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Understanding Disaster Vulnerability of Chennai's Homeless

As Chennai strives to become more equitable and better prepared for future disasters, t he city needs to accommodate the needs of the most marginalised group in its disaster mitigation and response plans. This is only possible through involving the communities in the process of identifying vulnerabilities, planning for better access to resources, and co-developing disaster response plans.

Therefore, the goal of this project is to develop a community-based, thorough understanding of the homeless group’s vulnerability to disasters that will inform policy and support more equitable thinking and action in Chennai city’s governance of disaster management efforts. It will engage directly with the homeless to understand how they perceive their vulnerability to disaster, and if they have access to basic services (food, water, sanitation, emergency night shelters and healthcare) during disasters. It also seeks to analyse the extent of support from government/non-governmental schemes to address needs of the homeless during disasters; the existence of community based coping mechanisms used by the homeless, if any; and how other cities in India or abroad address homeless peoples’ needs during disasters, to better address Chennai’s homeless needs and reduce their vulnerability.



Parama Roy is the Lead Researcher heading the ‘Urban Transformation and Water’ portfolio at Okapi Research & Advisory. Parama is interested in the multifaceted and complex nature of the urbanisation process and its social and environmental implications. Parama completed her Ph.D. from University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and taught at Georgia State University and State University of New York-Binghamton in the US and University of Copenhagen in Denmark. Currently, she also holds an ‘Adjunct Faculty’ position at Indian Institute of Technology, Madras.

Parama’s work is specifically motivated by principles of socio-environmental justice and sustainable development and guided by political-economic and political-ecological theories, and mixed research methodologies. She has published widely in international peer reviewed journals like Urban Affairs Review, City, and Geoforum.

She recently headed Okapi’s work as the strategy partner to Resilient Chennai team (part of Rockefeller Foundation funded 100 Resilient Cities program). This work has involved comprehensive research and broad stakeholder engagement across Chennai to identify city’s vulnerabilities specifically in the areas of water, disaster, governance, vulnerable communities, and urbanisation and has culminated into the Chennai Resilience Strategy 2019.

Additional writing / Articles

Roy, P . (2019) Community Gardening for Integrated Urban Renewal in Copenhagen: Securing or Denying Minorities’ Right to the City? In Just Green: Urban Gardening and the Struggles of Social and Spatial Justice, Certoma C, Noori S, and Sondermann M (Eds). Manchester University Press

Roy, P . et al (Strategy Lead) (2019) Resilient Chennai-Kaleidoscope: My city through my eyes, 100 Resilient Cities Program. Available from: Chennai City Resilience Strategy 2019

Roy, P . et al, (2018) Chennai: Urban Visions (A report from TN State Land Use Board funded project - A Platform for Integrated Water Governance in Metropolitan Chennai: Developing Future Scenarios and Strategies Through Participatory Simulations)

Roy, P (2017) "Welcome in my backyard"...but on my terms: making sense of homeless exclusion from renewed urban spaces in Copenhagen. GeoJournal, 83 (7): 1-16; DOI 10.1007/s10708-017-9769-8

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