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Future Proofing Indian Cities

Project Reference: TAAS-0037

The challenge of how to promote growth and poverty alleviation while avoiding irreversible and costly environmental damage will largely be played out in cities in Asia and Africa. These cities continue to have significant numbers of people living in poverty and are particularly vulnerable to climate hazards such as flooding and cyclones and to the risks associated with unsustainable high carbon, high energy use pathways.

Atkins have developed a new integrated approach to urban development – Future Proofing Cities (FPCs) – focused on helping cities in the developing world respond to the risks associated with climate change and resource scarcities in way which reduces urban poverty and catalyses economic development.

As part of the process of developing the approach, 59 Indian cities were assessed based on the environmental risks to their economic and social prosperity. This analysis showed that Indian cities face a wide range of environmental risks from climate hazards (e.g. flooding) to the risks associated with locking in unsuitable high carbon, high energy urban infrastructure (e.g. energy security, congestion, air pollution, future carbon price risks). The analysis also shows that cities in India remain highly vulnerable to these risks. Within the 59 cities assessed, our estimates suggest nearly 70 million people still live in multidimensional poverty, leaving a significant number of people highly vulnerable to the stresses and shocks associated with climate hazards, resource scarcities, and degradation of ecosystems on urban fringes such as forests.

In this CDKN supported project, Atkins and partners University College London (UCL), the Dhan Foundation and Indian Institute of Human Settlements (IIHS) will work closely with city and local stakeholders to apply and test the Future Proofing Cities approach for two cities in India: Bangalore and Madurai. The objective of the project is to support the development of future proofed urban development strategies and investment plans in Bangalore and Madurai. The longer term objective is to reduce urban poverty and catalyse economic development in both cities by supporting the identification and implementation of investments which generate environmental, social, and economic benefits.

Through piloting the approach, the wider project objectives are to:

  • Demonstrate to other cities approaches and lessons for future proofing their urban development
  • Inform the scaling up and deployment of international financing for climate change

Key outcomes of the project will be:

  • An improved evidence base on the range of environmental risks and responses which can generate wider environmental, social and economic benefits within the cities.
  • Improved awareness and capacity in each city to respond to risks.
  • Improved coordination, collaboration and mobilisation of key city stakeholders in identifying and developing options for future proofing.

Working with the city authorities, the team will produce the following outputs:

Top level urban diagnostic for each city covering:

  • The risks from climate hazards, resource scarcities in the wider urban catchment,9 and carbon/energy use
  • The vulnerability of people and physical infrastructure to those risks
  • The capacity of stakeholders and institutions within the city to respond to risks
  • Potential priorities for future proofing

Summary action plan for future proofing for each city covering:

  • Options for future proofing focused on 2 priorities in each city determined in partnership with stakeholders
  • An assessment of the environmental, social, and economic impacts and ease of implementation of shortlisted options
  • Approaches to financing and delivery, including identifying climate finance sources

Summary report on Future Proofing Cities in India highlighting how a Future Proofing approach can assist other Indian cities in developing future proofed investment and delivery programmes

Knowledge management activities embedded throughout the project to disseminate the findings of the project to City, State (Karnataka and Tamil Nadu), national, and international stakeholders.

Read the Project Brochure to learn more about the scope and design of the project.


CDKN Funding: GBP 450,000

CDKN Project Manager: Elizabeth Colebourn

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Project Highlights

atkins madurai 1

FEATURE: ‘Water Walks’ in Madurai

Janet Miller (Atkins), Jayaraj Sundaresan, (UCL), and A. Madhan Kumar, (Dhan Foundation) discuss how ‘Water Walks’ along Madurai’s rivers are opening minds and prompting collective decision-making for ‘future proofing’ the city