In its centenary year in 2013, the Rockefeller Foundation announced the 100 Resilient Cities project with a $100 million commitment to build urban resilience worldwide.
It has already selected 67 cities and from India, Chennai, Bengaluru and Surat figure in that list.
Explaining the project, Michael Berkowitz, managing director, 100 Resilient Cities, said in an interview to The Hindu on Friday that it’s built on two ideas. One is that cities are complex ecosystems and have a hard time organising themselves around what their key challenges are and the second is that too often the cities don’t access the resources or best practices efficiently enough. “What we are going to do for the 100 cities is provide four interventions that try to address these two problems,” he said.
“The first thing is we are going to hire a Chief Resilience Officer (CRO) in each city, or a senior person to work in municipal government usually with mayors, or in the Indian context, probably more with the commissioners with the breadth and gravitas to work across the sectors and silos and engage with private sector and civil society and with other levels of governments and at the State and national level, to promote and coordinate on the resilience agenda,” he explained.
The second thing is to help cities put together a resilience strategy, and to put together a risk analysis to understand what the city is doing, is it doing it well enough, what are the key objectives for building resilience and initiatives to support that. The project focusses on urbanisation, globalisation and climate change and how they affect cities.
He said there is a broad view of what makes a city resilient or not but ultimately “we get cities to focus on doing certain things.” In New York, for instance, they have very good infrastructure but it’s becoming a city of haves and have nots, a racially divided city, and community cohesion is a key element, he pointed out. “In New York we will probably focus on cohesion, equity and all those issues — other cities might want to focus on infrastructure or some balance specially in the Indian context,” he said.
In India the focus could be different. “Bangalore used to be a city of 1,600 lakes connected by underground aquifers and now because of all that development, it’s down to a quarter of that. When the rains come you get flooding and water logging and in the dry season you get no water and have to import it. That might be a priority in resilience building and how to clean up the water systems,” he said.
Cities will also get access to a platform of resources they can tap into. So you can get information on everything from big data analytics, infrastructure, databases, economic risk analysis and steps to mitigate them, handling natural disasters, cyber security and so on, he said. “This week we are working with consortia that put together a brainstorming methodology that helps cities solve their resilience problem — it’s called the “Resilience Garage”. It’s called a garage because you take big resilience challenges and put it up on the stand and tinker under a hood, like you might under a car,” he added.
Surat is taking part in that on Saturday, primarily focusing on public health and development challenges. The garage has flown in experts from all over who are going to provide some best practices and advice.