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Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur

Urbanization and Environment

Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur and NPTEL via Swayam

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With more than 50% of the world population now residing in cities since 2008 (World Urbanization Prospects, 2007), we have reached ‘the urban moment’ with huge implications of planetary urbanization on the environment. Urbanization is not a new phenomenon; the ancient cities of the Indus Valley Civilization, Ancient Greece, Rome and Mesopotamia are strong evidences. However, with our entry to the era of the ‘Anthropocene’, rapid urbanization with its rate, scale and shifting geographies (with intense urbanization in the ‘global south’: Asia, Africa and Latin America) is upsetting the ecological balance complemented with rising inequity, displacement and loss of livelihoods affecting the urban poor. What is the solution? Should urbanization be perceived as the key challenge and strategies must be devised to halt it, if not reverse it (as it is irreversible)? Can there be other innovative alternatives that do not perceive cities as consumptive spaces swallowing ecological resources and generating highest ecological footprints, but also as contributors to ecological sustainability? While policy prescriptions laid out in the UN ‘Sustainable Urbanization’ framework or ‘Sustainable Development Goals’ (SDGs) offer technocratic directions and guidelines, it is extremely important to empirically investigate the relationship cities and their wider environments to not only identify challenges but also map potentials and learn lessons towards the development of a robust resilient urban environmental matrix that will not only be technically sound and feasible but also informed by socio-economic and political realities and determinants. With lessons from emerging urban social sciences frameworks such as urban environmental history and urban political ecology and with the empirical focus on South Asia, the course will shed light on cities as complex socio-natural-technical assemblages, encompassing elaborate technical apparatus and intricate social arrangements evolved along shifting temporal scales and development imperatives. Finally, by capturing “storylines” in the making of urban nature involving multiple stakeholders (government, foreign agencies, civil society and communities), the larger agenda of this course is to transcend theoretical research on the relationship between urbanization and environment into practical actions towards a just, inclusive and resilient (urban) world order. INTENDED AUDIENCE: Natural sciences and engineering disciplines with a focus on built environment and urban (ecological) infrastructures like architecture, civil engineering, environmental engineering, etc. Humanities and Social Sciences (including but not restricted to) sociology, geography, history, anthropology, etc. The course will be beneficial for urban planners and practitioners along bureaucratic and technocratic circles. Apart from policy circles, for NGOs and grassroots organizations catering to urban (ecological) goals like slum development, WATSAN services in non-networked urban (peri-urban) patches, and urban research labs, the course will be meaningful.


Module 01: The Urban and the Environment during the Era of the “Overlapping Cenes”

Lecture 01: Setting the Context
Lecture 02: The Anthropocene
Lecture 03: The Nine Planetary Boundaries Framework
Lecture 04: The Capitalocene
Lecture 05: The Urbanocene
Lecture 06: COVID 19, Urban Informality and Environment: Context Global South
Week 2:
Module 02: The Search for “Sanitary” and “Sustainable Cities”
Lecture 07: “Sanitary Cities”: Urban, Environment and Modernity in the West
Lecture 08: Networked Cities: “Path-dependent” Consequences
Lecture 09: From “Sanitary” to “Sustainable” Cities
Lecture 10: How “sustainable”? Critical analysis of contemporary urban models
Week 3:
Module 03: Urban (environmental) Trajectories in India: Plans, Policies, Visions and Missions
Lecture 11: Historical Pasts
Lecture 12: “Colonial Urbanization”
Lecture 13: Limits and Legacies of “Colonial Urbanization”
Lecture 14: The Post-independence Scenario: “Planned Cities” and Renewal Missions
Lecture 15: “Smart Cities” Lecture 16: “Smart Cities”: Critique and Contestations
Week 4:
Lecture 17: “Fantasy Cities”? Understanding Limits of “Smart”, “Eco” and “Green” Doctrines Case Study 1: Dholera
Lecture 18: “Fantasy Cities”? Understanding Limits of “Smart”, “Eco” and “Green” Doctrines: Case Study 2: New Town Rajarhat
Lecture 19: “Fantasy Cities”? Understanding Limits of “Smart”, “Eco” and “Green” Doctrines: Case Study 3: Lavasa
Week 5:
Module 04: Urban Environmental Social Sciences Frameworks
Lecture 20: Urban Environmental History: The US Part I: Context and Themes
Lecture 21: Urban Environmental History: The US Part II: More Thematic Variations and Global Influences
Lecture 22: Urban Environmental History: Europe Part I: Context and Themes
Lecture 23: Urban Environmental History: The US Part II: Recent Advances
Week 6:
Lecture 24: Urban Environmental History: South Asia [SAUEH] Part I.A: The Prelude: Inception and the Initial Wave [SAEH]
Lecture 25: Urban Environmental History: South Asia [SAUEH] Part I.B: (More) Nuanced Narratives [SAEH]
Lecture 26: Urban Environmental History: South Asia [SAUEH] Part II: Trends and Trajectories
Lecture 27: Urban Environmental History: South Asia [SAUEH] Part II: Trends and Trajectories (Contd.)
Lecture 28: Urban Political Ecology Part I: Emergence and Development
Lecture 29: Urban Political Ecology Part II: (More) Recent Advances
Lecture 30: Urban Political Ecology Part III: Internal Debates and New Political Possibilities
Week 7:
Lecture 31: Urban Political Ecology: The Indian Context Part I: Themes and Concepts
Lecture 32: Urban Political Ecology: The Indian Context Part II: (More) Recent Advances
Lecture 33: Historical Urban Political Ecology (HUPE): Blue Infrastructures of Kolkata
Lecture 34: Urban Environmentalisms
Lecture 35: Urban Environmentalisms: Case Study 1: The Adi Ganga Bachao Andolan
Lecture 36: Urban Environmentalisms: Case Study 2: Protests to Protect the EKW
Week 8:
Module 05: First Hand Narratives: Learnings from Research Projects
Lecture 37: Translocal Learning for Water Justice: Peri-urban Pathways in India, Tanzania and Bolivia
Lecture 38: Informing Urban Disaster Studies using Comparative Urban Environmentalism
Lecture 39: Urban Environmental Heritage: Insights from Bengal’s Mini-Europe
Lecture 40: The Way Forward

Taught by

Prof. Jenia Mukherjee



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