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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. 

Indonesia Partnership Picture B
Brijesh Kumar, chief conservator of forests in greater Bangalore, speaks at the inauguration of "Nature in the City" (Photo courtesy Anisha Nair).

Indonesia Partnership Picture C
Dr. Harini Nagendra delivers the talk "Nature in the City: How people shape and are shaped by biodiversity in Bangalore" (Photo courtesy Meera Baindur).

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
Dr. Nagendra and her colleagues focused on two sets of research activities in the first quarter of 2014. Building on the work initiated during the internship of Seema Mundoli, a female Master’s in Development student at Azim Premji University, they are collecting data from government records on changes in commons areas around lakes (water channels, grazing lands, community forests and cemeteries) to see what types of commons have been most vulnerable to development, encroachment, land use change, and privatization. In addition, Hita Unnikrishnan, a female PhD student working on the PEER project, is conducting field work in 20 lakes across Bangalore to identify the cultural and provisioning ecosystem services that people depend on from these lakes in the dry, water-scarce and hot pre-monsoon summer months. A similar study will be conducted later this year during the post-monsoon season to identify changes in ecosystem service dependence and in the importance of lakes between the pre-and post-monsoon period.

Prof. Barbara Allen, a political science professor at Carleton College in Minnesota, visited Bangalore with her colleagues March 24-30, 2014, to shoot sections of a documentary film on the ideas and work of Elinor and Vincent Ostrom entitled Actual World, Possible Future. She had previously interviewed the PI on her work with Prof. Ostrom at the Kaikondrahalli lake commons in Bangalore (available online at Prof. Allen and her colleagues filmed the work of Dr. Nagendra’s group at Kaikondrahalli lake to showcase how Elinor Ostrom’s ideas are living on in spirit and application in Bangalore. Also on the outreach side the project, Dr. Nagendra has initiated a set of interactions on lakes in three low-income Government and aided schools adjacent to lakes in Bangalore to increase their interactivity and engagement with these lakes: Sri Renuka High School in Kaikondrahalli, Government High School in Haralur, and Government High School in Devarabisanahalli. These activities are being conducted in collaboration with REAP Benefit, an environmental services social enterprise in Bangalore with expertise in behavioral change for environmental sustainability.

This group is still working on acquiring the high resolution satellite images that were ordered from the National Remote Sensing Center in India, but at the time of their last report in late April they expected them to arrive very soon. PhD student Hita Unnikrishnan will begin analysis of the large dataset from the field research conducted in 20 lakes in the pre-monsoon season that has just been collected, and the team will also begin analysis of the official records on changes in land use and encroachment around lake-related commons in Bangalore. 

Project outputs

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