Climate Change Adaptation in Indian Cities: A Review of Existing Actions and Spaces for Triple Wins

Abstract

Cities are at the forefront of climate action as never before: they concentrate risk but also provide opportunities to innovate. Situated at the crossroads of extensive urbanization, unequal development, and high climate vulnerability, Indian cities face an urgent imperative to adapt to current and projected climate change impacts. While a global assessment of urban adaptation notes, “of 43 Indian cities…we found no examples of municipal government adaptation being reported” (Araos et al., 2016: 380), Indian cities are increasingly reporting various planned and autonomous actions that have adaptation co-benefits. We review city plans and peer reviewed and gray literature to examine adaptation action in 53 Indian cities with a population of >1 million. We find: (1) approximately half of these cities report adaptation actions, 67% of which are in the implementation phase; (2) adaptation is typically implemented through sectoral projects focusing on particular risks; (3) some interventions have synergies with sustainable development and mitigation, representing opportunities for co-benefits; and (4) there remain gaps in using cityscale risk assessments to inform adaptation action. Four illustrative examples (Ahmedabad, Surat, Coimbatore, and Mumbai) highlight how different approaches (mainstreaming vs. strategic adaptation; reactive vs. planned adaptation) have different implications on risk management.