YEAR | 2019
CLIENT - Tamil Nadu State Land Use Research Board , Cholamandalam Investment and Finance Company, Limited (Chola) , IIT Madras Alumni Association of North America (IITMAANA)
A Platform for Integrated Water Governance in Metropolitan Chennai: Developing Future Scenarios and Strategies through Participatory Simulations

Okapi collaborated with the Centre for Urbanization, Buildings and Environment (CUBE) at IIT Madras and Fields of View on a project that combined sound technical research and participatory simulation modelling to develop strategies for integrated governance around land-use, waste and water.

With an aim to foster more holistic and informed urban governance, this project, was an effort to develop an integrated platform for decision making and planning to bring all relevant stakeholders and interest groups together. The proposed model of integrated governance was envisaged at two levels: 

  1. Integration of knowledge and efforts across government, private and civil society, and 
  2. Integration of knowledge and actions across sectors (specifically urban land use, waste and water).

The project demonstrated how a more coordinated and collaborative process of decision-making can be designed to deal better with intersecting challenges of urban development, water and waste management in Metropolitan Chennai. Lessons learnt through the process offer a strategic blueprint for Chennai and other cities across India interested in fostering integrated governance for meeting sustainable development goals.

The project began in September, 2017 with a "kick-off" meeting organized by the Tamil Nadu State Land Use Research Board, a supporting agency, under the Chairmanship of the Principal Secretary/ Commissioner, Revenue Administration and Disaster Management and Mitigation Department.

The project was conceived to understand institutional dynamics amongst key actors and processes shaping the urban ecosystem in Chennai with a focus on land, water, and waste. Okapi completed three policy-oriented research reports at an interim- stage of the project:

  • Chennai: Urban Visions – A report on the city’s socio-economic drivers, their visions and the overall trajectory of development.
  • Chennai: State of Water – A report on the current state of water and associated risks.
  • Chennai: Emerging Tensions in Land, Water and Waste Governance – A report on institutional and decision-making challenges related to how land, water and waste is dealt with, in the context of rapid urban development and need to address the city’s water woes.

These reports present comprehensive primary and secondary research, including discussions and interviews with several key stakeholders, especially from the government.  

In addition to these series of policy-oriented reports, a ‘Final Strategy Report and an Agent-Based Modelling (AMB) tool was developed, to assist policymakers and key stakeholders to make informed decisions around the land-waste-water nexus. Using the policy reports as a base, the strategy report delves deeper into the three themes of land-use, water and waste, and associated challenges. Following this discussion, the report analyses four possible scenarios for the CMA using the ABM tool to identify the temporal effects on land-use, water and waste.

  1.  Scenario 1 Business-as-usual 
  2.  Scenario 2 No sustainability initiatives
  3.  Scenario 3 Low rainfall with focus on sustainable initiatives
  4. Scenario 4  Average rainfall with no new infrastructure

These simulations show how the motivations, constraints, and actions of a specific government department aggregate up into city-level outcomes. The ABM tool will allow users to understand the connection between the city’s social micro-foundations (behaviour of particular stakeholders, or “agents,”) and macro-level outcomes such as changes in land use, waste and water demand patterns. Further, the ABMs can illustrate how stakeholder decisions and interventions affect scenarios for critical risks in metropolitan development.

The report concludes by laying out specific recommendations for more sustainable management of land, water, waste and the emerging tensions from their interaction. The recommendations range from addressing structural issues in governance and planning to more shorter-term interventions.