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Urban vulnerability assessment in South Asia: challenges and lessons learnt

Md. Matiur Rahman (Barisal City Corporation, Barisal, Bangladesh)

Management of Environmental Quality

ISSN: 1477-7835

Article publication date: 8 April 2014



The purpose of this paper is to provide a solid understanding, policy and action recommendations to motivate and capacitate more cities to start such urban vulnerability processes and to guide them in their first steps in a direction which will more easily allow the direct use of vulnerability assessments for subsequent adaptation and resilience planning.


The methodology adopted for this assessment builds on several years of ICLEI's international experience in climate change adaptation work. It specifically draws on the urban vulnerability component of the ICLEI ACCCRN process, a toolkit developed with support from Asian Cities Climate Change Resilience Network program, by ICLEI South Asia in partnership with ICLEI Oceania. A participatory approach that includes all key stakeholders and builds on past or ongoing relevant work in the city, as well as draws on existing data sources were adopted in view of the limited timeframe of this study (five months). A stakeholder consultation methodology referred to as Shared Learning Dialogues (SLDs) was adopted to engage not only various departments within the city government but also other local stakeholders. SLDs facilitate multi dimensional information sharing with everyone contributing information and experiences, and everyone learning from the exchanges as well.


The critical impacts have been identified through a series of participatory learning processes which were corroborated with existing secondary data and baseline studies, where available. During SLD process, a timeline exercise was carried out and the consequences of those climatic hazards were also chalked out. Subsequently, these identified impacts were justified broadly with the available data and studies. These are saline water intrusion, loss of assets and infrastructure, health impacts – increased morbidity, water supply contaminated, sanitation and drainage systems disrupted, heightened threat situation (fear of embankment breach), in-migration, increasing siltation in the canals, river bank encroachment, livelihood change, biodiversity loss.

Practical implications

The resilience interventions identified by the stakeholders can be assessed for potential linkages with existing or planned schemes, followed by supporting sectoral and pre-feasibility studies, resulting finally in the identification of financing options. These actions can be focussed on the vulnerable areas within the cities, especially hotspots, and social groups identified and their adaptive capacities were assessed.


The resilience interventions identified by the stakeholders provides a focussed starting point for further discussion in terms of refinement of these actions as well their prioritization according to resilience and feasibility (economic, social, environmental) criteria.



This contribution is based on result of the short term project “Urban Vulnerability Assessment of Barisal City.” The Project was funded by German Development Cooperation (GIZ) and implemented by ICLEI-South Asia.


Matiur Rahman, M. (2014), "Urban vulnerability assessment in South Asia: challenges and lessons learnt", Management of Environmental Quality, Vol. 25 No. 3, pp. 273-284.



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