Great cities have crumbled, unable to cope with the onslaught of expansion and demographic growth. They now also have climate change to reckon with. So, while unprecedented disruptions can strike Indian cities at any hour, they are not prepared to face them. To remedy this situation, the Rockefeller Foundation has chosen four cities in India — Surat, Chennai, Pune and Jaipur — as part of its 100 Resilient Cities (100RC) initiative to build resilience into cities across the world.
The 100RC programme lists urbanisation, lack of adequate planning, globalisation and climate change as the common problems these cities face. “Cities in Asia-Pacific are rushing to meet minimum standards in their infrastructure projects. In doing so, they aren’t considering resilience, which leaves them undefended against shocks and stresses in the future and their newest, poorest citizens pay a disproportionately high price,” notes the 100RC research.
The programme is providing funds for a chief resilience officer in each member city to lead the resilience efforts, resources for drafting a resilience strategy, access to private sector, public sector, academic, and NGO resilience tools, and membership in a global network of peer cities to share best practices. Surat was off the block first. Chennai has started work on the project. Pune has just got a Chief Resilience Officer and a Resilience Office in place and will soon start work. Next in line is Jaipur.
Surat has been experiencing rapid industrialisation but is also a climate change-affected city, having experienced 23 floods in the last 100 years. Surat and 100RC’s urban resilience strategy proposes concrete actions for improved mobility, increased access to affordable housing, improved water supply, and balanced economic growth.
Chennai went through an onboarding process to prepare itself for a change in its functioning — it was hit by severe floods in 2005 and 2015 and has become the fourth most populous metropolitan area in the world on account of recent migration.
Pune, with its strong manufacturing base and growing IT and education sectors, has seen its transportation system come under stress. It is also an earthquake-prone city. Pune’s Chief Resilience Officer (CRO) – the CRO’s salary for three years is paid for by the foundation (around $3 million limit depending on the city) — will work with the local government body to help prepare it for future challenges.
As for Jaipur, while it is one of the oldest planned cities, rapid population growth and unplanned development have created infrastructure challenges with gridlocked traffic and underdeveloped transportation systems.
The Pune Municipal Commissioner, Kunal Kumar, who is representing India in the City Leader Advisory Committee of the 100RC programme, says it offers cities a great platform to proof themselves against potential shocks and stress.
“Pune will develop a roadmap for resilience in six to nine months by engaging with a wide range of stakeholders and identifying cities’ unique resilience priorities, resulting in an actionable set of initiatives,” he says.
Saurabh Gaidhani, associate director at 100RC, says “Pune, Chennai, Surat and Jaipur will be able to learn from their global peers as well as each other and can become a role model for other cities. For example, Surat’s health systems can be a model for others to emulate.”