Climate change risks is expected to increase the frequency and intensity of current hazards, an increased probability of extreme events, spur the emergence of new hazards and vulnerabilities with differential spatial and socio-economic impacts. This is expected to further degrade the resilience and coping capacities of poor and vulnerable communities, who make up from a quarter to half of the population of most Indian cities (Satterthwaithe et al, 2007). Hundreds of millions of urban dwellers in the Indian cities are at risk from the direct and indirect impacts of climate change. In July 2005, Mumbai, India, was struck by cyclone that dumped 94 centimeters of rain in 24 hours, and leaving more than 1000 dead, mostly in slum settlements (Sherbinin et al, 2007). This event underscores the vulnerability to climate hazards faced by urban poor in Indian cities.
Climate change will bring changes in the pattern and trend of temperature, precipitation, climate hazards in the urban areas. An important challenge for India is to reduce the risks of climate change and enhance the resilience of cities. The increasing population in the urban areas of India will further complicate and make the task of reducing vulnerabilities to climate change more challenging. Over the early 21st century, estimate is that an almost equal number of people will live in about 0.6 million villages as in 12-15,000 towns and cities by 2050. By 2025, an estimated 70 Indian cities are expected to have a population size of over one million. In addition, three mega urban regions: Mumbai-Pune (50 million), the National Capital Region of Delhi (over 30 million) and Kolkata (20 million) will be among the largest urban concentrations in the world (Revi, 2006, Census, 2006). Without effective adaptation to climate change there will be very serious consequences for the most people residing in the cities in India.
The issue of climate change has recently entered into Indian public policy agenda. With the formulation of National Action Plan on climate change in 2008, the issue of climate change mitigation and adaptation has come to the forefront in the public policy agenda. Still the focus is largely on the mitigation of climate change rather than increasing the adaptive capacity of the people and places to deal with the impacts of climate change. So far climate change concerns are not an important part in Indian cities and its planning process. India has certain institutional provisions such as disaster Management Authorities and state and city level integrated coastal zone management programmes, The Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) to deal with different aspects of climate risks related issues. However, there are very less components under these programmes that address the climate change risk reduction and adaptation in the urban areas.
All the population in the urban areas will not be equally vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. People with high adaptive capacity will be less vulnerable but people who are most vulnerable are the urban poor, slum dwellers and low income category population. These populations have less adaptive capacity to deal with the impacts of climate change because of poor governance; the lack of investment in infrastructure and in the commons; and strong connections between the political class, real estate developers and public agencies (Revi, 2008). Recent research highlights an urgent need to improve our understanding and action on climate variability and adaptation in urban areas as an urgent priority, particularly where poverty levels and population growth rates are highest (Huq et al, 2007b)
Vulnerabilities to Climate Risks in Indian Mega-Cities
Climate change related risks exposure is explored in this section for the four megacities namely Delhi, Mumbai, Calcutta and Chennai in India. At the global level IPCC 2007 identified four major aspects of climate related to the cities. First, heat waves are likely to increase over most of the land areas. Second, the frequencies of heavy precipitation events are very likely to increase over most of the areas. Third, the area affected by drought is likely to increase. Fourth it is likely that intense tropical cyclone activity will increase. These climate risks can amplify the risks that cities face from non-climatic sources like large slum population living in the environmentally risky areas, poor housing conditions and low access to public services. However, all the four megacities of India are equally vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. It depends on the cities geographic factors such as whether the city is near to the coast line, societal and economic factors.
Climate change is likely to increase the present climate hazards these cities are facing and it is typically associated with vulnerability and hazard exposure. It is important to understand the different pathways through which climate change can impact the urban residents and increase their vulnerability to climate related risks. The four megacities are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change for three reasons. First, a large and growing proportion of people at risk from climate change lives in the four megacities of India.
