How might we adopt a climate proof approach to make the Canal a liveable space?

How can cities as drivers and victims of climate change cope with the risks and become custodians of a livable environment? Chennai, having already been directly affected by the effects of climate change, especially needs to find answers to this question. This open call for ideas aims to raise awareness on the issue of climate change in urban areas and especially to propose visionary, but also feasible solutions to improve the current situation alongside one of Chennai´s most important spatial and functional elements: THE BUCKINGHAM CANAL.

The Buckingham Canal is a manmade, saltwater, navigation canal that runs parallel to the Coromandel Coast in the north-south direction. Within the Chennai metropolitan area, the canal connects the three rivers – Kosasthalaiyar, Cooum, and Adyar – all of which are important for the canal’s water regime and are sensitive to and affected by climate change. Though primarily constructed to transport goods from Vijayawada to Madras, the canal also helps manage flood waters, and provides hence regulating ecosystem services that are vital for the city. Archival photographs show the canal to be an idyllic setting with lush green edges and wooden catamarans cruising its course. Today, however, the canal is faced with severe pollution woes with untreated sewage and solid waste finding their way into its waters, foreclosing its potential as a vivid waterway and place for recreation and belonging. The numerous encroachments too have severely compromised its width and carrying capacity over long stretches within the Chennai Metropolitan area and have drastically reduced the canal’s capacity as a source of livelihood for the population. Over the years, various governmental agencies have attempted to revive the canal and continue to do so even to this date.

Ideas for reimagining the Buckingham Canal therefore need to

  • consider climate adaptation and/or mitigation measures
  • follow an integrated, holistic approach
  • involve participation of all stakeholders
  • promote the canal and its potential for sustainable and inclusive urban development and identity building
  • have a multi-disciplinary approach to the solutions

Ideas can be in the form of physical interventions like open space upgrading and built form inserts, laying out a road map for a circular water economy, design of participatory approaches, information campaigns, art projects, multi-stakeholder models for implementation, training measures, digital tools, engineering and technical solutions for cleaning of the canal, etc.

This call is centred on a 3.5 kilometre stretch between South of Adyar River (Kotturpuram MRTS Station) to Thiruvanmiyur MRTS Station for carrying out an intervention. Participants are, however, strongly encouraged to examine the entire canal to arrive at holistic, integrated solutions and keep in mind the chosen stretch only as a demonstration site for interventions.

The competition, its approach and results will be promoted globally and entries are meant to serve as examples of climate proof approach to urban development.


  • The 1st prize winners will have the chance to be financially supported with a grant worth of INR 5,00,000 for a period of 3 months to further evolve their ideas collaboratively into tangible implementable solutions.
  • The 2nd prize winners will have the chance to be financially supported with a grant worth of INR 3,00,000 for a period of 3 months to further evolve their ideas collaboratively into tangible implementable solutions.
  • The 3rd prize winners will have the chance to be financially supported with a grant worth of INR 2,00,000 for a period of 3 months to further evolve their ideas collaboratively into tangible implementable solutions.

All three prize winners will get an opportunity to present, discuss and develop their ideas with international experts from Germany and India.
All three prize winners will get an opportunity to present their ideas to the concerned authorities in Chennai.
All three prize winners will be published in leading dailies / magazines.


Srivathsan A., Ahmedabad India
Dr. Srivathsan is an architectural scholar and the Academic Director for CEPT University. He is a nationally recognized architectural critic and has worked as a senior journalist for eight years.

Karen Coelho, Chennai India
Dr. Karen Coelho is an urban anthropologist working as Assistant Professor at the Madras Institute of Development Studies (MIDS), Chennai, focusing on reforms in municipal governance, informal labour, urban ecologies, and urban civil society. She teaches modules on History of Development Thought and Ethnographic and Qualitative Methods at MIDS.

Sujatha Byravan, Chennai India
Dr. Sujatha Byravan’s expertise falls broadly under the rubric of sustainable development. Her education in the biological sciences and her postdoctoral work, both in the US, were followed by a training fellowship from the Rockefeller Foundation in leadership and environment and development. She was later the first Director of the Fellows Program in an international environment and development organization in New York and London. She was later Executive Director and President of a US-based non-profit working on the social and ethical impacts of biotechnology. Over the past several years she has been working on research related to climate change policy, adaptation and sea level rise. She was until recently Principal Research Scientist at the Centre for Study of Science, Technology and Policy in Bangalore. She has a number of publications across all these fields and also writes regularly on science and technology policy in leading national newspapers.

Georg Jahnsen, GIZ New Delhi India / Germany
Mr. Georg Jahnsen displays a long multi-professional experience and expertise in the field of urban and land use planning based on a profound university study with a Masters Degree. Mr. Jahnsen’s previous professional experience is shaped by the practical work as a city and spatial planner in projects worldwide. He has worked as a german state official as Chief Town Planner for the City of Heide (northern Germany). Mr. Jahnsen has also worked on several scientifical projects as a research assistant and teacher at the University of Brunswick at the Institute for Urban and Land use Planning and as Program Manager for Raffles Design International University Mumbai, India. The common thread throughout his career is to archive a sustainable rural and urban development with the tools of an innovative spatial planning process as a key objective.

Klaus Illigmann, Munich Germany
Klaus Illigmann, is since 2003 head of section in the department of urban planning and building regulations in the main department I “Urban Development Planning” of the City of Munich in Germany. In this capacity he is also a representative of the city of Munich in the network Urban Energies. His main tasks include cross-section-oriented topics such as: the concept of the housing policy action program of the state capital “living in Munich”; the continuation of the Munich urban development concept “PERSPEKTIVE MÜNCHEN”; the coordination of activities on climate change and climate adaptation. He is a member of the dialogue platform “Smart Cities” of the Federal Ministry for the Environment.