Assessing Climate Change Risks and Contextual Vulnerability in Urban Areas of Semi-Arid India: The Case of Bangalore


The discourse on urban vulnerability over the last decade and a half has undergone substantial shifts prompted by differences in disciplinary orientations. This enables multiple framings and casual linkages, influencing the nature and scale of responses. This paper builds an understanding at the interface of cities and climate change, building on its multiple notions and the underlying risk character, each of which incrementally and over time influences the other. The paper reinstates the multiple climate change-urban linkages, disaggregating it into its various key components through a generic ‘urban risk framework’. In further contextualises this framework in the context of a fast-growing city, Bangalore, in a semi-arid ecosystem to demonstrate the range of risks and vulnerabilities that are both unique and generic to many other Indian cities. The paper argues that the bundle of risks and multi-dimensional vulnerabilities are shaped by geographies of location and growth trajectories. This paper underscores the existence of divers and complex dimensions of vulnerability—physical, social and institutional and establishes linkages with poor developmental outcomes. It establishes the various components of a given urban region that are exposed to varying intensities of cross interactions between climatic as well as non-climatic risks, but also vividly elucidates the ‘sensitivity’ as well as the capacity of internal components and processes to cope, that determine the level and intensity of impacts and persistence of differentiated  vulnerability. The paper proposes a nuanced approach towards addressing composite risks at urban scale, particularly in the context of semi-arid ecosystems, and argues in favour of responses that have the potential of addressing multiple challenges, and yielding benefits spanning across adaptation, mitigation and development objectives.