Enabling Socio-Ecological Resilience in the Global South

Marcin Dabrowski teamed up with  Nilofer Tajuddin – our former Planning Complex Cities studio student and currently an associate at Resilient Cities Network – to co-write a paper looking into the challenge of building resilience in Chennai, India. The paper has been published in Open Access format in Sustainability and can be found here. It deserves attention because it brings new empirical evidence, co-created with local stakeholders in Chennai, a city which is already at the forefront of the battle with the climate change impacts, and because it connects a multi-level perspective needed to coordinate resilience action across scales to a socio-ecological perspective, emphasising the need for an increased awareness among communities and the role of local practices and conditions for building resilience from the bottom up.

Abstract: Addressing climate change adaptation in the cities of the Global South is crucial as they are the most at risk and, arguably, the least capable of coping with it due to their rapid expansion, informal development, and limited institutional capacity. This paper explores this challenge in the case of Chennai, India, a city which, in recent years, has faced several climate related disasters, including floods. Building on an innovative combination of research methods (policy documents analysis, stakeholder interviews, and a community workshop), the study analyses the barriers and explores potentials for operationalising socio-ecological resilience in Chennai in the face of an ongoing conflict between rapid urbanisation and the natural water system, compromising the region’s hydrological capacity and resilience to flooding. In particular, drawing on the notion of evolutionary resilience and multi-level approach, the paper investigates (1) the scope for developing an integrated vision for resilience of the Chennai region (macro level); (2) the presence and the capacity of institutions to connect the different stakeholders and mediate their interests (meso level); and (3) the barriers and potentials developing local adaptation strategies in a bottom-up manner (micro level). The study sheds light on the under-researched issue of socio-ecological resilience in Chennai, while identifying potentials for implementing it through a combination of top down and bottom-up approaches, which in turn provides useful lessons for planning for resilience in other cities in the Global South.

Enjoy reading!

Shrinking of the Pallikaranai Wetlands—Left September 2002, Right September 2016. Source: Google Earth

Tajuddin, N., & Dąbrowski, M. (2021). Enabling Socio-Ecological Resilience in the Global South: Insights from Chennai, India. Sustainability13(19), 10522.