Supriya Krishnan
Urban Planning + Climate Resilience






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Ongoing / Urban Planning and Policy

The Future Ground: Urban Planning Under Climate Uncertainty

Request for Interviews / Supriya Krishnan, Resilience Lab, TU Delft, Netherlands s.krishnan@tudelft.nl

This note provides an introduction to my ongoing research on urban planning and climate risks. Using Mumbai and Amsterdam as its two case studies, this 4-year Ph.D. research will develop and test a methodology to systematically formulate urban planning strategies towards long-term climate resilience. 

As a research that aims at improving urban planning processes, collaboration with practitioners is essential. We would like to engage with key experts in practice and academia working at the intersection of urban planning, infrastructure and climate risks to explore deeper issues and opportunities for resilient urban planning through semi-structured interviews (max 1 hour).

Making cities climate-resilient is a key priority for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals(SDGs) and several targets of the Sendai Framework (SFDRR). Towards this, cities are adopting a variety of approaches such as nature-based solutions, adaptive urban planning, blue-green masterplans, multifunctional urban spaces and large-scale retrofitting of infrastructure. In most cases, these are run as small to medium scale pilot projects or unique monumental projects with
little to no integration with the development agendas of the city. Planning decisions that are unmindful of long-term hazards challenge the sustainability of the city and creates path dependencies that have long-term implications on urban growth. However, in dense metropolises, integrated planning is easier said than done. Conventional linear urban planning processes and masterplans are not backed with sufficient evidence or the capacities to account for long-term resilience objectives. Hence, the focus remains on well-defined risks and not on evolving uncertainties that plague planning decisions of the future.

To plan for evolving uncertainties, urban planning must adapt. In this Ph.D. research, we will develop and test a methodology for urban planning under long-term climate uncertainties. More specifically, we explore the potential of existing short-term masterplans to accommodate decisions in anticipation of long-term climate uncertainties. In doing so, we approach climate resilience as a spatial challenge to explore how planners can enable the long-term transformation
of the urban environment. The research will use Mumbai and Amsterdam as its principle case studies to develop, test and refine the methodology.

Knowledge impact
The intended outcome of this research is a methodology that allows setting long-term planning strategies while accounting for short-term development needs.

Step 1: We analyse at existing discourses and frameworks around urban planning, climate resilience and uncertainties to establish the requirements and constraints city planners face in the path of long-term decision making.

Step 2: We use the results from Step 1 to develop a resilient site suitability plan for Mumbai that can form the basis for short term (5-20 years) and long-term urban planning decisions (40+ years). This will combine land-use models with the climate adaptation pathways approach (which was applied successfully for the Netherlands National Flood Risk Management Programme) for 21001. This will be its first application to urban planning.


Case study 1: Amsterdam
The City of Amsterdam has strong climate ambitions while striving to maintain its role as an economic and cultural hub of the Netherlands. It faces a range of hazards coupled with aging infrastructure, demographic changes and phdnote_skrishnan_20200513 ground for technological innovations, the impacts on the urban environment are getting more uncertain. The city grapples with migration and the need to create more housing and infrastructure, hence, managing urban expansion and peripheral growth. This level of complexity and limited decision-making timelines for urban planning have made it challenging to integrate long-term resilience objectives (with the exception of some sectors).

Case study 2: Mumbai The Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR) is complex and already deals with impacts from chronic urban floods and associated damage to its lifeline infrastructure, socio-economic disparities. This is compounded by infrastructure systems that have reached the limits of their capacity, and the challenge of balancing new types of infrastructure (like the metro) in an already dense urban fabric and maintaining environmental sustainability. The complexity and the focus of planning and political decisions on the present situation have made it challenging to establish and implement long-term planning goals (beyond 20 years), which are critical to managing climate uncertainties.

Interview agenda [60’] Introduction [10’]
- Introductions and overview of the research.

Experience and opinions on urban planning and climate risks in Mumbai [35’]
- Perception and integration of climate in urban planning.
- Adopting an uncertainty perspective in a complex city.
- Big knowledge gaps in being able to make long-term planning decisions for land-use and infrastructure.
- Regulatory and policy challenges.
- Reflections from leading and implementing key infrastructure and development projects.

Looking ahead [10’]
- Future vision and issues not addressed.

Wrapping up [5’]
- Room for additional questions and comments.
- Other experts to connect with.

Note: This interview will follow the Ethics regulations set out by the TU Delft. All responses will be anonymized unless explicit permission has been taken. Recordings if any made with permission, will be deleted once the interview has been transcribed. This is a voluntary research exercise and you may withdraw your consent or responses from the interview at any point.