientific information database and no tool for performance measurement of disaster risk management at the city level are some of the points of concern for building and strengthening the resilience of the urban population.
Closing the 3-Day training session convenor, Tikender Singh Panwar, Former Deputy Mayor, Shimla; Visiting Senior Fellow, IMPRI, gave his concluding remarks and thanked all the eminent panelists. He underlined that many essential points had been brought up in training. He complimented the entire NIDM and IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute team on the successful conduction of the training program.
The training program ended with a vote of thanks by Karnika Arun, IMPRI.

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