Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure (CDRI) is an India-led climate adaptation initiative that showcases India’s rising leadership role in making climate action and disaster resilience an integrated and inclusive approach. Infrastructure systems such as highways, power stations, communication lines, and even housing are the key drivers of sustainable development, economic growth, and prosperity. However, these modern infrastructure projects are regularly exposed to extreme weather events such as turbulent rains, massive floods, and historic heat waves which call for collective response and action.
Though many countries, including India, have developed robust disaster management practices and early warning systems, the economic costs of these disasters due to damage to infrastructure projects still remain huge. It further threatens development gains and derails global goals of providing just and equitable infrastructure systems to people and communities. Therefore, building resilient and disaster-proof infrastructure systems as envisioned under the CDRI has assumed immense significance. In this light, this viewpoint examines CDRI’s role in promoting resilient infrastructure systems, enumerates its initiatives, and provides suggestions.
Stimulating Disaster Resilient Infrastructure
The Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure (CDRI) was launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the New York Climate Action Summit 2019. [i] The formation of the Coalition was a result of a series of national, regional, and global consultations with countries that faced a variety of challenges posed by development, climate, and disaster risk factors.[ii] As a multi-stakeholder global partnership of national governments, UN agencies and programs, multilateral development banks, private sectors, and academic institutions, CDRI aims to promote the resilience of new and existing infrastructure systems to climate and disaster risks in support of sustainable development.
At the inception, along with India, 12 countries namely Australia, Bhutan, Fiji, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Maldives, Mexico, Mongolia, Rwanda, Sri Lanka, and the United Kingdom were the founding members. As of August 2023, the Coalition has more than doubled its membership with 31 nations, 6 international organisations, and 2 private sector organisations being part of the Coalition so far.[iii] The CDRI brings together the most affected and the most equipped nations and provides a forum for countries at all stages of development. It prioritises the concerns of the most vulnerable nations and communities, such as supporting infrastructure resilience projects in Small Island Developing States (SIDS).
In 2022, the Coalition was categorized as an ‘International Organization’ with its Secretariat located in New Delhi. It signed the Headquarters Agreement (HQA) which provides the organisation independence and an international legal persona for efficiently and effectively carrying out its functions internationally. Further, CDRI’s estimated fund requirements to cover the core costs over the first five years (2019-20 to 2023-24) amounting to ₹ 4.8 billion has been invested by India.[iv] Apart from voluntary financial contributions, the CDRI members can make in-kind contributions. [v] For instance, the European Union climate bank, EIB is contributing through its extensive experience in supporting climate action projects worldwide by focusing on developing standards and certification relevant to disaster-resilient infrastructure.[vi]
CDRI Initiatives to Fight Disaster
The initiatives taken by CDRI for promoting resilient infrastructure systems to climate and disaster risk are as follows:
Welcoming the initiative, Prime Minister of Mauritius, Mr. Pravind Kumar Jugnauth underscored “Mauritius is proud to associate itself with the launch of IRIS, a SIDS-specific initiative that will undoubtedly help this group of countries to become more resilient, promote inclusive infrastructure and ultimately achieve the UN SDGs.”[vii] Even the QUAD leaders during the recent summit held in Hiroshima (May 19-21, 2023) committed in their joint statement to work with the CDRI on Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) for extreme weather events, building on the Indo-Pacific infrastructure initiative.[viii] Further, IRIS’s first disaster-proof infrastructure initiative is supported by the Infrastructure Resilience Accelerator Fund (IRAF), the CDRI’s US$50 million Multi-Partner Trust Fund.[ix]
1) Power Sector Infrastructure Resilience Programme initiated a power sector resilience study with Chile and Brazil on systemic resilience and redundancy, and hydel power, respectively.
2) The Transport Sector Infrastructure Resilience Programme is currently focusing on airport and seaport resilience.
3) The Telecommunications Sector Infrastructure Resilience Programme is studying the Indian states of Assam, Odisha, Himachal Pradesh, Gujarat, and Tamil Nadu.
4) The Health Sector Infrastructure Resilience Programme seeks to promote systemic preparedness, response, and recovery capabilities to enable the continuity of healthcare services during disasters.
5) The Urban Sector Infrastructure Resilience Programme has conceptualized a global study on urban infrastructure resilience in 20 cities in partnership.
6) The Finance for Resilient Infrastructure Programme has initiated a study on the fiscal risk assessment of power and transport sectors in four member countries (India, Fiji, Mauritius, and Nepal).
