How are Indian cities preparing for the risks of climate change?
India is soon to be the most populous country in the world. It is also one of the most vulnerable countries when it comes to climate risks. With a huge percentage of the country living in poverty, increasingly congested infrastructure, and many people living in coastal megacities, India is facing a growing challenge in climate adaptation.
For cities like Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata, preparing for sea level rise is a challenge at the intersection of engineering and planning, activism and art, science and culture. Confronting the issues of overpopulation and climate risk in India forces us to grapple with the complexity of South Asia’s history, colonization, and modern cultural realities that continue to permeate institutions in the country.
While India is a rapidly developing region of the world with its share of challenges, it is also an incredibly resourceful, dynamic, and successful country. On this program we will meet with professional experts and local communities to explore sustainability from a variety of perspectives.
We will travel across India (or focus on one or two case study cities) to investigate the opportunity of climate adaptation in urban areas. We will also spend time unpacking the cultural context with visits to temples, neighborhoods, markets, government projects, and even business hubs. We will leave with a greater understanding of the complexity of urban issues in developing cities, and some creative ideas that innovators in India are using to combat the impacts of climate change.
The program will be centered on Mumbai, India’s coastal megacity and one of the most dynamic cities on the planet. In Mumbai we will explore the history of water as we visit the Tank Well in Banganga and traverse Colaba Causeway, a former bridge now on some of the most important land in the city.
We will visit coastal areas under threat and meet with local engineers and government officers working on climate adaptation in the city. We will then head to some of the growing wards in the suburban district. Here we will meet with local social entrepreneurs working on their own ideas for climate change and mitigation. We will also take time to visit international organizations based in Mumbai that are tackling resource and climate change issues across India.
From Mumbai we will continue South to the sprawling city of Chennai. Chennai, the capital and largest city of Tamil Nadu in South India, is totally different from Mumbai. The different language, food, and energy will help us understand the complexity of India as a multi-cultural nation.
In Chennai we will take a similar approach to Mumbai as we meet with local experts, business leaders, and government representatives in our investigation of the ways this megacity is preparing for what’s next.
Pondicherry and Auroville
Chennai is a jumping off point for an overnight trip South of Pondicherry, the center of French India and another small city with a totally different feel and energy. From Pondicherry we will head to nearby Auroville -- an experimental city of global living that has its own values of sustainability.
Optional New Delhi Addition
We can add a visit to Delhi at the end of the program to further our objective as we meet with national government representatives, learn about other facets of the country’s history, have some incredible North Indian food, and take a day trip to the Taj Mahal.
As Mumbai is a dynamic city with plenty of opportunity, these urban issues could be explored in just one city with a more in-depth focus, or in other cities in India. We could run a version of this program in Kolkata in the West, or Kochi in Kerala as well. We can also modify the theme to look at urban adaptation more broadly and include stops in cities like Bangalore or Hyderabad.
Finally, we have often included 2-3 nights at the end of our India programs to arrange a visit to the key sites in Delhi and a day trip to Agra and the Taj Mahal!