India: Model Community Climate Mitigation Programs


Kawaki is a strategic urban greening program that follows a well-planned and implemented methodology, where feasible open spaces for tree-based interventions are identified with the support of the local community through tools like mapathons. For example, in the city of Kochi in Southern India, available spaces in clusters and along roads, waterways and property peripheries are mapped, and these maps are then overlayed over heat maps of the city to identify priority planting locations strategies.

The name Kawaki is formed from two Malayalam (a local southern Indian language) words, kawu (grove) and aki (make), translating to “make a grove”. It is also a community-led urban greening movement implemented in Kochi by the city’s municipal corporation with technical support from the World Resources Institute (WRI) India, a non-profit organisation. The focus of the project is to develop and conserve urban forests at extremely heat-vulnerable localities in the city using trees with the support of the local community.

As a methodology, after the initial site selection, all Kawaki sites are thoroughly studied by a team of community leaders, representatives from Kochi Municipal Corporation (KMC), technical experts from Kerala Forest Research Institute, from Center for Heritage, Environment & Development, and WRI India. Then, if the site is confirmed, scientific land preparation, including clearing debris, levelling, preparation of soil bed and soil replacement (if required), is performed to ensure tree sapling survival and enhanced growth.

After finalizing the sites, local stakeholders are made aware of it. A system is developed with their support to ensure urban forests’ protection, care, and maintenance until they are fully grown. Target local stakeholders are different in each case, including nearby residents, students and teachers from institutions, caretakers of buildings and members of local community organisations. Over six months, more than ten such Kawaki sites have been developed, and more are in the offing in heat and flood-stressed areas across Kochi city.

The multicultural approach using selected native trees ensures better biodiversity, resulting in better survival rates for these plantations. In addition, these sites conserve soil and guarantee the percolation of more rainwater into the ground.

As Kochi continues to lose its forest and green cover at an alarming rate due to rapid urbanization and changing land cover patterns, conserving these natural sinks is proving to be a good program for flood mitigation.

Developing local stakeholder enthusiasm is vital to the success of such community initiatives by multi-stakeholders driven by diverse interests in developing nature-based solutions. As part of this project, school students are mentored as local champions to take care of sites with QR-coded saplings featuring information on species, serving as an educational component for the youth and students.

The success of developing Kawaki forests thus is an apt example of developing thick natural canopies in cities to reduce heat while acting as a carbon sink in a fast urbanizing city. Understanding the needs of society and the interests of stakeholders, tapping into regional resources, and creating sustainable community networks are unique factors behind the Kawaki program.

Once fully grown, the trees planted under this model will provide heat and flood resilience, among other benefits. Under the program, multiple other spaces have been identified all around the city with the potential for a different type of tree plantation that can contribute to better climate mitigation and resilience.

The idea behind developing these Kawaki forests is that they aim to provide benefits like flood mitigation, biodiversity habitats, and recreational spaces, among others, in addition to heat mitigation. The planting style is done to allow access to the public, ensuring that forests serve as an open space for leisure and recreation. Since Kawaki forests are more densely situated with trees than public parks, it also ensures thicker tree canopies, resulting in better heat reduction and carbon sequestration.

As the city rapidly expands, there is a need to conserve and add much more blue-green infrastructure. The Kochi city authorities have already identified the need for other similar initiatives, adding Kawaki to their local municipal budgets. But scaling up the initiative to other parts of the city (including adoption in other Indian cities) requires much more administrative will, city-level awareness, and more institutional capacity building for replicating the program’s success.

This Post was submitted by Climate Scorecard India Country Manager Pooran Chandra Pandey.

Contact details:

Madhav Pai


World Resources Institute (WRI India)

1st Floor, Godrej & Boyce Premises

Gasworks Lane, Lalbaug, Parel

Mumbai, India

Tel: +91-22-24713591



Climate Scorecard depends on support from people like you.

We are a team of researchers providing information on efforts to reduce global emissions. We help make you better informed and able to advocate for improved climate change efforts. Donations of any amount are welcome.