Secondly, these urban centers in India are the engines of growth and successful national economies depend on the well functioning and resilient urban centres. This provides an important economic rationale for addressing the current urban vulnerabilities to extreme weathers and expanding protection from likely future changes. Thirdly, very little attention has been given to the vulnerabilities of low income population in urban centres in India. For example populations living in the slum areas are most vulnerable to the impact of climate change. In India 42.6 million people have been enumerated as living in urban slums (Census, 2001). These people will be most adversely affected due to climate related impacts. Till now most of the attention has been given to the rural population’s adaptation to the impacts of climate change. Table 1 provides a snapshot of vulnerabilities to climate change hazards in the four mega cities. The aim is not to assess definitively the vulnerability but instead to identify a set of data to understand the vulnerabilities in the four cities of analysis.
Table 1 describes some of the important indicators of climate change vulnerability of Delhi. Delhi had a population of 12 million in 2001 and it is expected to be 20 million in 2020. Delhi is a city of contrasts — in 2000; 1.15 million people were living below the national poverty line. On the other hand Delhi’s SDP at current prices was about $27 billion during 2007 (Department of Planning, 2008). Delhi faces several climate change risks such as intense rainfall events, heat waves, cold waves, increasing drought and water scarcity. The second table provides projected temperature and precipitation for Delhi. The table shows that Delhi is facing per capita water shortages, even today1; Capital Delhi has no annual surplus water from precipitation. Further, extreme minimum and maximum temperature appear to be increasing in Delhi (Mehotra et al, 2009) and Delhi is coming under the dry land ecosystems and the principal characteristics of dry land are low, unpredictable and erratic rainfall (Safriel et al, 2005). From the table it can be seen that 168 lakh populations is living in the dry lands (Balk et al 2009). Climate change is likely to result in water shortages in the dry lands in the future. Climate change will further challenge the livelihoods of those living in these sensitive ecosystems and may result in higher levels of resource scarcity. The IPCC Working Group 1 notes that “Long-term trends from 1900 to 2005 have been observed in precipitation amount over many large regions… Drying has been observed in the Sahel, the Mediterranean, southern Africa and parts of southern Asia” (Commission on climate change and development, 2008). The extent of vulnerability of people of Delhi within the city has been captured by statistics offered by Yamuna Action Plan; they observed that about 45% of the city’s population live in a combination of unregulated settlements, slums etc. further, three million people live along the Yamuna River, which is prone to flooding, where 600,000 dwellings are classified as slums (Mehotra et al, 2009).
Delhi is facing climate risks and the Government has made very little efforts towards climate change adaptation. The government has made considerable efforts in the area of mitigation to climate change. The most important climate mitigation initiative has been the establishment of world’s largest CNG fuelled public transport system. Some other mitigation measure include adoption of green building technology which is mandatory for all Public Works department and Airport Authority, expansion of forest cover; the forest cover has grown from three percent in 1998 to 19 percent in 2005, energy efficient programmes in water supply, wastewater treatment and methane recovery. Although the government is making a lot of efforts towards mitigation, planned adaptation for climate change risks has not taken place yet.
Mumbai is the largest and economically most important city in India. It is on the West coast of India having a population of around 17 million making it the second most populous city in the world after shanghai. Even if Mumbai is the most important city in India, with its larger area located on a flood prone, poorly drained, composed largely on landfill, Mumbai is highly vulnerable to the climate hazards as shown by the large scale flooding during 2005. The most vulnerable are those 54% people living in slums, many of which are located in low-lying areas without adequate sanitation and water supplies. Further, much of the new settlements has occurred along the coastal areas of greater Mumbai, which are low lying and flood plain. Mumbai’s climate is tropical; with temperature ranging between 16 degree C and 33 degree C. Mumbai is vulnerable to inland flooding during the monsoon seasons, sea-level rise, coastal flooding and various health risks like malaria. Climate change is expected to exacerbate the current problems. Flooding is the most important problem for Mumbai. When heavy rains combine with high tide surges or storm surges, most landfills areas in Mumbai are prone to flooding. However, the most vulnerable people due to flooding are the people living in slums and low lying areas. Populations densities for roughly one-half of Mumbai’s squatter communities are estimated to be as high as 94,000 people per square kilometer, making it one of the most densely settled districts in the world (Sherbini et al, 2009). Apart from inland flooding Mumbai is highly vulnerable to the impact of sea-level rise (TERI, 1996). As can be seen from the first table 46% of people are living in the low elevation coastal zones. According to one of the study (Dasgupta et al 2007) up to one percent of India’s urban areas could be inundated by three meter sea level rise. India was estimated to have the second largest populations located in the LECZ of 63 million and seventh in terms of areas i.e. 82,000 sq.km or about three percent of national geographic areas at risk (Mc Granahn, 2007). The Canadian centre for A2 and B2 scenarios predict an average annual temperature increase of 1.7500C and 1.2500C respectively by 2050. Mumbai is predicted to have an average annual decrease in precipitation of two percent for A2 and an increase of two percent for B2 scenario. The sea-level rise is predicted to increase by 50 centimeters by 2050. Further, a study by TERI put the cost to Mumbai of one meter sea level rise at US$ 71 billion dollar. The study concluded that US$24 billion invested in protection against sea-level rise would reduce the economic impact by US$ 33 billion dollars (TERI, 1996).
