Beyond Cleansing: Transitioning Towards Socio-Ecological Resilience in the Ganges River Basin through an Adaptive Spatial Planning Model
Ganges River Basin, India
The capitalistic and economy driven approach towards urbanization in India has led to a great disparity between different socio-cultural groups as well as a huge pressure on the ecological systems. Further, with the changing climate these groups are increasingly vulnerable to hazards. This can be observed even in the Ganges River Basin where unplanned urbanization has caused a fragmented river system that puts several local settlements at increasing risk.
The approach to planning water centric projects has not been a holistic approach in the past, and with uncertainties of changing times the planning approach needs to be more adaptive. The aim of the project is to relook at the current development trend within the existing system and derive a possible adaptive spatial planning model for design, that would include local communities and governing bodies into the planning process. The focus lies in emphasising the importance of a holistic approach to planning for the Ganges River Basin and bridging the gap between the national mitigation policies and local adaptation to climate change, to alleviate social, economic and ecological vulnerabilities.
Designing for resilience for the Ganges River Basin, is based on the understanding of the relationship between the human systems and the ecological systems. The notions of SES (Adger 2003-2009), and the panarchy of adaptive cycles from Holliing (1986) are used to derive the process of designing infrastructure and interventions within the river basin. The derived framework of Adaptive Spatial Planning enables a flexible approach to planning for uncertainty, integrating local communities in the planning process. Local adaptation of multi-scalar strategies along with local knowledge from the community allow early testing of strategies and informing policies simultaneously, with results and local knowledge, reducing the time-line compared to traditional planning where policies are derived at central level without in-depth understanding of local context. The new adaptive spatial planning allows shift of pathways in times of uncertainty, making the system more flexible and resilient.