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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. 

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.

  Indonesia Partnership Picture B

  Indonesia Partnership Picture C
Brijesh Kumar, chief conservator of forests in greater Bangalore, speaks at the inauguration of "Nature in the City" (Photo courtesy Anisha Nair). Dr. Harini Nagendra delivers the talk "Nature in the City: How people shape and are shaped by biodiversity in Bangalore" (Photo courtesy Meera Baindur).
Summary of Recent Activities
During the last quarter of 2013 the research team continued researching 20 lakes in the peri-urban area of Bangalore. Their fieldwork during the past quarter has focused on identifying village forests (gunda thopus) around the lake. These village forests used to function as important common property resources but have faced significant decline over the past four or five decades. Student interns working for the research team interviewed elderly village forest community members to understand how forests were governed and protected in the past and conducted discussions with other community members and government officials to understand the governance practices that apply in these areas today. The team also identified village forests that have been converted to hospitals, schools, bus stands, and housing colonies, and they are now in the process of investigating further changes in land use. During the months of September through December 2013, Prof. Harini Nagendra taught two 300-level undergraduate classes as Hubert H. Humphrey Distinguished Visiting Professor at the Department of Geography, Macalester College, Saint Paul, Minnesota. Her remote sensing class built on the research conducted in Bangalore. During the class students used Bangalore images to develop a lab manual that provides an introduction on how to use software for basic remote sensing analysis. In addition to her teaching duties at Macalester, Dr. Nagendra also participated in a high-level structured discussion on sustainable urbanization at the UN headquarters in New York and gave three public talks at Macalester and at Carleton College in Minnesota. During this period, the research team produced three publications, including two book chapters that appeared in an open-access Springer volume and one paper that was published in the open-access journal LAND. Dr. Nagendra was also interviewed in a documentary film by Priya Ramasubban on the community-led restoration of a lake in Bangalore. The long and short versions of the film can be accessed online.