Post Tsunami Recovery Program


On December 26, 2004, the Indian coastline experienced the most devastating tsunami in recorded history. Almost all the countries situated around the Bay of Bengal were affected. Nearly 80 percent of deaths along India’s southern coast were centered in the state of Tamil Nadu, which also incurred approximately two-thirds of the property damage. Within Tamil Nadu, the cities of Nagapattinam and Cuddalore suffered much of the worst damage and loss of life.

In response to the tsunami, in April 2005, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) awarded the CityLinks Post Tsunami Recovery Program in Cuddalore and Nagapattinam to ICMA.

The program, implemented in partnership with ICMA’s anchor organization, the Urban Management Center in India, won the UN-HABITAT 2008 Dubai International Award for Best Practices for its work in helping the two Indian cities recover.   

Program Objectives

The primary objective of the program was to provide disaster management assistance and guidance on the improvement service delivery to citizens of the two cities. A key component was the CityLinks Partnership between Cuddalore and Nagapattinam and Palm Bay, Oldsmar, and Port Orange, Florida. Like Tamil Nadu, Florida continually prepares for natural disasters that include unrelenting hurricanes throughout the state. Local and regional government officials from cities like Palm Bay, Oldsmar, and Port Orange not only have first-hand disaster response experience, but also provide models of good service delivery to citizens.

Program Activities

To capitalize on the knowledge and expertise of Florida city officials, ICMA facilitated a working partnership between the three Florida cities and Cuddalore and Nagapattinam. The partnership worked to help prepare for and mitigate future disasters along the southern Indian coastline, as well as to build the capacity of both governments to provide basic services to their citizens. A CityLinks team was formed, composed of ICMA staff, officials from the three Florida cities, and representatives from the Urban Management Centre (UMC), an organization based in the Indian city of Ahmedabad that works in collaboration with ICMA to professionalize urban management in India. 

The team provided pro-bono, hands-on technical assistance, capacity building training, and focused exchanges, complemented by small and targeted project assistance funding for disaster preparedness, computer-aided design (CAD) mapping, park/playground development, water delivery, flood mitigation, model street development, and financial management. The partnership and program led to lasting relationships and tangible results that will continue to improve the quality of life for the citizens of both cities.

Disaster Preparedness, Management, Mitigation, and Emergency Response

Mapping. The CityLinks Team created computer-aided design (CAD) base maps for both cities with detailed data layers of all relevant geographic features, public infrastructure systems and facilities, land uses, and relevant building structures. The cities are now better equipped to evacuate during emergencies, are able to respond to vulnerable populations more quickly, and are prepared to plan, prepare for, and develop infrastructure based on current municipal information and citizen needs. The CAD maps were also used throughout the CityLinks program by the project team and by Cuddalore and Nagapattinam for planning and implementation purposes. 

Flood Mitigation. The CAD maps were particularly beneficial in efforts to decrease seasonal flooding. Once the land features had been mapped, the CityLinks team identified low-lying areas and drainage problems and provided written recommendations in a report entitled 8 Ideas that Work to these communities and to self-help groups on ways to combat flooding. The team removed the silt from drains to allow for a freer flow of water during monsoon seasons, including over 750 running meters of drainage in Cuddalore.By cleaning the drains, which had historically been clogged with trash, debris and snakes, the cities mitigated the effects of monsoons. 

In addition, the CityLinks team hired a local Indian firm to survey both cities to determine and provide recommendations for the best way to tangibly mitigate seasonal flooding. The team then worked closely with local communities and municipal officials in Cuddalore and Nagapattinam to design responsive flood mitigation projects. As a result, working designs were developed for both cities, and a flood mitigation pilot project was completed in Nagapattinam. Ponds and water bodies were cleaned and linked together through the widening of seven ponds to allow for a free flow of water during storm surges and to provide a natural system for draining water that accumulated as a result of inclement weather.

Coastal Restoration and Park Development

During the tsunami, parks in Cuddalore and Nagapattinam were destroyed. To revitalize these community spaces, the CityLinks team built two neighborhood playgrounds, soliciting the involvement of over 300 schoolchildren, ages 8 to 12, their parents, teachers, and members of the community. These schoolchildren drew pictures of their ideal parks, which formed the basis for the final designs that were approved by both communities during stakeholder meetings.

