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Partnerships for enhanced engagement in research (PEER) SCIENCE
Cycle 1 (2011 Deadline)

Institutional dynamics of adaptation to climate change and urbanization: analysis of rain-fed agricultural-urban lake systems in Bangalore, India 

PI: Harini Nagendra, Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment (ATREE)
U.S. Partner:  Tom Evans, Indiana University
Project Dates: May 2012 - November 2015

Project Overview 

Adaptation to climate change poses a substantial challenge in the often data-poor contexts of the developing world. This is especially so for fresh water resources, which will play an increasingly critical role in ensuring the sustainability of agricultural-urban systems. This project examines how institutions can facilitate adaptation to climate change and urbanization in the highly vulnerable, rain-fed, semi-arid agricultural-urban system of Bangalore. Major focus areas of concern to USAID are directly addressed, including climate change adaptation, coping strategies for water scarcity, and urbanization challenges. 

Summer Workshop Children

1-32 Summer Workshop Participants 2
A class picture from the workshop on lake conditions workshop in the summer of 2014 (Photo:Dr. Nagendra). Students from the lake conditions workshop in the summer of 2014 pose with their illustrations (Photo: Dr. Nagendra).

The study area examines a network of 65 lakes in southeastern Bangalore. Differences between lakes within and outside the city boundary provide useful contrasts to address the core questions. While both lake subsets have a similar exposure to climate change, the lakes outside the city exhibit greater institutional nestedness compared to lakes within the city, while the city municipal institutions have greater technical and financial resources. The project addresses three core research questions: (1) the historical evolution of institutional regimes of water allocation to varying climate and precipitation, (2) the current role of institutional nestedness in enabling adaptation to climate change, and (3) future assessments of the ability of user groups to respond to potential climate change. An innovative interdisciplinary approach will be employed, integrating data on changes in climate and precipitation, historical datasets on land cover and common property resources, current land cover from high resolution satellites change, ecological and environmental analyses of lake condition, archival and policy research, interviews with individuals, communities and government institutions, and qualitative scenario building. The project will thus explore the potential for local institutions and collective action to interface with formal, prescriptive yet technically and financially powerful government institutions for sustainable management of fresh water resources in an era of accelerating climate change.

Summary of Recent Activities
In the last quarter of 2014 Dr. Nagendra and her colleagues focused on archival research at the Mysore and Bangalore archives, collecting substantial material on the transformation of two lakes in Bangalore (Sampangi and Sankey) from both archives. They plan to incorporate these materials into future publications. Due to the unusually long rainy season, which lasted until the end of December this past year, the post-monsoon field visits of 20 lakes and the field visits for the study of transformations in the commons around 45 lakes could not be conducted and have been postponed to 2015. However, PEER project results obtained so far since the project began in 2012 were disseminated in three presentations at the biennial Urbanization and Global Environmental Change international conference at Taiwan in November 2014, including a keynote lecture on the first day by Harini Nagendra.

The team has experienced some challenges in procuring satellite imagery from the National Remote Sensing Center of India. Several months after their order for high resolution satellite imagery was accepted, they were informed that the order could not be filled due to security restrictions on data. They followed the Center’s recommendations to select an alternate lower-resolution image source and are awaiting this imagery. In the first few months of 2015, Dr. Nagendra and her group will focus on field work, including research on the commons around approximately 45 settlements and post-monsoon field visits to 20 lakes selected for detailed study in the project. They will also work on writing up and submitting two research manuscripts, one on archival changes around Sampangi Lake and the other on changes in lakes and wells around Bangalore based on examination of maps and field datasets from 1888-2014.

Project outputs

Lab manual on how to use software for basic remote sensing analysis