Get real
The global discourse on climate resilient cities has shown that it is possible to minimise risks
Incessant rain and untimely snowfall that led to flood-like situations and brought life to a standstill in Srinagar and other parts of Kashmir Valley last week, was a grim reminder of the devastation caused by the deluge in 2014.
Looking at recent data, one will find that Srinagar is not the only city that is facing recurring climate related disasters. Mumbai, Chennai, Visakhapatnam, Surat, Bhopal, Gurugram and many other cities are facing flood-like situations year after year due to very high rainfall, cyclones and storm surges.
The question that arises is whether we should perceive them as ‘an act of God’ and only respond to them once they have caused havoc in their wake or is there something that can be done to mitigate the risks and impacts before they occur.
The direct physical risks that cities face due to climate change include extreme rainfall, heat wave and drought and increased frequency and intensity of tropical cyclones.
As urban systems are interlinked, the damage and destruction of infrastructure in the event of extreme events leads to a complete breakdown in the city.
Research has shown that though the loss of life caused by extreme events has come down over the years owing to better forecasts, early warning systems and timely evacuation measures, the extent of loss and damage to infrastructure assets has risen.

Cyclone Hudhud that struck the east coast of India in October, 2014, resulted in an estimated loss of Rs 90,000 crore to the Visakhapatnam area.
Similarly, the flood in Jammu & Kashmir in September 2014 caused a total damage of Rs 6,000 crore. Landslides triggered by heavy rainfall damaged roads, bridges, buildings and crops.
Earlier in 2005, floods in Mumbai caused stoppage of entire commercial, trading, and industrial activity for days. The floods had caused a direct loss of about Rs 550 crores.
More alarming, according to climate scientists, is the frequency and intensity of such extreme events, which are likely to increase in the future.
Given unplanned development and poorly managed infrastructure services in our cities, their vulnerability would further aggravate.

Therefore, there is a greater
urgency to shift from a
‘reactive’ to a ‘proactive’ approach to disaster risk reduction and building climate resilient infrastructure services.
Though some of the ‘Smart Cities’ in India, Vishakhapatnam, Dharamshala, Panaji, Bhubaneswar and others, do touch upon climate risks as part of their Smart Cities proposals, there is a need to mainstream resilience building in urban planning and management frameworks to replicate the process and ensure effective outcomes.
The global discourse on climate resilient cities has shown that it is possible to minimise such risks through a robust scientific information base and climate-sensitive urban planning and infrastructure development.
Though there is no single solution that can be applied to all cities across the board because of varied development contexts, climate risks and geographical settings, the process could start with a few typical steps.
These include development of temporal and spatial data bases of infrastructure services in the city, conducting city level and regional climate vulnerability assessments for identification of vulnerable hotspots, communities and assets and identification of appropriate resilience building measures both for immediate and long-term action.
At the same time, it is equally important to integrate climate considerations in development policies, regulations and bye-laws, sensitise and build capacities of policy-makers, urban planners and decision-makers and provide financial outlays in existing schemes at various levels for building climate resilient smart cities in India.

(The writer is a Fellow, Sustainable Habitat Program and convenor, Centre for Urban Planning and Governance at TERI. Views
are personal)