Resilience in Asian Cities: A Rockefeller Appraisal

The Rockefeller Foundation’s Asian Cities Climate Change Resilience Network (ACCCRN) began as a partnership in 2008 to help 10 major cities in India, Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam better withstand the impacts of climate change. After seven years of funding new approaches to urban planning and implementation, how effective has ACCCRN been? How much has resilience improved?

Several Rockefeller staffers asked that question in a recent post on the foundation's blog, "Are We Resilient Yet?" 

From the start, the hardest aspect of the program was to quantify results, a difficult task in the social sciences. One place where hard numbers exist is in Da Nang, one of the major ports in Vietnam. There, ACCCRN backed a plan to offer loans to 244 families to improve the resistance of their homes to storms and flooding. Not long after the houses were upgraded, Typhoon Nari hit in October of 2013. Prior to striking Vietnam, the storm hit the Philippines, killing 15 people with five missing. In Vietnam, five people were killed. Of homes that were upgraded, 230 houses were left intact. A byproduct of the effort was that the loan program was run by a local woman’s union, which became a forum for people to share information and improve other aspects of their lives. One unforeseen benefit of the ACCCRN program in Da Nang was that it built social cohesion.

In the Indian city of Indore, two lakes in the city have been cleaned and restored along with an aeration and water treatment system to provide drinking water. The lakes were originally cleaned to act as a backup water supply during droughts, but access to the drinking water improved lives there today, since the population no longer had to depend on water trucked in by tanker. Additionally, the lakes were stocked with fish. Fisherman soon started eating or selling their catch, providing an economic boost to the local, mostly poor population.

ACCCRN showed that innovative approaches to urban planning and architecture to enhance urban climate change resilience provided collateral benefits such as increasing the ability of households to cope with unforeseen shocks and stresses. Another advantage was developing better coordination between stakeholders. Still, there are shortcomings in measurements, so it remains important to develop methodologies to measure the effectiveness of the steps taken to increase resilience so that funds and efforts are better targeted.

ACCCRN has recently expanded to 50 cities adding Bangladesh and the Philippines to the mix. Why is ACCCRN dedicated to cities? That’s where most of the world’s population now lives and where the poor are concentrated as well. In just 15 years, 41 cities will have populations of more than 10 million. According to the United Nations, two-thirds of the world’s population will become urban dwellers in the 2050s. “Managing urban areas has become one of the most important development challenges of the 21st century,” said John Wilmoth, Director of UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs Population Division.

Clearly, much more needs to be done to address the effects of climate change. Any organization looking to participate in ACCCRN should look for tips on our Asian Cities Climate Change Resilience Network page.