The playgrounds were built by hand within five days at each site with approximately 4,000 hours of labor donated by citizens. In-kind contributions were donated by citizens, the government, and ICMA and through public-private partnerships. In addition to the playground, the CityLinks team designed and constructed two parks, allowing for increased urban greenery and improved gathering spaces for the tsunami-affected communities.

Financial Management

To strengthen the capacity of Cuddalore and Nagapattinam in the area of financial management, the CityLinks team worked with the cities to increase their own-source revenue generation. The team helped identify more than $800,000 in uncollected back taxes and as a result, more than $500,000 was collected by both cities. The increase in revenue was successful because the CityLinks team worked hand-in-hand with local government and finance specialists to strengthen their financial skills and institutional capacity. By the close of the project, both cities had updated their financial records, identified outstanding tax payments owed to them, and improved the tax collection process. The increase in revenues has allowed Cuddalore and Nagapattinam to pay for and provide better services to citizens.

Improved Citizen Access to Services

Public service delivery was addressed through the improvement of the municipal water supply and by encouraging citizens to become more knowledgeable about water services. The CityLinks team surveyed citizen needs and opinions, tested the water, and reviewed improvement options, then installed chlorinators and pressure gauges. Chlorination—a low-cost, sustainable, and effective way to treat water—is a proven means for decreasing disease among citizens. Pressure gauges allow the city to determine when the flow of water has been interrupted, so that they can ensure that citizens receive regular water service. The installation of chlorinators and pressure gauges increased access to pure drinking water for over 65,000 beneficiaries and showed concrete efforts by Cuddalore and Nagapattinam to address both concerns.

Once the chlorinators were installed, the CityLinks team, in partnership with the cities, implemented a public relations campaign to encourage citizens to hook up to the municipal water supply and to pay for household water connections. Citizens had previously refused to hook up to the water system because they were wary of the water quality and questioned the regularity with which water was being provided. The campaign publicized the improvements in service delivery through a video shown on government television stations, an audio/street campaign, and distribution of leaflets.

By the end of September 2007, 670 applications for water connections had been distributed in Nagapattinam, and approximately 365 applications had been filed by citizens to request water connections. In Cuddalore, approximately 1,200 applications had been distributed, and 980 applications had been filed. The filing of applications to hook up to the municipal water supply shows a significant change in citizens’ perceptions of water quality, as well as their interest in supporting the municipal water system. By successfully hooking citizens up to the municipal water systems, Cuddalore and Nagapattinam have the capacity to increase revenues by at least $150,000 per year.

The water supply activities are described in detail in the report Improved Water Supply Services in India.

Model Street Development

During an exchange visit to Florida, Indian representatives were intrigued by the well-planned streets and sidewalks that were built to accommodate citizen, business, and municipal needs. In an effort to recreate these spaces, Cuddalore and Nagapattinam requested that the CityLinks team design and facilitate the construction of a model street in each city. In response, the CityLinks program implemented stakeholder meetings, designed model street sections, identified funding/financial structuring opportunities, and advocated with municipal and state governments to provide funding for model street development initiatives. The team developed concept papers and proposals and submitted them for funding from the state government of Tamil Nadu. As the program ended, the proposals were pending approval.


 The CityLinks program in Cuddalore and Nagapattinam was a success because it remained a dynamic partnership that responded to municipal needs; it was demand driven; and it improved the quality of life for citizens. Although the program officially ended in September 2007, the partnership fostered lasting international relationships between local government professionals in Florida and India that will continue for years to come. The program achieved the following results:

  • Created working CAD base maps for both cities with detailed data layers of all relevant geographic features, public infrastructure systems and facilities, land uses, and building structures
  • Removed silt from drains to allow for a freer flow of water during monsoon seasons, including over 750 running meters of drainage in Cuddalore
  • Widened, cleaned, and connected seven ponds to improve drainage and reduce flooding.
  • Built two neighborhood playgrounds with labor donated by schoolchildren, their parents, teachers, and members of the community
  • Designed and constructed two parks, allowing for increased urban greenery and improved gathering spaces for the tsunami-affected communities
  • Identified more than $800,000 in uncollected back taxes and collected more than $500,000 in actual revenues for both cities
  • Installed chlorinators and pressure gauges to provide access to pure drinking water for more than 65,000 beneficiaries.


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