Tag Archives: India

MURP Professor Andy Rumbach Authors Study on Disaster Risk in Smaller Cities

September 7, 2015

Denver, CO – MURP Professor Andy Rumbach authored a new study on the increasing disaster risk of smaller cities that was published in the journal Habitat International last week. The study examines smaller urban areas in West Bengal, India and the unique challenges these areas face in terms of disaster management.

While planning for natural disasters is taking place in major urban centers around the world, Andy points out that “small cities are often far away from where decisions get made and struggle to insert themselves into the agenda of decision-making bodies.”

This is especially true in developing countries. Using the Darjeeling district, a mountainous region of West Bengal, as a case study, Andy highlights that despite the increased potential for heavy rains, runoff, unstable mountain slopes, and landslides, none of these potential hazards has been adequately planned for. The state disaster plan does not fully consider issues specific to the mountain regions. “As a result, the plan displays a poor understanding of local conditions and needs,” the study said. “Landslide hazards, which are a major threat to lives and property in the small cities of the Darjeeling district are a case in point.”

The study looks at the roles decentralization and local capacity building could play in better preparing smaller cities to cope with and respond to disasters. “One obvious recommendation is a more gradual decentralization of governance and funding, with significant support for capacity building at the local level,” Andy said. “Another recommendation would be to strengthen the role of non-governmental organizations and the private sectors, actors who are virtually absent from the existing [government] disaster management infrastructure in India.”


Decentralization and small cities: Towards more effective urban disaster governance?

By Andrew Rumbach


Decentralization, the devolution of fiscal, political, and administrative powers and responsibilities from centralized governments to local ones, has spread rapidly throughout Asia. Proponents of decentralization argue that it has the potential to improve local capacity for governing many challenging issues, including the management of hazards, disasters, and the effects of global climate change. Disaster governance is particularly challenging in small cities, communities that house a large portion of Asia’s urban population but where disaster management institutions, knowledge, and capacity are often lacking. Across Asia, a substantial portion of urban growth is occurring in small cities. This paper examines whether decentralization has led to more effective disaster governance in small cities in India, using the state of West Bengal as a case study. It finds that decentralization has created the potential for improved disaster governance, by providing constitutional and legal authority for improved urban governance and local disaster management plans and programs. In reality, however, decentralization has yet to significantly reduce urban disaster risk in small cities in West Bengal.

MURP Introduces New Summer Course in Kalimpong, India

February 20, 2015

MURP recently announced that it will be offering a new course on international field research this summer, which will include a two-week field research visit to Kalimpong, India, a small city in the foothills of the Himalayan Mountains.

The course, being led by MURP Assistant Professor Andy Rumbach, will address the human-caused drivers of landslide risk in the Darjeeling-Sikkim Himalayas. Students will work with faculty and a local partner organization to formulate a research design, develop research instruments, collect and analyze data, and write up results and recommendations.

Prior to leaving for India, students will learn about the history of the Darjeeling-Sikkim region, the origins and functions of “hill station” cities like Kalimpong, the environmental challenges facing this mountainous region, and Indian urban planning and development. Students will also study the research design process and gather the materials necessary for the site visit portion of the class.

In June, students will travel to India and undertake an intensive field research effort in and around the city of Kalimpong. The team will be working closely with Save the Hills, a community-based organization dedicated to raising awareness about earthquake and landslide threats in the Darjeeling-Sikkim Himalayas throughout the project.

Following the research trip, students will then reconvene in Denver and where they’ll finalize their report and make a final presentation to community partners via video-conference at the end of the summer semester.

MURP Professors Lay Groundwork for Collaboration in India

November 18, 2014

Kolkata and Kalimpong, India – Jeremy Németh and Andrew Rumbach, professors in the Department of Planning & Design, recently returned from a week in eastern India, where they were laying the groundwork for potential future teaching and research efforts in the region. Jeremy and Andy met with senior officials from the United States-India Educational Foundation in Kolkata and were invited speakers at an academic symposium focused on cities and development. The symposium was hosted by Centre for Built Environment and featured numerous speakers from Indian, European, and American universities.

They next visited Kalimpong, a small city in the Darjeeling District of West Bengal, near the Nepal and Chinese borders. There, they met with representatives from Save the Hills, a community-based organization focused on disaster risk reduction in the Darjeeling-Sikkim Himalayas, and toured areas affected by floods and landslides. Jeremy and Andy also spoke at a workshop on urban planning and disaster risk reduction, jointly sponsored by Save the Hills, North Bengal University, and the University of Colorado Denver.

The two met with several representatives from urban development departments in the region, as well as members of local environmental NGOs and professors from nearby colleges and universities.