Monday 5
Community Flood Resilience and Development : From Theory to Practice
Frederic Grelot, Adriana Keating, Wei Liu, Reinhard Mechler
› 11:05 - 18:00 (6h55)
› Béziers
Development, Disasters, and Decision-making: Adaptive Governance for Rural and Urban Flooding in India
Navarun Varma  1, *@  , Ulka Kelkar  1, *@  , Arabinda Mishra  2, *@  
1 : The Energy and Resources Institute  (TERI)  -  Website
India Habitat Centre, Lodhi Road, New Delhi-110003 -  Inde
2 : TERI University  (TU)  -  Website
Plot No.-10, Institutional Area, Vasant Kunj, New Delhi-110070 -  Inde
* : Corresponding author

This paper describes the application of systems thinking to operationalize adaptive governance at the sub-national scale in India.

Our experience of working with Indian sub-national governments as they prepare their climate change action plans reveals that there is growing recognition of cross-sectoral issues in policy goals, but governance institutions are still working with a reductionist paradigm managing functions of their own sectors. Policymaking tends to be top-down without complete understanding of the context, social and ecological feedbacks and hence the uncertainties. But stakeholders outside the government lack the capacity to act as catalysts for the adoption of alternative management approaches.

This paper describes the process and outcomes of introducing government and non-government stakeholders to the concepts of systems thinking and adaptive governance. Responses to a common climate stress, viz. flooding, are considered in two different socio-economic, political and ecological contexts. One context is the megacity of Bangalore, in Karnataka State in south India, and the other context is the agrarian villages of Lakhimpur district, on the banks of the Brahmaputra River, in Assam State in north-east India. In Bangalore, high intensity rainfall causes urban flooding due to inadequate drainage and unplanned development in lake beds and low-lying areas. In Lakhimpur, repeated floods due to breaching of the earthen embankments prompted the construction of a geo-textile embankment in one of the locations. But the agro-ecological regime has completely changed from paddy fields to sand deposited wastelands. Thus, in the Lakhimpur context an ecological crisis has occurred but steps towards a planned transformation in governance are not observed. On the other hand, Bangalore is increasingly becoming vulnerable to floods but steps towards required transition in governance for designing resilient options are missing.

Multi-disciplinary and multi-sectoral groups of stakeholders used group modeling techniques to delineate drivers of flood, design responses to it and negotiate for a solution. The exercise illustrated the relevance of deliberation over, not only plausible impacts of environment change process but also, response feedbacks for influencing mind-sets. The process led to the understanding of the role of key factors like trust, emergence of networks and leadership for triggering change in management approaches. But the type and influence of each of the factors towards a common approach for intervention depended on the context of development. Thus, this creates an insight for the type of flexibility required within the institutional framework for flood response in India. The replication of this approach can help build capacity among policymakers, practitioners, and researchers to foster greater appreciation of the dynamic complexities inherent within social-ecological systems instead of striving towards deterministic results of risks and vulnerabilities.


Online user: 1 RSS Feed