100 Resilient Cities


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From a cluster of fishing villages in the 16th Century to the fourth largest metropolitan area in India today, Chennai has come a long way.

The city’s economy boasts a GDP of $58 billion and a growth rate of 6%. Chennai’s economy has diversified substantially over the past two decades. It now includes the automobile and Information Technology industries, the healthcare industry, financial services, post-secondary educational institutions and a manufacturing sector producing various types of hardware. The city is a key player in the state and national economies: it contributes 60% to Tamil Nadu’s manufacturing sector and produces 60% of India’s automotive exports. Furthermore, as India’s ‘software as a service’ capital and the most preferred destination for
medical tourists from within India and abroad, Chennai has achieved important global status.

This trajectory of development and diversification has made the city vibrant and cosmopolitan. However, it has also invited a range of challenges, including uneven development, which has aggravated risks faced by vulnerable communities, rapid and unplanned growth, which has resulted in water body encroachment, waste mismanagement and an increased impact of natural disasters. Compounding all of this is the nature of Chennai’s governance system; the system tasked with addressing these myriad and interconnected challenges is characterized by multiple actors with overlapping and sometimes unclear mandates and jurisdictions.

This document offers a pathway for city leaders from government, civic and industrial sectors to collaborate and
guide their organizations to ensure the future resilience of Chennai citizens and infrastructure, both natural and manmade, to respond to key shocks and stresses in the city. The Resilient Strategy is driven by a collectively-defined vision to make Chennai enlightened, just and integrated through five missions that address the key challenge areas identified by stakeholders.

01 Healthy & Planned Urbanisation Urbanising responsibly

02 Water Systems Carving a resilient future around our water resources

03 Disaster Preparedness Making Chennai a prepared city

04 Governance Ecosystem Together, we lift Chennai

05 Vulnerable Communities Valuing the city's vulnerable

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Urbanising responsibly

A key Chennai resilience mission is to urbanise responsibly. Future growth needs to build city resilience to limit and respond to shocks and stresses such as floods, droughts, solid waste problems or encroachment. In order to do this, the city needs to pay urgent attention to scientific as well as socially and environmentally responsible planning. The following four goals will help achieve this mission:

  1. Fostering resilience thinking within the urban planning paradigm so that an integrated approach is used to address environmental concerns through policy and design
  2. Addressing solid waste related challenges more effectively
  3. Encouraging a more multi-stakeholder driven urban planning process
  4. Promoting transit-oriented development to make Chennai a well-connected, people and environment-friendly city

Mahindra World City

Photo: Mahindra World City


Carving a resilient future around our water resources

There is growing recognition of how water related challenges such as availability, affordability, pollution, flood mitigation, and ground water recharge are interconnected. Simultaneously, the city is beginning to recognize that droughts, temperature rise and sea level rise are longer term events that manifest over many years. Therefore, one of Chennai’s missions is to carve a resilient future around the city’s water resources. This entails more than bouncing back from water related disruptions; it involves building linkages and initiating integrated efforts on a continual basis, so that solutions to Chennai’s water problems are holistic and sustainable in the long run. Three specific goals will help achieve this mission:

  1. Fostering responsible water usage
  2. Giving primacy to water related challenges in urban design efforts
  3. Ensuring better coordinated efforts between public, private and civic agencies to restore and protect our water bodies (including the surviving erys)

Kapaleeshwarar Temple Tank

Photo: Cynthia van Elk - Water as Leverage


Making Chennai a prepared city

To minimise the loss and damage resulting from future disaster events, the city will earnestly focus on actions to strengthen its preparedness and work to reduce response time by focusing on the following four goals:

  1. Leveraging data and technology to cope with disasters more efficiently
  2. Specifically address challenges faced by vulnerable groups living in disaster prone areas
  3. Support small and medium scale businesses through a combination of economic and non-economic measures to help
    them cope better with disasters
  4. Build capacity across government and community to ensure everyone is better prepared in the event of disasters.

Chennai Floods 2015

Photo: Adithya Anand


Together, we lift Chennai

It is crucial that efforts to transform Chennai and render it more resilient to current and future shocks and stresses are led by government, civil society and industries together. The city will strengthen existing means and create new ones to garner buyin and active involvement from a wide range of stakeholders so that Chennai becomes a truly co-owned and co-managed city. The following goals will help achieve this mission, to lift Chennai together:

  1. Improving efficiency to handle resilience challenges by enabling knowledge transfer across government agencies
  2. Strengthening current practices of enforcement and monitoring
  3. Fostering an environment where government, citizens and market interests co-build the city’s resilience

Ripon Building

Photo: PlaneMad/Wiki


Valuing the city's vulnerable

Chennai must value its vulnerable communities by planning and managing the city in a way that specifically addresses their needs and concerns. This includes all vulnerable populations, including those defined in terms of their socio-economic attributes and those defined by other attributes including age, gender, profession or physical ability. This will be crucial for building resilience equitably. Three specific goals will help achieve this mission:

  1. Bringing diverse vulnerable communities into mainstream policy making by identifying the different groups and their
  2. Ensuring the integration of vulnerable groups into the urban fabric, while meeting basic needs for adequate housing
  3. Ensuring a more humane process of proximate resettlement of informal settlers when no other option exists

Elliot’s Beach

Photo: Aravindan Ganesan

Read Chennai's Resilience Strategy