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World needs to learn from Pune on climate change plans, says report

On the Mula: The city of Pune has a population of nearly 5 million people and is located at the confluence of the Mutha, Mula and Pavana rivers. It has been affected by several severe floods over the last six decades. Photo: Y Ramakrishna Reddy / flickr

The example of Pune has been cited as a classic case study for making cities resilient by investing in and maintaining critical infrastructure that reduces risk, such as flood drainage, adjusted where needed to cope with climate change.

The initiative was driven jointly by the elected municipal government, the municipal commissioner and Alert (active citizen groups), and involves many different city departments. It demonstrates that local governments can prepare for climate change by reducing and managing the local factors that lead to disasters.

The case study has been cited in the World Disasters Report, released by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) on Tuesday. The report provides a ten-point checklist for local governments to make cities resilient to disasters. A key finding of the report is that between one-third and one-half of the population of most cities in low- and middle-income nations live in informal settlements. It is common in such cities for local authorities to refuse to extend to them all the infrastructure and essential services that do so much to reduce disaster risk. Much of this urban population is also particularly exposed to the consequences of climate change.

'Making cities resilient', the 2010–2011 World Disaster Reduction campaign, addresses issues of local governance and urban risk while drawing upon previous United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UNISDR)campaigns for safer schools and hospitals, as well as on the sustainable urbanisations principles developed in the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UNHabitat) World Urban Campaign 2009–2013.

Pune has a population of nearly 5 million people and is located at the confluence of the three rivers, Mutha, Mula and Pavana. It has been affected by several severe floods over the last six decades, the most significant being the 1961 flood that involved a major dam failure. Anticipating an increased frequency of floods owing to climate change, and in order to reduce its carbon footprint, the city authorities developed a comprehensive climate change adaptation and mitigation plan.

A systematic citywide plan of practical action to reduce flooding was implemented. A first step was to assess the flood risks by analysing hourly rainfall intensity and examining the likely changes in impacts in low lying areas and places where natural drainage was blocked by construction of houses or by roads without adequate bridges. A detailed city drainage map was developed.

The plan introduced structural and planning measures for restoring natural drainage, widening streams, extending bridges and applying natural soil infiltration methodologies. Watershed conservation techniques such as afforestation and building small earthen check dams were undertaken in the hilly zone. Property tax incentives were provided to encourage households to recycle wastewater or use rainwater harvesting by storing run off from their roofs for domestic use. These efforts were complemented by improvements in flood monitoring and warning systems and social protection for affected families.

Ten essentials for making cities resilient

  1. Put in place organisation and coordination to understand and reduce disaster risk, based on participation of citizen groups and civil society. Build local alliances. Ensure that all departments understand their role in disaster risk reduction and preparedness.
  2. Assign a budget for disaster risk reduction and provide incentives for homeowners, low-income families, communities, businesses and the public sector to invest in reducing the risks they face.
  3. Maintain up-to-date data on hazards and vulnerabilities, prepare risk assessments and use these as the basis for urban development plans and decisions. Ensure that this information and the plans for your city’s resilience are readily available to the public and fully discussed with them.
  4. Invest in and maintain critical infrastructure that reduces risk, such as flood drainage, adjusted where needed to cope with climate change.
  5. Assess the safety of all schools and health facilities and upgrade these as necessary.
  6. Apply and enforce realistic, risk-compliant building regulations and land use planning principles. Identify safe land for low-income citizens and develop, upgrading of informal settlements, wherever feasible.
  7. Ensure education programmes and training on disaster risk reduction are in place in schools and local communities.
  8. Protect ecosystems and natural buffers to mitigate floods, storm surges and other hazards to which your city may be vulnerable. Adapt to climate change by building on good risk reduction practices.
  9. Install early warning systems and emergency management capacities in your city and hold regular public preparedness drills.
  10. After any disaster, ensure that the needs of the survivors are placed at the centre of reconstruction with support for them and their community organisations to design and help implement responses, including rebuilding homes and livelihoods.

Note: The Pune Municipal Corporation website is one of the best officialdom websites I have seen. Neat, informative, and considerably transparent.

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