Cities Provide Transformational Opportunity to Reduce Risk Accumulation
Vulnerability has received significant attention across disaster risk, climate and development literature, but there has been limited focus on a holistic approach for understanding risk particularly in urban areas. There is a need for scientific identification of locations where risk is concentrated so that policies and investment can be targeted towards specific factors that contribute to risk. The key objective of this paper is to assess and interpret the spatial distribution of risk among urban areas in India. We attempt to:
(i) develop a composite risk index for urban areas using spatial and quantitative indicators
(ii) identify key urban areas in India where risk is concentrated, and the aspects that contribute to this risk in each and
(iii) interpret the results for select cities that are being prioritized for large investments through centrally sponsored schemes.
The research builds on risk and resilience literature and some fundamental risk equations. Through the analysis of data for multiple hazards and urban agglomeration extents, we find that 76 per cent of the Indian population is exposed to high-to-medium hazard risk, of which nearly 30 per cent lives in 0.1 million-plus cities. 121 cities identified face high multidimensional composite risk. 36 of them exhibit high composite risk despite relatively low hazard incidence, including several small and medium-sized towns—owing either to their high vulnerability or lack of coping capacities. This paper also illustrates the use of disaggregated risk variables for select cities under India’s Smart Cities Mission, to inform policy interventions and gaining holistic developmental outcomes.