Through these initiatives, the CDRI is filling the resilience gaps in the infrastructure systems and is also supporting countries in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In this regard, CDRI specifically reinforces SDG 9.1 (developing sustainable and resilient infrastructure) and SDG 9.a (facilitate sustainable and resilient infrastructure development in developing States through enhanced financial, technological and technical support to African countries, least developed countries (LDCs), landlocked developing countries (LLDCs) and small island developing States (SIDS)) by collectively assisting countries at all levels of development in upgrading their infrastructure systems in accordance with risk assessment and economic needs.[xii] Along with supporting the Sendai Disaster Risk Reduction Framework and its core provisions, the CDRI is contributing as a knowledge partner to the G20 Disaster Risk Reduction Working Group with a focus on the resilient infrastructure priority.[xiii]
An Integrated Transformation
India’s stewardship on disaster risk reduction emerges from its National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) expertise in responding to domestic disasters such as the zero death toll of Cyclone Biparjoy (June 2023) in Gujarat and its deployment in disaster zones around the world. Through the CDRI initiative, India is promoting disaster resilience and sustainability on the international platform. It further facilitates India’s support to resilient infrastructure in Asia, and Africa and creates opportunities for Indian infrastructure and technology firms to expand services abroad. It also provides infrastructure stakeholders, in India and abroad, a platform to share experience, expertise, and good practices on resilient infrastructure design, development, and operation. The litmus test for the Coalition will be the implementation of its resilient infrastructure projects and its capability to minimize the destruction caused by extreme and frequent disasters.
As a result, some key criteria could be considered while the CDRI utilizes these initial years to make its presence felt across the globe and integrate sustainable development efforts both vertically as well as horizontally. To begin with, there is a need to view disaster risk reduction and resilient infrastructure as a multi-tiered and multi-sectoral effort. According to experts, building a network of ‘early warning systems for all’ will assist countries, especially the least developed and SIDS, in having access to early and cost-effective risk reduction. Further, harnessing the potential of emerging technologies including geospatial technology and Artificial Intelligence (AI) in disaster mitigation and preparedness, prioritizing the climate-adjustment investment in financing infrastructure systems and incorporating nature-based solutions (NbS) and traditional architecture designs such as earthquake-resistant Kath-Kuni architecture of the Indian Himalayan states in constructing infrastructure will enhance international cooperation in pursuing resilience. The Coalition will launch the first edition of its Biennial Report “Global Infrastructure Resilience” in September 2023 which will bring focus on the critical and multi-faceted challenges of disaster and climate-resilient infrastructure and is expected to provide a risk assessment covering global infrastructure sectors.
*Avni Sablok, Research Associate, Indian Council of World Affairs, New Delhi.
Disclaimer: Views expressed are personal.
[ii] SDG Knowledge Hub, “India Launches Global Coalition for Disaster-Resilient Infrastructure”, October 3, 2019. Available at: https://sdg.iisd.org/news/india-launches-global-coalition-for-disaster-resilient-infrastructure/ (Accessed on August 31, 2023)
Countries: Afghanistan, Argentina, Australia, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Dominican Republic, Fiji, France, Germany, Ghana, Haiti, India, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Madagascar, Maldives, Mauritius, Mongolia, Nepal, Netherlands, Peru, South Sudan, Sri Lanka, Tajikistan, Türkiye, United Kingdom, United States of America. Organisations: Asian Development Bank (ADB), World Bank Group, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR), The Private Sector Alliance for Disaster Resilient Societies Coalition for Climate Resilient Investment, Coalition for Climate Resilient Investment, European Union (EU), European Investment Bank (EIB). (Accessed on September 14, 2023)
[iv] PIB, Ministry of Home Affairs, “Cabinet approves Ratification of the Headquarters Agreement (HQA) between India and Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure (CDRI)”, June 28, 2023. Available at: https://pib.gov.in/PressReleaseIframePage.aspx?PRID=1935898 (Accessed on August 31, 2023)
[vi] European Investment Bank, “EIB joins Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure (CDRI) to limit the destruction caused by climate change”, July 18, 2022. Available at: https://www.eib.org/en/press/all/2022-327-eib-joins-coalition-for-disaster-resilient-infrastructure-cdri-to-limit-the-destruction-caused-by-climate-change (Accessed on August 7, 2023)
[vii] CDRI, “Launch of ‘Infrastructure for Resilient Island States’ (IRIS) at COP26”, November 2, 2021. Available at: https://www.cdri.world/press-releases/launch-infrastructure-resilient-island-states-iris-cop26 (Accessed on September 1, 2023)
[viii] The White House, “Quad Leaders’ Joint Statement”, May 20, 2023. Available at: https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/statements-releases/2023/05/20/quad-leaders-joint-statement/ (Accessed on June 17, 2023)
[ix] CDRI, “Infrastructure Resilience Accelerator Fund”. Available at: https://cdri.world/Infrastructure-Resilience-Accelerator-Fund#:~:text=Infrastructure%20Resilience%20Accelerator%20Fund%20(IRAF)%2C%20CDRI%20Multi%2DPartner,%2C%20Sharm%20El%20Sheikh%2C%20Egypt (Accessed on August 24, 2023)
[x] CDRI, “Annual Report 2021-2022”. Available at: https://express.adobe.com/page/BeWGhQCUTxTIL/?ref=https%3A%2F%2Fexpress.adobe.com%2Fpage%2FBeWGhQCUTxTIL%2Fembed.html&embed_type=overlay&context=expand (Accessed on August 24, 2023)
[xiii] CDRI, “CDRI Engagement at G20”. Available at: https://www.cdri.world/events/cdri-engagements-at-g20#:~:text=CDRI's%20contribution%20in%20G20%20Disaster,Coverage%20of%20Early%20Warning%20Systems (Accessed on September 5, 2023)