As part of its brown bag lunch lecture series, CU Denver’s American Planning Association Student Chapter (APAS) hosted College of Architecture and Planning (CAP) Assistant Professor Andrew Rumbach on October 11 to present a lecture on Marshes, Malls and Land Mafias: The Political Ecology of Flood Risk in Kolkata, India.
The presentation—which dovetails with Rumbach’s areas of research interest, including disasters and climate change, environmental risk, urban resilience, international planning, and small town and rural development—hosted about twenty students and faculty interested in learning more about his extensive work in south and southeast Asia.
During his lecture, Rumbach discussed how studying the root causes of flood risk in Asia drives his research, and examined three main sub-topics: how urbanization, flooding, and climate change affect Asian megacities; the specific case study of Kolkata in this context; and additional, in-depth information about the east Kolkata wetlands, which suffer from poor planning due to linkages between organized crime, local politics and real estate development.
Rumbach shared that by 2050, 6.4 billion people will live in cites, with 90% of this growth taking place in south Asia, southeast Asia, and Africa, which will contribute to the most radical shift in human settlement patterns in history. Due to this increasing global density, urbanization is becoming one of the main drivers of disaster likelihood in Asia, with the risk of environmental hazards—such as floods and storms—becoming more prevalent when a population’s level of vulnerability and exposure increases. Further, as urban governance through corrupt regimes plays a key role in the creation and distribution of resources critical to disaster risk reduction, much of the population often finds itself with unequal access to resources.
Rumbach further provided specific examples and photographs of these scenarios in Kolkata, India, and specifically the east Kolkata wetlands, which sits at the edge of the megacity and provides an estimated 50% of local demand for freshwater fish, but is subject to illegal land development that destroys this critical industry. Due to state power that is entrenched with the activity of local criminal groups, Rumbach’s presentation signified that a significant challenge to meaningful planning in the region remains.
“The brownbag was a great opportunity to share my research on Indian urbanization and environmental risk with students and colleagues. I look forward to future APAS organized events, which will greatly benefit the intellectual and research culture in the department and college,” Rumbach said.
For students interested in learning more about disaster and international development planning, Rumbach also noted the intersection between his areas of research and classes he teaches, including Natural and Built Environments, Disaster and Climate Change Planning, and Planning in the Developing World.
Brown bag lunch lectures are a part of APAS’ scheduled programming for the 2016-2017 school year. In addition to this lecture series, APAS offers opportunities for urban and regional planning students to participate in job shadowing, interdisciplinary walking tours, the annual Colorado American Planning Association conference, volunteer opportunities with non-profit organizations and more.
Click here to learn more about APAS at CU Denver, including to visit their event calendar.