One in a Hundred Chennai - A Resilient City

Planning Dated:  Jan. 27, 2016
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Resilience Challenges

100 Resilient Cities is an initiative dedicated to helping cities around the world become more resilient to physical, social and economic challenges. Chennai is among the 67 cities selected so far by 100 RC.

As citizens of Chennai, we may find ourselves constantly cribbing about the many nuts and bolts of the city that fall out of place water shortage, drainage systems, power cuts, and the list goes on. However, there is one attribute of Chennai city that has recently received some (surprisingly) worthy recognition- Resilience.

100 Resilient Cities-Pioneered by the Rockefeller Foundation (100RC) is dedicated to helping cities around the world become more resilient to the physical, social and economic challenges that are a growing part of the 21st century. They define Urban Resilience as –

The capacity of individuals, communities, institutions, businesses and systems within a city to survive, adapts, and grow no matter what kinds of chronic stresses and acute shocks they experience.

The foundation currently has 67 cities on its list. Surat was the only Indian city to be on the first list of 32 released in December 2013. In December 2014, Bangalore and Namma Chennai made the list among 35 cities, out of 330 applications from 94 countries! Of all the cities in the world, what makes these three qualified enough to be considered resilient? 100RC states that resilient cities demonstrate 7 qualities that allow them to withstand, respond to, and adapt more readily to stresses and shocks. And those qualities are - reflectiveness, resourcefulness, robustness, redundancy, flexibility, inclusiveness and integration.*

Recent immigration has made Chennai the fourth most populous metropolitan area in the world. Informal peripheral settlements in low-lying coastal areas that lack access to infrastructure and services house many of these recent arrivals. To protect these in the face of a high flood risk, officials have begun developing coordinate disaster response plans- one of the main reasons for why Chennai was chosen.

In addition, Chennai is making efforts by learning from past events and continuing to provide best-practice solutions to other regions. This is similar to how it responded in the aftermath of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, when it developed an early warning system. The city is budgeting resources to improve waste collection to minimize its impact, both as an environmental threat and during flooding.

The finalists identified by the end of 2015 in the 100RC challenge will be eligible to receive-

• Funding in the form of a grant to hire a Chief Resilient Officer;

• Technical support to develop a holistic resilience strategy that reflects each city’s distinct needs;

• Access to an innovative platform of services to support strategy development and implementation. Platform partners come from the private, public, and non-profit sectors, and will offer tools in areas such as innovative finance, technology, infrastructure, land use, and community and social resilience;

• Membership in the 100 Resilient Cities network to share knowledge and practices with other cities. Be sure to look for further developments about the 100 Resilient Cities initiative, as well as other articles about happenings in Chennai city in future issues of Agam Sei.

About the Rockefeller Foundation

The Rockefeller foundation was founded by Standard Oil owner John D. Rockefeller ("Senior"), along twith his son John D. Rockefeller, Jr. ("Junior"), and Senior's principal oil & gas business and philanthropic advisor, Frederick Taylor Gates, in New York State May 14, 1913, when its charter was formally accepted by the New York State Legislature. Its central mission over the past 100 years has been "to promote the well-being of humanity throughout the world."

One of the main reasons for Chennai being selected was for developing coordinate disaster response plans. What is the system currently in place?

Resilient Cities

At present, as per the CMDA Disaster Management regulations, a disaster management cell functions in the City Corporation of Chennai to tackle flooding problem. Prior to the monsoon in October-December every year, drains are desilted and obstructions if any, are removed. Nodal and zonal officers are vested with adequate powers to tackle emergencies. Relief centres are identified and notified, and responsibilities are fixed for ensuring shifting of affected people to the relief centres. Equipment to take out floodwater from low-lying or submerged areas is kept ready. Arrangements are made for flood relief and details about who should be contacted in such emergencies are published in the media. All the agencies required to be involved such as the Police, Fire and Rescue services, Metropolitan Transport Corporation, District administration, Health, Army and Navy are alerted. Readiness to tackle the flooding situation is reviewed at the government level and ensured before monsoon every year. Although there are strict measures taken, one cannot deny that Chennai does have a flooding and drainage problem that becomes evident after a heavy rain.

Recent immigration has made Chennai the fourth most populous metropolitan area in the world. Informal peripheral settlements in low-lying coastal areas that lack access to infrastructure and services house many of these recent arrivals. To protect these in the face of a high flood risk, officials have begun developing coordinate disaster response plans- one of the main reasons for why Chennai was chose.

Resilent Cities India

Reflective: Using past experience to inform future decisions
Resourceful: Recognizing alternative ways to use resources
Robust: Well-conceived, constructed and managed systems
Redundant: Spare capacity purposively created to accommodate disruption
Flexible: Willingness to adopt alternate strategies in response to changing circumstances
Inclusive: Prioritize broad consultation to create a sense of shared ownership in decision-making
Integrate: Bring together a range of distinct systems and institutions

This Article is part of Agam Sei Volume: 01 Issue: 10.

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