IIT Madras, University of British Columbia, Yale-NUS & Cambridge University come together to provide solutions to Chennai’s Challenges

Chennai: Indian Institute of Technology Madras along with University of British Columbia, Yale-NUS and Cambridge University organised the Collaborative for Urban Resilience and Effectiveness (CURE), Chennai Urban Resilience Program 2019 from 1st to 19th July 2019. The unique multi-institutional and multi-disciplinary collaboration brought together 26 students from these four institutions to work on projects for the Chennai city related to urban resilience, water and green infrastructure.

Under the program, an International Workshop on Water, Green Infrastructure and Urban Resilience is being organised. Students and faculty from the four participating institutions will partner with local city officials and representatives from organisations such as The Rain Centre (Akash Ganga) to help address the current challenges faced by the city and find sustainable solutions.

Speaking about this program, Prof Mahesh Panchagnula, Dean (International and Alumn Affairs), IIT Madras, said, “Collaborative international workshops like CURE bring global expertise to our doorstep. Our students benefit from such interactions.”

In preparation for their three weeks of fieldwork in Chennai, students completed a six-week online course on urban resilience led by faculty from the four participating institutions and featuring guest speakers from organisations and city governments around the world, such as 100 Resilient Cities – Africa, and the City of Cape Town’s Water and Sanitation Department.

Speaking about CURE, Dr. Murali Chandrashekaran, Vice-Provost, International, University of British Columbia, said, “The Collaborative for Urban Resilience and Effectiveness (CURE), brings together researchers, students, and practitioners from around the world to focus on cities. At a time when the world is facing unprecedented urbanization, with almost 70% of humanity forecasted to live in cities by 2050, CURE brings unique opportunities to better understand the impact of local, contextual factors that shape resilience building, and contribute to the creation and implementation of evidence-based strategies to enhance urban resilience and effectiveness. CURE is conceptualized as a global collaborative to mobilize talent, knowledge and experience across disciplines, colleges/universities, community organizations, cities and corporates to drive inclusive urban prosperity, innovation and development. ”

Speaking about the collaborative effort Dr. Valentina Zuin, Faculty at Yale- NUS College, Singapore, said, “Working on concrete challenges for the city, alongside committed and very knowledgeable implementers from a diverse range of institutions in Chennai, across disciplinary and university boundaries, is an extremely exciting opportunity for students and faculty.”

The multidisciplinary faculty team includes Prof. Murali Chandrashekaran, Sauder School of Business, UBC; Prof. Ashwin Mahalingam, IIT Madras; Prof. Chella Rajan, IIT Madras; Prof. Valentina Zuin, Yale-NUS; Prof. Shailaja Fennell, University of Cambridge; and Prof. Parama Roy, OKAPI.

Faculty and students are currently in IIT Madras for three weeks to work on projects that have been developed by Chennai’s Chief Resilience Officer, Mr. Krishna Mohan. The projects cover four thematic areas that reflect current challenges faced by the city, including urban horticulture, civic engagement, rainwater harvesting, and disaster resilient housing. The program will culminate with presentations and reports from the teams outlining solution trajectories to be considered for implementation by the city.

Speaking about the program, Mr. Krishna Mohan, Chief Resilient Officer, City of Chennai, said, “Programmes such as Collaborative for Urban Resilience and Effectiveness (CURE), involving students from some of the leading universities across the world, studying Urban Resilience by physically immersing themselves in the cities that offer them projects is meaningful and mutually beneficial for the city and the students. Bright, young minds and fresh perspectives can result in projects like the Urban Horticulture initiative in the city of Chennai, which has the potential to transform the face of the city and make Chennai more liveable and resilient.”

Speaking about the work Dr. Shailaja Fennell, Faculty at Cambridge University, U.K, said, “Bringing together University of British Columbia, University of Cambridge, Yale-NUS and IIT Mdras is an innovative collaboration that explores the multiple dimensions of sustainability. We have 28 students, who are working together over three weeks to identify sustainability challenges and work up solutions, through co-learning based on current projects being implemented in the city of Chennai.”