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Rethinking post-disaster relocation in urban India

After natural disasters, governments often relocate vulnerable urban communities in the name of humanitarian relief. But urban communities rarely welcome such relocation, since it frequently exacerbates their daily challenges or creates new risks. Indeed, resettlement after a disaster is often another form of eviction. This briefing discusses the situation in Chennai, where state and local authorities have been building resettlement tenements on inland marsh areas using centrally sponsored schemes for affordable housing. These have been used as a ‘quick fix’ after disasters, but without addressing communities’ underlying needs and inequalities. Their siting has also increased flood risk across the urban area, creating new risks. Instead, India should develop participatory and risk-reducing plans and policies for relocation, and also help vulnerable communities address the risks where they currently live. This briefing is part of the project ‘Longterm implications of humanitarian responses: a case of Chennai’. The research was conducted in 2016 by the Indian Institute for Human Settlements (IIHS) and Madras Institute for Development Studies (MIDS).

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Urban areas are increasingly the sites of humanitarian crises, from natural disasters to conflict and displacement. Through a programme of research, documenting and learning from experience and development of tools and approaches, IIED is working to build the knowledge and capacity to respond of humanitarian actors working in urban areas, and of urban actors facing humanitarian crises.

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Urban Crises Learning Fund