Shimla, India

Shimla, India

Shimla, India. © Shutterstock 


Shimla is the capital of Himachal Pradesh and is perched in the southwestern ranges of the Himalayas of Northern India. It is built over several hills and connecting ridges, occupying an area of approximately 20 km2. Formerly the British ‘Summer Capital’ of India, it is now one of the most one of the most popular tourist destinations in the State, both for Indian and international travelers alike.

Shimla’s popularity has led to a rapidly increasing population that is far greater than its infrastructure can bear. In a 2011 census, the urban agglomeration of the city was a population of over 171,000, while the growth rate is 16.21 per cent (Municipal Corporation of Shimla 2009).


Key Challenges

According to the Indian earthquake hazard zoning, Shimla is classified as Zone IV - Higher Danger Risk Zone. In recent years the risk of landslides, following heavy rains, has increased the city’s risk profile even further. In 2013, several hundred houses were destroyed in landslides. Water supply is another chief concern. The Shimla District lies within the catchment area of three rivers, the principal of which is the Sutlej River that is located 21 kilometers from the city. Freezing of the pipes in winter and the increasing population during the summer places stress on the water supply and sanitation systems. To meet the increasing demand, water has to be pumped up to Shimla, and is done so at a significant and increasing cost to the Shimla Municipal Corporation (SMC). Another challenge is the city’s ageing sewage system that handles waste, which is over 117 years old and suffers many failings. Additionally, several emerging health issues in Shimla have increased awareness of the impacts of climate change, including the rising incidence of vector borne diseases such as malaria and dengue fever.


Examples of Resilience - Building Efforts

In 2008 Shimla was selected as a pilot city in the Asian Cities Climate Change and Resilience Network (ACCCRN), funded by the Rockefeller Foundation. Together, the ACCCRN ICLEI-Local Governments for Sustainability developed a six-phase process to enable the identification of vulnerable urban systems, capacity constraints, and opportunities under a future climate scenario. Since then, Shimla has engaged in a number of resilience building efforts, including signing onto the Durban Adaptation Charter and the Compact of Mayors. In October 2015, the SMC participated in the development of a resilience profile using the City Resilience Index, a combined effort of the Rockfeller Foundation, Arup and ICLEI South Asia, in order to understand the range of systems and factors that contribute to the resilience of the city. As part of the prioritization phase of the project, the city selected solid waste management as its priority sector, leading to the implementation of a multi-year public-private partnership based Integrated Solid Waste Management project. The $2.53 million project, includes 10 components, ranging from the door-to-door collection of waste, to an integrated waste treatment and disposal facility, and capacity building to strengthen waste management information, education and communication.


“Urban Local Bodies are the most important part of the government with direct
 linkages to the community and the local people. Cities entrusted with planning and implementation are the ones who have the power to shape the future”

-  Sanjay Chauhan - Shimla Mayor


Future Plans and Investments

Shimla’s Climate Resilience Strategy success- fully integrates climate adaptation strategies with low emission development targets. Action plans are being implemented in five key sectors: water supply, sanitation, transport, tourism and solid waste management. The strategy assists decision-makers in identifying key challenges, best practices, and priorities in the short, medium, and long term.


“We have witnessed a move toward implementation with more concrete case studies that demonstrate how progress is being made in all aspects and phases of resilience planning... Cities are moving quickly from planning to action, but are held back by a lack of financial and technical resources. The new global partnerships, mechanisms, and tools that have emerged in the past few years can provide much needed support to address chronic gaps in measuring and financing resilience in order to accelerate local efforts toward implementation.”

-  Gino Van Begin, Secretary General, ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability