In 2013, Rockefeller Foundation began work with its first group of 32 cities to launch the 100 Resilient Cities programme. In 2014, it received 330 applications from 94 countries and among the cities selected were Surat, Bangalore and Chennai from India. In an interview to The Hindu, Michael Berkowitz, managing director, 100 Resilient Cities explains the new project. Excerpts:

What is the 100 Resilient cities project all about?

Rockefeller Foundation saw three major trends happening in the world- one is that for the first time the world is more urban and this trend is rapidly increasing. India is not so urban yet but becoming more so. In 2013 over 55 per cent of the world’s population lives in cities, but only 35 per cent live in cities in India and this is one of the interesting things about working in India. In terms of policy issues it’s still more in terms of villages.

One trend is urbanisation and second is globalisation- what happens in one city affects another. We are more and more connected in positive ways but also in ways that can be disruptive -you see that with Ebola, floods in Bangkok that disrupted production and so on – and the third is climate change.

In 2013, Rockefeller Foundation was celebrating its 100th anniversary and announced the 100 resilient cities and it’s a 100 million $ commitment to build urban resilience worldwide and we going to pick 100 cities- we picked 67 already -Chennai, Bangalore and Surat are in there and the third cohort will be announced in 2016.

It is built on two ideas -one is that cities are complex ecosystems and have a hard time organising themselves around what their key challenges are and second is that too often the cities don’t access the resources or best practices efficiently enough or solutions for a particular city. What we are going to do for a 100 cities is provide four interventions that try to address these two problems.


Why did you choose these three cities in India?

We put out a challenge through a competition where cities would apply and the first year when we finalised 32 cities, 400 had applied from around the world and in the second year 330 applied and we announced 35. India is clearly on the forefront of many of the things I talked about - urbanisation, globalisation and climate change and this is where these things are meeting in the most acute ways. And so working in the Indian context is very important to us and if we can help cities get it right here – can they inspire all the other development that’s going to happen on the Delhi- Mumbai corridor and other developments all over India. Trying to do things in a smarter and more resilient way is what we aim for.


How did you select the cities? What about migration and other aspects in cities? How will you address them?

One of the key elements is how well a city goes about meeting its citizens’ basic needs in terms of food, water, sanitation, housing -those are key elements in cities with huge slum populations and they are less resilient. We have two things on offer - a methodology that helps cities try to take a look at all the aspects and see where they are strong and weak and we have a very strong point of view of inclusiveness. It is not just done between a few bureaucrats but that it’s done with broad participation. Cities were selected on the basis of need and also a clear articulation of a broad group of stakeholders that cities would engage as in Bangalore. Cities recognise that this is a broad undertaking that we need to engage stakeholders from poor communities, from the business sector, government and that’s was one of the key aspects of why we selected these cities- they were done with supportive municipal governments and with the help of NGOs.

Surat is an interesting place and is being well run a for a while- really great flood control- lots of stuff on public health, following the plague and they are putting in Bus Rapid Transit and we will see how well it sticks. One of the images that sticks in my head the most and I’ve been all over the world looking at cities and it’s the BRT in New Delhi- it doesn’t get used- What city doesn’t need BRT more than Delhi right? 75 per cent of people don’t take private cars but go to work on public transport or cycle or walking and Delhi built BRT to help all those people and yet there was this big backlash ! One of the things that this has pointed out to me is the importance of the political and the communications aspect of what we do- how do we communicate and build support so that when we have an important intervention like BRT in Delhi, it doesn’t fall by the wayside. For me this is the image of the year.