Country Coordinator
Dr. Mahesh Rajasekar, Country Coordinator
Nivedita Mani, Networking and Liaison Coordinator


Climate Change in the Context of India

India's strive for sustainable development is confronted by challenges from the rising global threat of climate change. Extreme climate events are becoming more frequent and cause widespread impact to both natural and human systems. This has put millions at risk and exposed them to multiple hazards especially among poor populations that have limited capacity to adapt. In recent years occurrence of extreme events (heat wave, drought, intense precipitation) and the related damages have been quite visible.

The National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC) states that climate change may alter the distribution and quality of India's natural resources and adversely affect the livelihoods of its people. With the economy so closely tied to natural resources and sectors of agriculture, water and forestry being so sensitive to the changing climate, India today faces huge challenges from climate change. Most of the cities in India are already facing hydro-meteorological risks; both high intensity disasters like floods and cyclones as well as perpetual challenges like water scarcity and health. Increasing risk and growing exposure of the poor can increase vulnerability of urban population. Climate change is likely to further amplify hydro-meteorological risks, and expose an increasing number of people to hazard. These risks and impacts are likely to be differential within cities, with some sections of the populations able to afford adaptive, coping and resilience measures, while the rest are exposed to higher risks with little or no access to protection measures.

Urbanization in India

For the first time since 1921, the increase in India’s urban population exceeded rural growth during 2001-2011. The Urban Rural Growth Differential (URGD) is a rough and ready index of the extent of rural-urban migrations, which was 19.8% for 2011 Census, the highest in 30 years. The total population in India has increased from 238.4 million in 1901 to 1.21 billion in 2011 (5 times), while the urban population has increased from 25.8 million to 377 million (14 times). The urban agglomerations/towns have increased from 5,161 in 2001 to 7,935 in 2011 – a rough rate of five new towns per week for 10 years running. As per UN population projections, India’s projected population in 2050 is estimated to become 1.6 billion with an urban balance of 875 million. The share of urban population is projected to reach 54% in 2050.

Key Urban Climate Change Resilience (UCCR) Issues

Indian cities face challenges of resource scarcity, inadequate infrastructure and poor quality of lifeline services. A significant proportion of urban infrastructure is old and decrepit in the core city areas. Old infrastructure is still being used, since refurbishing or installing new infrastructure is nearly impossible due to very high densities and lack of space. Major changes in density and decongestion of core urban areas to improve services are politically unpopular and administratively challenging. Only in rare cases are Urban Local Bodies able to decongest the and improve the services in core areas

Climate change is likely to add additional stress on urban infrastructure and lifeline services, which will impact residents in many direct and indirect ways. The urban climate change impacts can be classified in to following major groups:

  • Slow onset and unidirectional phenomena – Sea-level rise or saline water intrusion in to coastal aquifers
  • Slow onset periodic phenomena – Such as droughts and heat waves
  • Fast onset high intensity phenomena affecting large number of people – Such as floods and cyclones.

The three main direct impacts of climate change on urban India will be disruption of life from floods, water scarcity, and increased morbidity and mortality due to increasingly severe hot and cold periods. Coastal cities are also likely to face additional stress from sea level rise and increased cyclonic storms frequency. These direct impacts can disrupt urban economies for days to weeks or months at a time. Some issues like water scarcity already exist due to rapid urbanization; climate change will only amplify these problems.

Further impacts will include changes in vector borne diseases and seasonal stresses on energy systems due to temperature increase. Climate change will impact water supply systems through unpredictable precipitation patterns and increased competition over limited resources by upstream users.

Climate change will impact the poor in many ways, making them increasingly vulnerable because of limited accessibility to scarce resources like water, lack of coping systems like water storage and cash, loss of wages due to disruption, lack of community safety nets. Due to low financial buffers, duration for recovery is differentially higher for the poor than other socioeconomic classes.

UCCR Coordination

TARU is ACCCRN India program coordinator. The ACCCRN India program began in 2008 (Phase I: City scoping and selection). Three cities in India – Gorakhpur, Indore and Surat were identified for engagement in Phase II (City level engagement and capacity building, development of City Resilience Strategy, 2009-2010). TARU steered the program in Indore and Surat, whereas Gorakhpur Environmental Action Group (GEAG) steered the activities in Gorakhpur. Phase III looked into implementation of urban resilience strategies and implemented interventions identified in the urban climate resilience strategy and action plan, 2011 – 2014. Phase III saw an expansion of the ACCCRN network (30 cities) and program partners (TARU, Gorakhpur Municipal corporation, Indore Municipal Corporation, Surat Municipal Corporation, GEAG, ICRIER, ICLEI South Asia, IRADe, Intellecap, NIUA, Surat Climate Change Trust, SGCCI, TERI, Urban Health and Climate Resilience Center). Phase IV is scheduled for the period of 2015-2016 and will focus on replication and scaling up of UCCR actions in India.

