Andrew Rumbach: Marshes, Malls, and the Land Mafia: The Political Ecology of Flood Risk in Kolkata, India

Marshes, Malls, and the Land Mafia: The Political Ecology of Flood Risk in Kolkata, India

Floods in India. photo / provided

Andrew Rumbach (M.R.P. '08, Ph.D. CRP '11) is an assistant professor in the Department of Urban and Regional Planning at the University of Colorado Denver. His research centers on community risk and resilience to natural hazards and climate change in the U.S. and India. His work has appeared in numerous planning and development journals including the Journal of the American Planning Association, Habitat International, the Journal of Environmental Planning and Management, and the Journal of Planning Education and Research. His recent projects include a community-based study of earthquake and landslide risk in the hill station cities of northeastern India, and an NSF-funded project examining uneven recovery from the 2013 floods in Colorado.


Cities in India are increasingly vulnerable to flooding. In Kolkata, urban development in the low-lying fringe has produced new geographies of disaster and is leading to a seemingly inexorable conflict between the city and its future environment. This lecture will connect the proximate conditions of vulnerability and flood risk in peri-urban Kolkata to their root causes, focusing on the politics of spatial development and the unequal provision of housing and urban infrastructure. It will discuss how these roots of risk are shaping disaster geographies elsewhere in urban India and argue that disaster and climate change plans must grapple with the real politics of development to be effective tools for building urban resilience.

Cosponsored by City and Regional Planning and the South Asia Program, Einaudi Center.
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