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India: The need for climate-resilient infrastructure in disaster-prone India

Legacy > Laws Of Surveillance  > India: The need for climate-resilient infrastructure in disaster-prone India

India: The need for climate-resilient infrastructure in disaster-prone India

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Climate change is undermining hard-earned development gains, trapping the poorest and most vulnerable in poverty, increasing malnutrition and exacerbating inequality.[1] The Covid-19 pandemic and economic crisis have been devastating, and as we support countries to respond to the ongoing crisis and build back, there is an urgent need to integrate climate and development strategies to deliver green, resilient, and inclusive development.[2]

In September 2023, India hosted 19 countries and the European Union for the G20 Summit, held in the national capital of Delhi. In light of its increasing environmental conscience, the country has taken various initiatives and set priorities for supporting globally inclusive development like the inclusion of ‘green growth’ as one of the seven priorities in the Union Budget 2023-24, which further sought to focus on a number of goals including ‘green
buildings’ and ‘green equipment’. To further these priorities during India’s presidency of the G20, which began in December 2022, the country has also been chairing the various working groups – including that of infrastructure investments – and has even established a new working group on disaster risk reduction (DRR), which will be carried forward by Brazil during its presidency from December 2023 onwards.

The establishment of the DRR group is a critical step in terms of managing the risky situation in which India has found itself when it comes to natural and man-made calamities. With the recent flash floods that caused an unfortunate loss to life and property, this working group may prove to be essential for the functioning of every nation as well as for sustainable

The DRR working group, to promote its various motives, has also set a few principles, one of which is the development of climate-resilient infrastructure (CRI). This term, while lacking a proper definition, refers to the construction of structures which are not only designed to withstand different disasters, but can also anticipate and adapt to them. In line with this development, the DRR working group stressed the importance of investing in disaster mitigation and strengthening public-private partnerships (PPP) to support the blending of infrastructure development with CRI.

The need for adaptation

Construction and infrastructure have repeatedly been held to be the backbone of every economy; it occupies a critical role for developing nations. It is thus vital for the industry to adapt to climatic conditions and simultaneously pursue active measures for disaster mitigation in order to facilitate a fast-paced growth with less (or ideally no) revenue loss.

India is among the world’s most disaster-prone countries, with a number of calamities striking 27 out of the 29 states at regular intervals.[3] Recently, the northern part of the country was witness to enormously high rainfall, which led to a series of flash floods that caused devastation and loss in many states, including the national capital of Delhi – where massive destruction to life and property in the city was caused when heavy rain caused the river Yamuna to overflow in May 2023.

This destruction is still ongoing: the entire state of Himachal Pradesh, situated in the Himalayan region, has been declared to be a Natural Calamity Affected Area. With a total revenue loss of approximately INR 100bn in these two states alone, the need for the
adaptation of CRI in the Indian construction sector has only deepened.

A study of certain reports on CRI

In 2018, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) published a policy paper dealing with the importance of CRI. The paper discussed how CRI possessed the potential of improving the reliability of service provisions, increasing asset life and protecting asset returns. It was also specified that the costs associated with this approach can be reduced by way of using flexible and adaptive approaches such as PPP. In the paper, OECD called for adaptation of stringent measures within the framework of various nations, wherein the tools for mainstreaming adaptation included spatial planning to redirect development away from high-risk areas, infrastructural policy appraisals, and regulatory and economic standards.[4]

Other than the aforementioned paper, various international organisations have been adamant
on their intention to promote CRI as a key concept to preserve the environment, while simultaneously aiding national development. Owing to the vulnerability of the country, many national organisations have also initiated work on understanding the ways in which CRI can
be used by the construction industry of the nation.

Mapping India’s vulnerability – a report by CEEW

IThe Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW), in collaboration with the Indian National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) published a report on the mapping of India’s vulnerability to disasters, including various district-level case studies, to understand the need for a climate resilient infrastructure.

As per the Report, 40 per cent of the Indian districts were found to have a swapping trend with three out of every four districts found to be extreme event hotspots.[5] On the basis of a detailed analysis, the CEEW recommended a series of five measures, including the integration of climate risk profiling within infrastructure planning (recommended to be
undertaken at an urgent pace) to enable India to lessen the devastation that is likely to be caused with an increase in the Earth’s temperature of 1.5 degrees Celsius.

By way of its recommendations, the CEEW has ultimately advocated for a substantial investment to be made in the development of climate risk-informed infrastructure, which has been further held to be a much-needed factor for the achievement of the US$5tn economy goal by the year 2025,[6] which was set by the government of India in its recent initiatives.