Like many other big cities Calcutta, the capital city of West-Bengal is also facing different climate hazards. Calcutta is flanked by Hugli River and the soil is formed by alluvial deposit of Gangetic delta. The wet lands surroundings the city in the west and south west are now filled by urban expansion. The important climate risks the city is facing are tidal flooding, cyclones, urban flooding, water logging and sea level rise along the coast. Although there are no specific studies on the impact of climate change on Calcutta, there is a consensus that current climate hazards may be exacerbated due to climate change. As can be seen from the table that Calcutta has both dry land area and low elevation coastal zones which implies climate change is likely to have adverse impacts interns of increasing droughts in the dry land areas and sea level rise in the LECZ in the city.
Chennai is one of the largest cities in India having a population of around seven million in 2001. Chennai is facing the climate risks of groundwater depletion, salinity intrusion, sea level rise and coastal flooding. In Chennai the monsoon rainfall is scanty and highly seasonal rainfall creates floods, as the drainage pattern is insufficient and the natural flood water evacuation systems such as canals, paddy fields and wetlands have been widely destroyed (Nair et al, 2009). Chennai is also facing the risk of sea level rise and severe water shortages and the water bodies on which the city of Chennai depends are facing water shortage associated with climate anomalies and anthropogenic impacts. Unscientific storage system in Chennai causes tremendous water loss due to evaporation. Rising demands create more dependency on groundwater and the current rate of extraction using tube wells is not at all sustainable.
The above analysis shows that the megacities are currently highly vulnerable due to the demographic, geographical and climatic characteristics. The city of Chennai, Calcutta, and Mumbai is currently facing the problems of urban flooding, tropical cyclones and sea level rise. Delhi is facing the problem of heat waves and cold waves and increasing water shortages. Climate change is expected to accentuate the current problems in the cities. However, all the populations are not equally vulnerable to the impact of climate change. The most vulnerable are the people living in slums, poor people living in environmentally riskier areas, migrants living in informal settlements. Climate change can impact the urban residents through multiple channels such as, loss of livelihood opportunities, loss of community and informal social safety nets, reduced resilience to future shocks and coping capacity and reduced access to affordable public services leading to higher coping costs and consequent reduction on spending on basic needs (Revi et al, 2009).
Climate Risk Management: Can We Adapt?
Adaptation to climate change requires an effective Climate risk management in the Indian cities. Disaster management is one of the most important components of climate risk management in the cities. However, as the current disaster management policies in the megacities are not adequate for a successful adaptation to climate change and reducing the vulnerabilities of the poor who are most affected due to the climate hazards. For example, the government of Maharashtra developed India’s first urban disaster management plan (DMP) for Mumbai which identified flooding as a significant risk, pinpointed bottlenecks in each ward, and vulnerable slums and populations. However in spite of this, no systematic action has been taken over half a decade to mitigate the risks of disasters (Revi, 2005). Similarly, other megacities have also their disaster management plans. However, very less emphasis has been given to the issue of adaptation to climate change in the disaster management plans.
