Chennai’s resilience journey

Chennai emerged from a cluster of fishing villages in the 16th century. Now, as the fourth most populous urban agglomeration in India, Chennai boasts a strong manufacturing and services hub with an automobile and auto-spare parts industry, and information technology, healthcare, and financial services.

This transformation has invited a range of challenges: uneven and unsustainable development that aggravates the risks faced by vulnerable communities, rapid and unplanned growth that encroaches on natural habitats, increasing exposure to natural disasters and climate extremes (floods and droughts), and uncoordinated governance systems.

Recognizing these challenges and their complex interrelationships, Chennai has realized the need to address these shocks and stresses in a more integrated, just, and environmentally-sensitive manner. The city is investing in a more resilient urban food system, which involves setting up farms (including rooftop farms) to simultaneously address issues of food, nutrition, physical and mental wellbeing, job security, storm water management, waste management, urban heat island mitigation, and disaster risk reduction.

In 2020, the Chennai Resilience Center (CRC) was institutionalized within the Centre for Urbanization, Building & Environment (CUBE) – a joint initiative between IIT Madras and the Government of Tamil Nadu. CRC is fostered by the Adrienne Arsht Rockefeller Foundation Resilience Centre, the Atlantic Council (ARRFRC), and the Global Resilient Cities Network. CRC will lead Chennai in its participation in the Extreme Heat Resilience Alliance, of which it is now a member.

Meet the Chief Resilience Officer

Krishna Mohan Ramachandran

Chief Resilience Officer

Krish was appointed Chief Resilience Officer in July of 2017. Working with Strategy Partners Dalberg Associates in the preliminary phase, and later with Okapi Research Advisory, he led the development of Chennai’s Resilience Strategy, which was launched in June of 2019.

Krish’s responsibilities as CRO include facilitating collaborations between different stakeholder groups, fundraising, and creating the right conditions for implementing key actions and projects identified in the city’s Resilience Strategy. These projects are designed to encourage Chennai to adopt a long-term view of disaster preparedness that includes not only shocks, but also stresses that weaken the fabric of a city on a day-to-day or cyclical basis.

Krish currently leads two flagship projects being implemented in collaboration with the government, civil society, academia, and corporations: “Rooftop Urban Farming” and “Water as Leverage.” Both projects build the city’s resilience in the critical areas of food and water security, urban heat mitigation, and livelihood generation among the urban poor.

In his previous avatar, Krish worked for three decades in advertising. At Ogilvy, he was President of the Madras and Hyderabad Offices before he took over as National Head of Training and Talent.

Impact stories