Systematic climate risk screening of major infrastructure projects, climate stress-testing of proposals and their economic and financial analysis have been mooted to improve public investments for projects under the Rebuild Kerala Initiative (RKI).
The move is in the wake of the August 2018 deluge damaging a substantial share of the State’s assets and the understanding that the State’s infrastructure needs a substantial improvement to withstand the high exposure to climate risks and natural disasters.
Around 14.8% of land in the State is prone to floods and in some districts this is 50%. Kerala is a climate change hotspot as per the Climate Change Vulnerability Index of Verisk Maplecroft, a U.K.-based global risk and strategic consulting firm.
The initiative is also in the wake of the projections that the frequency and severity of such extreme weather events and losses are likely to increase. No climate risk and resilience screening exists in the State’s public investment management framework. Feasibility studies of large development projects focus more on environmental impact. The Rebuild Kerala Initiative authorities have found that resilience is not considered even in the prioritisation and appraisal framework, though the State is highly vulnerable to natural disasters and most of its public investment is on public works.
With government focussing on rebuilding a more resilient State, the current public investment management system also needs upgrade to make it more climate informed and the resulting infrastructure more resilient. Systematic climate risk screening, climate stress testing, geotagging of projects and assets, and a State policy for evaluation of public investments are part of this approach.
The operational efficiency of the State’s public investments has room for improvement considering their implementation delays and cost overrun, which affect their socio-economic return.
On an average, Centrally sponsored projects have a cost overrun of 16.5% while State-sponsored schemes, 21%. The delays and cost overruns significantly reduce returns on the State’s investments and are a headache for planners.
As part of post-disaster assessment, the Kerala State IT Mission has started mapping public and private assets, which will form the backbone of public investment and asset database to be developed.