Urban Local Bodies (ULBs) in India are faced with numerous gaps in both their technical capacities and the resources available with them. Despite their constraints, they continue to grapple with the complex challenge of balancing rapid and unplanned urbanisation with the preservation of their natural, cultural, and built environment. This institutional challenge at the local scale towards the achievement of global sustainable urban development goals prevails across most cities of the global South. It seems the solutions also lie in local initiatives and innovation.
In Kochi, a bustling coastal city that is also perceived as the commercial capital of the south Indian state of Kerala, the city government innovated to address this challenge by establishing a dedicated technical support unit called the Centre for Heritage, Environment and Development (C-HED). With the support of the State Government of Kerala, C-HED was established by the Kochi Municipal Corporation (KMC) in 2002 with the mandate to serve as its dedicated research and development wing in the areas of heritage and environmental conservation and integrated development. In contrast, a typical ULB in India such as a Municipal Corporation lacks the specialised professional
support required to both value their urban heritage and engage environmental and spatial planners / scientists who can enable the pursuit of sustainable development while also technically addressing complex urban challenges on a daily basis given their limited capacities to engage in required studies, research and networking activities. In this regard, an institutional innovation like C-HED in Kochi is remarkably able to support KMC to mobilise and activate technical, financial and human resources by networking with state, national and international actors and organisations to form alliances between the government, civil society and the private sector that enable sustainable urban development.
This documentation report undertaken as part of Indo-German bilateral technical cooperation under GIZ’s Sustainable Urban Development – Smart Cities (SUD-SC) project details out this experience of having C-HED as an institutional innovation for strengthening the ULB in Kochi, Kerala.