The Flood Affected Area Atlas

With the most recent disaster to strike India being a series of flash floods, the Flood Affected Area Atlas, published by the NDMA in association with the Indian Space Research Organisation in March 2023, has attained additional importance. Through this atlas, the aforementioned organisations conducted a detailed satellite study of the 15,750,723 flood-
affected areas of the nation in light of data collected between 1988 and 2022.

While the data in question focused on different types of floods, including flash floods, it specified that, owing to the great vulnerability exhibited by the nation in experiencing flood- like conditions, the report could be fruitful in understanding the pattern of floods before constructing structures – thus, reducing the substantial revenue loss caused by the increasing severity of disasters. A notable feature of this report was its ability to predict future floods in
various regions, including in Delhi.

The role of disaster risk financing and PPPs

In its final meeting in the coastal Indian state of Chennai, the DRR working group emphasised the need to strengthen PPPs and blended finance mechanisms for supporting CRI. The working group understood that, by strengthening the synergy between disaster risk financing (DRF) and CRI, countries will be able to prioritise national and global disaster preparedness, recovery, rehabilitation, and reconstruction mechanisms.[7]

There is no doubt that PPPs have emerged to be a successful model for the governments of developing nations to support infrastructure development, allowing private companies to undertake the construction for perks and reducing the financial burden on the country. Thus, the observation of the DRR working group, on holding this model to have an integral part in supporting CRI adaptation may be considered to be accurate.

On the other hand, DRF has been, time and again, held to be a crucial method for providing support to mitigate the loss caused through calamities. Many organisations provide DRF, including the World Bank and the Asian Infrastructure Development Bank.

Combining PPP with DRF may be an efficient way of increasing the pace at which countries like India attain infrastructure growth, while simultaneously supporting their individual goals of sustainability and climate mitigation.


As mentioned earlier, the G20 Summit took place in the national capital of Delhi in the month of September 2023. Only two months prior, many major parts of this state were victims of waterlogging and floods. At the time of writing, various parts of the country are still experiencing flash floods and extremely heavy rainfall, causing considerable loss of life and property.

While the Indian government has been working to control the situation and provide funds and relief to the states, it has also been struck with the realisation that there is a dire need to undertake measures which will aid in the mitigation of future losses caused by disasters. This realisation is also borne out by the establishment of the DRR working group under the Indian presidency of the G20.

While there are many possibilities for adaptation in which CRI values and concepts can be inculcated within the existing construction industry, the costs associated with such adaptation may be considered to be lessened in the aforementioned method of forming a nexus between PPP projects and DRFs. Such a nexus is, however, dependent on efficient adaptation, which is further subject to an adequate implementation of the initiatives being taken by the

End Notes:

[1] Climate Leadership in Action (World Bank Group, 2014), see www.worldbank.org/content/dam/Worldbank/document/Climate/climate2014- resilience-brief-091214.pdf, accessed 23 October 2023.

[2] Climate Change Action Plan I (World Bank Group, 2021), see https://openknowledge.worldbank.org/server/api/core/bitstreams/19f8b285-7c5b- 5312-8acd-d9628bac9e8e/content.

[3] ‘Disaster risk reduction’ (UNICEF), see www.unicef.org/india/what-we-do/disaster- risk- reduction#:~:text=India%20is%20among%20the% 0world’s,%2C%20landslides%2C %20floods%20and%20droughts, accessed 23 October 2023.

[4] Climate Resilient Infrastructure (OECD, 2018),
www.oecd.org/environment/cc/policy-perspectives-climate-resilient- infrastructure.pdf, accessed 23 October 2023.

[5] Abinash Mohanty & Shreya Wadhwan, Mapping India’s Climate Vulnerability, (CEEW, 2021), www.ceew.in/sites/default/files/ceew-study-on-climate-change- vulnerability-index-and-district-level-risk-assessment.pdf.

[6] Ministry of Commerce & Industry, Vision of a 5 Trillion Indian Economy, PIB (October 12, 2023, 2:29 P.M. IST), see https://pib.gov.in/Pressreleaseshare.aspx PRID=1549454.

[7] ‘Third and Final G20 Disaster Risk Reduction Working Group (DRRWG) meeting concludes in Chennai’ (G20), see www.g20.org/en/media-resources/press- releases/july-2023/drrwg/, accessed 23 October 2023.

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