Related Initiatives

PHASE I (2008)

City Opportunity Assessment – TARU Leading Edge

PHASE II (2009 – 2010)

Gorakhpur City Resilience Strategy – Gorakhpur Municipal Corporation, Gorakhpur Environmental Action Group, Institute for Social and Environmental Transition Link to pdf

Indore City Resilience Strategy – Indore Municipal Corporation, City Advisory Committee, TARU Leading Edge, Institute for Social and Environmental Transition Link to pdf

Surat City Resilience Strategy – Surat Municipal Corporation, City Advisory Committee, TARU Leading Edge, Institute for Social and Environmental Transition Link to pdf

Surat: Urban Services Monitoring System (UrSMS) – TARU Leading Edge, Surat Municipal Corporation Link to website

Decentralized Solid Waste Management in Gorakhpur – Gorakhpur Environmental Action Group and M. G. Post Graduate Degree College, Gorakhpur

The Business of Climate Change: Opportunities in Adaptation and Resilience – Intellecap Link to website

Policy Synthesis review on mainstreaming climate resilience in Indian cities – The Energy Resources Institute Link to pdf

PHASE III (2011 – 2014)

Support to Asian Cities Climate Change Resilience Network Phase III and Urban Climate Change Resilience (UCCR) activities to new cities - India – TARU Leading Edge

Establishment of Consultation Committee on Promoting Climate Resilience Urban Development – National Institute of Urban Affairs, TARU Leading Edge

Gorakhpur: Implementing and Promoting Ward-level Micro Resilience Planning – Gorakhpur Environmental Action Group, City Steering Committee

Gorakhpur: Implementing and Promoting Adaptive Peri-urban Agriculture – Gorakhpur Environmental Action Group, ISET, ARUP

Indore: Testing and Promoting Decentralized Systems for Differential Water Sources and Uses –Indore Municipal Corporation, TARU Leading Edge, Seva Surbhi, Aim for Awareness of Society (AAS) Link to website

Indore: Strengthening Vector-borne Disease Surveillance and Response Systems – Indore Municipal Corporation, TARU Leading Edge, Sahayta

Indore: Peri-urban Lake Restoration to Create Emergency Water Management Options – Indore Municipal Corporation, TARU Leading Edge Link to website

Indore & Surat: Promoting Cool Roof and Passive Ventilation for Indoor Temperature Comfort – TARU Leading Edge, Indore Municipal Corporation, Surat Municipal Corporation Link to website

Surat: End-to-end Early Warning System for Ukai and Local Floods – Surat Climate Change Trust (SCCT), Surat Municipal Corporation (SMC), TARU Leading Edge

Surat: Establishment of Surat Climate Change Trust – SCCT, Surat Municipal Corporation, The Southern Gujarat Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Gujarat State Disaster Management Authority, Centre for Social Studies, Sardar Vallabhbhai National Institute of Technology, TARU Leading Edge Link to website

Establishment and Operations of Urban Health and Climate Resilience Center (UHCRC) – Surat Climate Change Trust, Surat Municipal Corporation, TARU Leading Edge, UHCRC Link to website

Basirhat City Resilience Strategy – Gorakhpur Environmental Action Group, PRISM

Saharsa City Resilience Strategy – Gorakhpur Environmental Action Group, Nav Jagriti

Jorhat City Resilience Strategy – Gorakhpur Environmental Action Group, Aaranyak, Guwahati SSEAEP, Nagaon, Assam Academic Center, Jorhat, Purva Bharati Educational Trust, Jorhat

Bhubaneswar City Resilience Strategy – ICLEI South Asia

Shimla City Resilience Strategy – ICLEI South Asia

Mysore City Resilience Strategy – ICLEI South Asia

City Resilience Strategy (Leh, Panaji, Shillong) – ICLEI South Asia

Guwahati City Resilience Strategy – The Energy Resources Institute Link to pdf

Mainstreaming Climate Resilience in Gorakhpur City – The Energy Resources Institute, Gorakhpur Environmental Action Group Link to pdf

Research paper on methodologies adopted under ACCCRN initiatives to assess risk and vulnerability to climate impacts and resilience planning – Gorakhpur, Surat, Indore, Guwahati, Shimla, Bhubaneswar, Mysore – International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), The Energy Resources Institute

Training and Capacity Building, Knowledge Networking, Policy Framework, Research & Documentation for Developing Urban Climate Change Resilience in 24 Indian Cities – National Institute of Urban Affairs, TARU Leading Edge, Regional Institutions

Climate Resilient Urban Development: Vulnerability Profiles of 20 Indian Cities – Integrated Research and Action for Development Link to pdf

Climate Change and the Economic Competitiveness of Cities: Making the Business Case for Adaptation – Surat (Gujarat), Pune (and Pimpri-Chinchwad in Maharashtra), Kochi (Kerala), and Ludhiana (Punjab) – Indian Council for Research and International Economic Relations

Further Initiatives and Links

TARU has been published several documents related to ACCCRN project work in India: a. Synthesis report Vol I b. Synthesis report Vol II c. Policy Brief: Policy Brief 1: Urban Climate Change Resilience, Policy Brief 2: Urban Vulnerability and Risk, Policy Brief 3: Climate Resilience in Built Environment, Policy Brief 4: Water Security Resilience, Policy Brief 5: Urban Health and Climate Resilience, Policy Brief 6: Economic Resilience Cities, and Policy Brief 7: Micro Planning and Urban Resilience. d. Case Studies e. A tale of two cities. The documentary can be accessed from the following link.