Increasingly, climate risks will have to be factored into infrastructure investments. But this is challenged by a risk assessment method that is fast becoming obsolete in the face of climate change, says Kamal Kishore, Member-Secretary of the National Disaster Management Authority and co-chair of the global Coalition of Disaster Resilient Infrastructure’s (CDRI) executive committee.
Worldwide, investments in climate adaptation – which includes building climate-resilient infrastructure – are lagging because of perceived risks and lack of returns. This has been particularly debilitating for low and middle-income countries that are most vulnerable to climate change, and whose economies still need to build.
The CDRI, which held its sixth international conference earlier this month, seeks to provide knowledge and tools to help countries build structures that can withstand the impacts of climate change.
Kishore is optimistic that a solution will emerge soon, necessitated by the urgency of the climate crisis.
“Traditional risk assessments are done on the basis of what we have seen in the past. And while we have future climate projections available, you require much finer resolution. There are a lot of uncertainties at the local level,” he told ThePrint.
“If a financier is putting in money into an infrastructure project, they would obviously want to know, what is the risk? That’s where you need more sophisticated, continually improving risk assessments. And you have to have other solutions besides risk assessment. For example, can we create a pool of assets and then distribute the risk? There has to be some innovation in that space,” he added.
The CDRI, formed in 2019, has launched two projects in India – one aimed at improving Odisha’s cyclone-hit power grid, and the other at assessing the climate resilience of airports. Kishore says one important finding is that, without upgrading the infrastructure itself, better coordination between departments can save lives – and livelihoods.
“When you know that a cyclone is approaching you switch off the grid, stockpile spare parts like poles and transmission wires, you have a roster of people, a set of working hands who can do the restoration, you have a standing arrangement with your neighboring states to provide more people for work. We found that if you did that, you can reduce the disruption time significantly.”