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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 - May 2016

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 PI and her team conducted post-monsoon field visits to 20 lakes to complement the pre-monsoon studies of uses of ecosystems around lakes that they carried out last year. An alternate source of high-resolution satellite imagery was identified by the National Remote Sensing Center, and the research group was finally able to receive these images. Dr. Nagendra and her team have begun additional field visits to assess transformations in the commons around 45 lakes in Bangalore, which forms one of the major foci for the coming year of the project. One research manuscript examining changes around Sampangi Lake using archival material and interviews has been submitted and is currently in review by The International Journal of the Commons. With regard to outreach, the team organized two activities for the public during the first quarter of 2015. First, at the Kaikondrahalli Lake Festival on January 10, they led a lake walk and exploration aimed at building awareness of the lake as a social-ecological place, introducing participants to the upstream and downstream areas of the lake, sacred and keystone trees, birds and insects, and fishing and grazing areas. Second, at the Neralu Tree Festival, another a heritage walk was organized around the lost lake of Sampangi, introducing members of the public to the importance of this lake and the services it once provided to the city. Both events received wide publicity on social media. In the upcoming months, Dr. Nagendra and her team will focus on field work, including research on the commons around approximately 45 settlements, while integrating their research findings with analysis of satellite image data.

Project Outputs

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