Equitable Resilience in Climate Change: The case of climate-induced displacement in Chennai and Kerala

This project seeks to increase an understanding of equitable dimensions of resilience, especially how grassroots communities experience displacement caused by climatic events. The focus in our study is on environment-induced displacement, connected with the 2015 floods in Chennai, and the 2018 floods in Kerala, India. The South Indian states are among the most urbanized in India, and Tamil Nadu, of which Chennai is the capital, is India’s most urbanized. Thus, a study of the floods in these areas will likely tell us a lot about how urban planning, climatic conditions and social vulnerability combine to produce inequitable impacts in some of the most challenging conditions in the world. The floods in 2015 and 2018 raised concerns about the lack of environmental and natural resource planning, inadequate urban design, and infrastructure and public health mismanagement: realities that are revealed “when climate change meets poor urban planning”[1]. There is also a paucity of data about the lives of displaced populations, such as where they end up, the conditions they face post-displacement, and opportunities that are afforded by way of resettlement, rehabilitation, or restitution. More broadly we seek to insert a concern about displacement and resettlement into an understanding of equitable resilience. This is increasingly important, considering that from January to June 2018 alone, 373,000 individuals were displaced from monsoon floods in India [2]. A consistent message in the recent IPCC reports [3] is that the impact of climate change is likely to be among greatest in South Asia and Southeast Asia, and thus our study intends to be a major contribution to equitable resilience.

This research is funded by 2019 Norman B. Leventhal Center for Advanced Urbanism Seed Grant.

Image: Aerial view of Chennai during floods 2015 (Credit: Veethika).

Spring 2019