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Way Forward Chennai

In the last few years, several cities in India, including Mumbai, Srinagar, Chennai and several towns in Assam, Arunachal Pradesh and Nagaland, have experienced disasters and calamities caused by heavy rains and droughts. These have disrupted normal life, caused death and destruction, and paralyzed vibrant city economy. In response to this context, Way Forward Chennai (WFC) is a platform focussed on bringing together individual practitioners and organisations to advocate for inclusive and credible responses to urban disasters by looking at the areas of (a) city planning and development, (b) protection of the natural ecology, (c) disaster preparedness and management, (d) post disaster relief and rehabilitation, and (e) governance.


Early perceptions and the authorities' claims of “natural disaster” have come under public scrutiny. Poor city planning; governance failure; inadequate disaster preparedness and management; illegal and unauthorised constructions, violation of planning norms and building byelaws; neglect, abuse  and destruction of the natural ecosystem in form of waterways, streams  rivers, mangroves, vegetation, etc.; and  communications and administrative failures have surfaced in different measures as causes of the destruction and devastation. While the resilience of the city’s middle and upper classes are eroded by these occurrences, the ability of the poor to absorb the stresses and adapt to the shocks are worn down.

Often in respite we forget to learn from these experiences to build a better future and improved resilience to future disasters. Instead, we resign ourselves to the inevitability of calamities and disasters with questionable accountability. It is imperative to understand the phenomenon and dig into the causative factors in some depth to find and suggest remedial measures. The repeated cycles of floods and droughts are a serious warning for us to act in addressing the matter collectively to ensure a safer tomorrow that is inclusive. 

The platform measures success against its vision statement: WFC supports practitioners to create knowledge, develop credible responses to urban disasters, and influence agendas to build inclusive and sustainable urban cities. It has three interdependent objectives:

1. Understand urban floods by looking at factors that contribute to losses and damages; relief, rehabilitation and restoration response efforts; urban systems that are required for urban infrastructure and disaster management; and the gaps that exist.

2. Develop a set of viable responses to urban disasters drawing from the experiences of citizens; promote knowledge sharing between citizens, practitioners, experts and institutions; and foster a multi-dimensional and multi-sectoral understanding of urban disasters.

3. Support the advocacy for systemic changes that respond to the local contexts and address the needs of city residents, especially the most vulnerable groups; and foster partnerships between communities, governments and organisations. 

Way Forward Chennai (WFC) is an inclusive and open forum conceived and designed by three core team members of the coalition are Habitat Forum – INHAF, Action Aid and Citizen Consumer and Civic Action Group (CAG), with CAG functioning as the secretariat for the platform. The platform will build a larger network of professionals, organisations, volunteers and philanthropists to aid and support the objective of creating inclusive and responsive cities.

WFC does not discount the roles and responsibilities of city and state authorities in urban planning and disaster management. It, however, emphasises and underscores a need for citizen action and participation, and lays stress on leveraging the latent capacity and potential of communities and civil society. To meet its objectives, the partners of the coalition will undertake the following activities

1. Support the collection,creation and curation of information, data and analysis on various aspects of urban floods in order to understand the causes of the devastation, the institutional structure for planning and disaster management, and to identify the gaps in information and response strategies.

2. Learn about the experiences and the relief, rehabilitation and restoration efforts made by conducting interviews and public hearings, and developing a set of credible responses by fostering partnerships between citizens, civil society, academia, media and business groups.

3. Share knowledge gathered from research and public hearings, and fostering partnerships with city governments to make interventions that draw from this knowledge


Part I: Waterways Rehabilitation

Pre-Feasibility Study support for Waterways Rehabilitation and Solid Waste Management in Chennai. know more

Tamil Nadu Sustainable Urban Developement Project (TNSUDP)

Resettlement Action Plan - Final Report of Stormwater drainage project for the selected areas of Corporation of Chennai.   know more

Tamil Nadu Sustainable Urban Developement Project (TNSUDP)

Final Environmental Assessment Report of Stormwater drainage project for the selected areas of Corporation of Chennai.   know more

Why does Chennai Stink?

Citizen's effort to understand and solve the sewage problem. know more

Lessons from the Floods in Chennai in 2015

A documentation of urban flood management and disaster preparedness for lessons for urban governance know more