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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 - April 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
The third quarter of 2014 is the pre-monsoon season in India and Dr. Nagendra and her team took that time to visit 20 lakes, test their water quality, and conduct interviews with local ecosystem service users. Additionally, the team began its investigation of changes in common land around 45 settlements that form part of greater Bangalore and constitute part of the watershed around Mahadevpura. The team gathered data regarding common land from government records and cross-referenced that data with village maps to precisely locate these lands.

Through the support of the local NGO, REAP Benefits, Dr. Nagendra and her team conducted a series of workshops at three lake adjacent, low-income, local schools, GHPS, Kaikondrahalli, Renuka School, and ZHPS, Devarabisanahalli, to inform the students and faculty of the importance of the lakes and the changes resulting from climate change. The workshops engaged 80 female and 100 male participants and challenged them to understand the changes the lakes were undergoing and try to discover innovative solutions to address these changes and improve the conditions of the lakes. Dr. Nagendra also attended the three day conference, Student Conference on Conservation Science, which started September 25, and won the received the Best Student Oral Presentation award for her presentation of “Historical Contestations Around an Urban Lake: Lessons Learnt for Lake Management in Bangalore City” to the 300 attendees.

Dr. Nagendra plans to continue her research on the common land around the 45 settlements and will conduct post-monsoon field visits to the 20 lakes previously mentioned. There are also plans to visit the Mysore and Madras archives to collect additional historical data on lake changes.

Project outputs

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