Urban Risk and Resilience

Sustainable Urbanization

Rapid urbanization has led to severe strains on the world’s natural resources, environment, and society. In turn, ecological and environmental pressures have made cities vulnerable to multiple risks. India, which has so far had a significant rural majority, is expected to house a major part of the world’s urban population by 2050. It is thus imperative for the country to meet the challenges of sustainable urbanization.

The Mumbai Center brings together scientists, planners and policy analysts, social scientists, and humanists to addresses these challenges. This is a cross-cutting theme, researched across several departments at Columbia University. Areas of current faculty research include Air Quality Improvement, Urban Climate Resilience, Disaster Management, Sustainable Land Use, Energy Markets and Policies, and Solid Waste Management.

The Center will continue to partner with a project entitled Cyclone and Storm Surge Risks to Mumbai led by Adam H. Sobel, Professor, Department of Applied Physics and Applied Mathematics and Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences. Mumbai has been cited as one of the top 5 megacities to be affected by sea surge due to global warming. The city is also a signatory to the C40 Cities forum for reducing greenhouse gas emissions globally. In addition to hosting relevant lectures and workshops, we plan to develop policy briefs and citizen action plans and extend the work to other areas affected by disaster and climate change.

Air quality in major Indian cities is amongst the worst in the world. Sources of emissions include coal-fired power plants, industry, vehicles, and
agricultural and biomass burning, which contribute to harmful air pollutants and greenhouse gases. Under a President's Global Innovation Fund grant awarded to Professor Ruth DeFries, the Center facilitated a workshop in February, 2016, as a planning activity to initiate long-term collaborations, joint projects, and student exchanges, bringing together an interdisciplinary group of scientists from public health, atmospheric chemistry, and atmospheric transport modeling. We plan to extend this work in the next two years.

Related News

January 18, 2019

Reconciling Connectivity and Conservation

As a nation with enormous bio-diversity, India needs to protect its ecological resources.  As a rapidly expanding economy, however, it cannot ignore the need for infrastructural development. Public awareness, policy interventions, and creative solutions are required for reconciling conservation of wildlife with the need for expanding landscape connectivity through roads and highways.

July 06, 2018

A New Initiative on Urban Workspaces

Studies and design challenges on the features of innovative workplaces have been primarily focused on US and European contexts. In light of this, Columbia University’s Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science is partnering with Columbia Global Centers | Mumbai to launch the Urban Works Innovation Challenge – a multi-year collaborative design challenge to boost the current and future potential of the Indian workforce. Supported by the RMZ Foundation, the initiative will address the critical need to transform 21st-century workspaces.

May 29, 2018

The Health Burden of Air Pollution

“Outdoor air pollution is the second leading risk factor for mortality in India. Nearly one million lives are lost prematurely in India to air pollution,” said Dr. Alexandra Karambelas, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, The Earth Institute, Columbia University. Her lecture at the Center in May drew linkages between energy emissions, air quality and health outcomes and emphasized the need for better monitoring of air quality in India in order to draw up appropriate mitigation strategies.

January 15, 2018

Balancing Climate Policy and GDP Growth in India

“Of the 250 million families in India, about 50 million families are still not on the grid,” said Jairam Ramesh, former Union Minister and Rajya Sabha member, speaking at an event organized by the Chazen Institute’s India Business Initiative at Columbia University on January 15 in Mumbai. Per capita electricity consumption in the country is at one-quarter the level it is in China, one-tenth that of Europe and one-thirteenth the level in the United States.

December 12, 2017

Preparing for Storm Surge in New York and Mumbai

When a team of researchers from Columbia University set out in January 2017 to study the risk of cyclones to the city of Mumbai, the likelihood of the city experiencing a phenomenon that had never occurred seemed remote. When their lead researcher returned in December 2017, Cyclone Ockhi had narrowly passed the city’s coastline, increasing the significance of their work. With a view to bringing research on urban climactic hazards into the public domain, the Center hosted a public lecture on December 12, 2017 by Dr. Adam Sobel.

June 30, 2017

Climate Action and Megacities

The risks of climate change and the adverse effects of greenhouse gases can only be mitigated by effective action at the local and global level. Given that urbanization has exacerbated climate risks, cities need to be at the forefront of reform. The C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group is one such innovative initiative, serving as a platform for a network of the world’s megacities. The C40 Cities network acts locally – at the level of multiple city leaders such as mayors and municipal commissioners.

April 17, 2017

Sustainable Waste Solutions for Global Cities

Municipal solid waste has tripled globally since 1950 and is expected to be six times greater by 2030. So, how will global cities manage their ever-increasing mounds of waste? One thing that clearly emerges from years of research is that we need to put an end to open dumping. Evidence for this argument was presented by Athanasios Bourtsalas, Adjunct Professor at the Earth and Environmental Engineering Department, Columbia University, and the Manager of the Earth Engineering Center at Columbia University.

January 12, 2017

Cyclones, Storm Surges, and Climate Risks to Mumbai

Extreme climate events are on the rise globally, raising concerns about the future of coastal cities. Enabling cities to become resilient to climate-induced changes has emerged as a priority in local and global agendas. As part of an ongoing initiative to build knowledge on Urban Climate Resilience, the Center organized a round-table discussion, bringing together scientists and urban experts, to assess the potential risks of a catastrophic flood in Mumbai due to a tropical cyclone-driven storm surge.

December 01, 2016

The Future of Energy Markets

Amidst climate change threats and geopolitical struggles, can nations afford to take an isolationist perspective in determining their energy policies or is global thinking and interdependence the way for a sustainable and stable future? What are the latest trends in global oil and natural gas markets and what implications do these have for countries like India? A panel discussion on this issue was organized by the Mumbai Center featuring energy experts from Columbia’s Center on Global Energy Policy (CGEP) at the India Merchants Chambers on December 1.

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