Way Forward Chennai

Advocacy effort for inclusive and credible responses to urban disasters.

In the last few years, several cities in India have experienced major disasters following heavy rains and droughts that have caused enormous damage and loss of life as well as paralyzed cities’ economies. Climate change and global warming coupled with poor city planning, governance failure, inadequate disaster preparedness and management, illegal construction, and the destruction of the natural ecosystem in the form of waterways, streams, rivers, mangroves, marshland, etc. have amplified the impacts of these disasters. When Chennai was hit by flooding in 2015, more than 650 people died and 25,000 crores worth of business were lost. The reasons behind the deluge were debated; not one could agree on the reasons behind it. 


Way Forward Chennai (WFC) was created as a platform focused on bringing together individual practitioners and organizations to develop a strong understanding of the urban floods and droughts and to advocate for inclusive and credible responses to urban disasters. It was a multi-partner; multi dimensional and multi stage inter institutional /organizational voluntary citizen initiative to work on the phenomenon in order to develop an understanding in the areas of –
1) City planning and development
2) Disaster preparedness and management
3) Protection of ecological and natural features
4) Post disaster relief and rehabilitation
5) Governance

The platform produced a documentation of during and after Chennai floods which included interviews with activists, academics and practitioners as well as curated media reports on the topic to enable citizens to improve their understanding of events surrounding the floods and capturing approaches for risk mitigation.

The meeting highlighted that only a small number of construction workers had returned to work (about 50 percent) in the cities; the abrupt decision to impose the  lockdown has had adverse impacts on the workers and the employers both; workers wanting to return faced many obstacles , in the villages and the cities and as a result work uptake in the construction sector was  slow. Labour contractors were bearing higher expenses and more labour management compared to earlier. As workers were coming back to the sites, contractors have had to ensure safe and  improved working conditions on the sites. .

The INHAF effort—possibly the first in the urban sector in the country and the only one—is
a) to highlight the need for and the virtue of the bottom-up way of defining and measuring poverty, a subject of national concern and development planning and action ( the poor who live poverty are well equipped to define it )
b) to develop and demonstrate a participatory, consultative and community engaging methodology in doing so
c) to contribute to demystification of the poverty line, at the top and the bottom, at the government and the city slum level
d) to highlight the known deficiencies and inadequacies of the existing definition and the measuring method—the uni-dimensional, nutrition-based poverty line—to ascertain that poverty is a multifaceted and a multidimensional phenomenon.

Pune has several dynamic unions and organizations of the hard working urban poor who are sensitive to the impact that poverty line has on their entitlements, benefits and development. With these member-based unions and organizations of the poor as partners, INHAF is piloting Poor Defining Poverty Line Initiative in Pune.

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