Workshop series> Unpacking Urban-ism: Are Southern Cities adapting to Climate Change?


Date: 07-08-2015
Location: Indian Institute of Human Settlements(IIHS), Bengaluru, India
Brief Description:
In this master class, Sumetee Gajjar, contributing author of Chapter 8 of Fifth Assessment Report of the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change), will share adaptation research and practice from 4 Southern Cities (Durban and Cape Town in South Africa, Dar es Salaam in Zanzibar and Mexico City) using a city systems framework. Learners will be encouraged to extend this framework to Bangalore and reflect upon the merits and challenges of applying such a frame to motivate climate adaptation in Indian cities.

Key Learning Outcome

– A systems framework for understanding the vulnerability of cities
– Examples of adaptation practice in Southern Cities
– Challenges in adopting a systems framework for climate adaptation in Indian cities
Click here to read detailed description of the event.

Event summary

Despite the heavy rain, almost all of the registered participant were present in the workshop. At the start, we were provided an idea of the work happening at IIHS. IIHS is trying to understand how cities are working as a system.

Instructor then took over and started her presentation.The initial hour was more about understanding social ecological systems, the noosystem framework and other key themes related to the sustainability of the city. It was very clear to us, how it is like to have cities being looked like a system. A system in which many different organizations, institutions and human play an active role towards the sustainable development. We have also seen the limitations of this system, especially in defining boundaries for a particular city.

Cities, can be viewed as both open and closed systems because they have within them nested sets of partially closed systems, and as unit exchange of energy and materials with the larger environment. The future challenges cities face are a compounds effect of direct impacts (flooding), indirect impact(loss of essential assets, and pre-existing vulnerabilities (induced due to various factors -lack of services, infrastructure).

Thereafter, we were introduced to the concept of Urban Metabolism (UM) and the current problems faced by any big metropolis. It has highlighted the need for different systems to talk to each other and work together to solve the problems.

In the second half of the event, after the break for over 20 minutes, instructors talked about 4 different cities and their climate change policies.

First among them was Durban, a city in South Africa. Author has brought forward her experience in describing climatic and non-climatic risks faced by this city. She has also highlighted the social issues associated in dealing with such risks. Although, city of Durban has lot of knowledge base in measuring the impact, the lack of skilled manpower and funds crunch is hindering their systematic approach of solving problems.

Second city was Mexico City(capital of Mexico). In this city,the planning was more towards the mitigation side as compared to Durban, where planning was also towards adapting to the situation. Majority of the current city was earlier a lake. The plan of the Mexico city climate change commission, involves development of knowledge framework and connecting different stakeholders for the number of projects. A handout was given to the participants describing details of the proposed plan of action.

Third city was Dar Es Salaam, which is situated on the eastern coast of Africa. The city has around 60%-70% informal settlements with lack of access to pure water, sewerage lines and paved roads. With the migration of people from rural areas to this city will not stop in near future,the solution of all the existing problems will be very complex. It requires all the concerned systems to sit together and work together.

Fourth city was none other than Namma Bengaluru. Instructor allowed us to form a group among ourselves and discuss about the situation of Bengaluru. We have spent some time in discussing the current problems of Bengaluru. They included traffic congestion, lack of pure water, lack of waste disposal mechanism to name a few. Afterwards, each of the groups have presented their own findings to everyone.

After working directly on Climate Change and indirectly with Urban planning from past few years, this event was a knowledge boost for me. All the other participants too were delighted to see that there is a possibility to solve the problems of their own city, if all of the stakeholders come together and work together.

About the instructor

Sumetee Pahwa Gazzar is a consultant with IIHS and has worked as a design consultant in her early career in India. She worked as a policy and strategic development planning consultant and trainer for the South African public sector. She has taught strategic and development planning to municipal officials and worked on policy analysis of environmental, development and climate change regulations and legislation, systems analysis of business processes towards reduced emissions and waste streams, and city development strategies for sustainability.

More about her publications, academic profile can be read here.

More information:
Indian Institute of Human Settlements, Facebook page
Indian Institute of Human Settlements, website
Unpacking Urbanism: Are Southern Cities Adaptive to Climate Change, Facebook Page


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