It is now increasing accepted that local government plays an important role in reducing the risks of climate change and increase the resilience of cities to the impacts of climate change. The 74th constitutional amendment of India places the responsibility of town planning in the hands of local government. However, states have not transferred the function to the city effectively (Revi, et al, 2009). The following important case study shows how local government can play an important role in disaster management in the cities.
Adaptation to Climate Change: An Agenda
The above section discusses that all the megacities are vulnerable due to the impacts of climate change due to different demographic, socio-economic factors. However, adaptation of cities to climate change has not received much attention at the global level and at the national level in India (IIED, 2007, Revi, 2007). What is needed is urban climate change adaptation plans for the vulnerable people in the megacities. The state of adaptation planning in not equipped to deal with the future climate hazards. Analysis of opportunities and constraints associated with the implementation of local adaptation measure in eight cities of the world including Delhi shows that the challenge of climate change adaptation to a large extent connects to and emphasizes existing local development concerns and they are inextricably linked with local driving factors that determines vulnerability (Heinrichs et al, 2009). Further, there is a need to integrate climate change adaptation plans into city development plans which requires the awareness and understanding of climate risks at the local level (Tanner et al, 2009). The immediate concern for India is to ensure that our cities adapt to the adverse climatic conditions.
One of the most important issues in all the four cities is the water supply; climate change is likely to decrease the water supply in the cities. Extremes in climate add to the water crisis and further deteriorate the urban environment. Most of the existing water supply in the cities were designed decades earlier and are now highly inadequate to meet the increasing demands. According to the World Bank (2001) Chennai and Delhi are ranked as the worst performing cities in terms of hours of water availability per day, while Mumbai and Calcutta are ranked second and forth worth performers respectively.
The disaster management plans in India is not adequate to deal with the risks of climate change in the future and there is a need of shift from reactive to a proactive disaster management policies in the cities. However, India is one of the few large countries that have a central authority to address the disaster management and similar well developed institutions at the state level (e.g. GSDMA, OSDMA). Other than disaster management policies we require proactive planning to deal with the climate risks. For example, after the Mumbai floods in 2005 different proactive actions were planned such as maintenance of drainage systems, improved flood early warning system etc.
For developing a climate change adaptation framework for the urban cities, we need to identify the links between the climate risks and human vulnerabilities. Further, it requires developing the adaptive capacities of the most vulnerable populations in the urban areas. The paper suggest the following points for a successful adaptation to climate change in the megacities.
Developing an Urban Adaptation Programme of Action to address the urban climate change risk reduction.
Integrating the climate change risks into current city development plans.
Developing the adaptive capacity of poor people who are living in the vulnerable zones in the city through income and employment programmes.
Providing downscaled climate change impacts at the city level.
Providing an effective early warning system in the cities to reduce the loss from climate disasters.
Improving the basic services like access to affordable housing, water, sanitation and public transportation system for the poor people who are most vulnerable to the impacts of disasters and climate hazards.
Climate change is expected to increase the frequency and intensity of climate related hazards such as droughts and floods in India. A large concentration of population, economic activities in the urban areas exposed to the current hazards and future climate impacts poses a critical challenge for the government to manage the climate risks in the megacities. Reducing the vulnerabilities of people to the risks of climate change requires developing the adaptive capacities of most vulnerable population in the cities, who are more susceptible to the impacts. Successful adaptation to climate change risks in the megacities needs identification of differential vulnerabilities of people in the cities developing their resilience to climate shocks through a mix of economic, infrastructural, disaster management policies.
1 Water availability is calculated from the water surplus that represents excess water from precipitation after evapotranspiration and soil moisture recharge
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(After finishing Masters and M.Phil in Economics, Mr Panda is currently pursuing his doctoral studies at the Centre For Ecological Economics and Natural Resources (CEENR), Institute for Social and Economic Change (ISEC), Bangalore, India. His research seeks to examine the differential vulnerability of rural farming households to Climate Variability and Change and their current coping and adaptation mechanisms to it.
The views expressed in the write-up are personal and do not re?ect the official policy or position of the organization.)