Human Face of Climate Change: From Risk to Resilience in Indian Cities

What impact does climate variablity have on people living in informal settlements in Indian cities? We look at the cases of Delhi, Panjim and Agra, to identify the social determinants of urban resilience in informal settlements.

Most conversations on climate change focus on India's commitments to international agreements, and the innovation and technology strategies required to meet targets. Using ethnographic methods, we take a bottom-up approach in this project, focusing on the impact of climate variability in informal settlements in India. In particular, we highlight the socio-economic factors that influence how communities are both effected by, and respond to, climate variability.

This report, Social Vulnerability in Informal Settlements, presents a synthesis of the case studies, focusing on the social determinants of resilience in informal settlements.

This is accompanied by a policy brief, An Agenda for Policy and Action, which outlines the need to secure economic wellbeing; provide livelihood opportunities; secure 'legal' identity; enable access to urban services;secure access to natural resources; and build basic infrastructure in informal settlements in Urban India.

Details of the case study can be found in A Tale of Two Cities: Findings from Agra, Delhi, and Panjim.

New Delhi

Unauthorised and unregulated occupations of agricultural and marginal land around the urban villages of Hauz Rani and Khirki — surrounded by intensive urban growth — are experiencing intense heat island effect, depletion and contamination of ground water. The immediate impacts are on health and availability of potable water, flooding during monsoons and unseasonal storms. In the medium term, there is contamination of ground water and rationed piped water scarcity. In the long term, slum clusters in low land would be untenable — due to locational advantages, demographic pressures drive build up space to oversaturation, compounding heat stress during peak summers.


About 50 informal settlements among migrant communities are settled in Agra city. They continue to grow in the “buffer” zone of Yamuna river basin within the municipal limits of the city. The short and the medium-term impacts include: variation in the intensity of flow of the Yamuna every season flooding of the buffer zone in Agra because of emergency release of water during extreme precipitation tributary drainage channels carrying untreated waste-water from the city toward informal settlements stagnation of untreated waste-water at times of high water level in the river. In the long term, upstream management of the river will have local consequences. In the absence of a river basin development controls regime, large populations that chose the riverbank for habitation will be subject to displacement, relocation or progressive deterioration of environmental services.


Climate change induced threats in city of Panaji and in Goa more generally could, include sea level rise, flooding due to changes in rainfall patterns and intensity, and coastal erosion of beaches. Panaji is prone to sudden flooding due to heavy rains, leading to disruption in urban services power. Coastal communities, which depend on coastal ecosystems for resources and livelihoods, are especially vulnerable to the impacts of climate change involving: the loss of beach- space and coastal commons, loss of livelihoods, flooding of settlements, deteriorating health and living conditions, and eventually displacement. The watersheds of the Mondovi river basin around

Panaji is both unique and highly vulnerable to climate impacts. Rapid urbanization has affected drainage in the unique, coastal, estuarine agro-system of khazan lands around Panjim and reduced resilience of communities.


Future Cities


Vikrom Mathur

Vikrom believes that interdisciplinary research on cultural attitudes towards nature and technology need to inform contemporary debates on societal futures. His research interests include the governance of emerging technologies, social and cultural dimensions of technological transitions, cultural perceptions of environmental risk, dynamics between science and policy, and Cultural Theory. He is currently setting up India’s first Urban Living Lab in Panjim as a platform to design, test and fine-tune socio-technical innovation in local urban spaces. He has a PhD from the Institute of Science, Society, and Innovation at the University of Oxford.

Pulkit Mogha

Pulkit Mogha is a former Research Associate with Tandem Research