Prakash Chandra Tiwari, Kumaon University, Nainital, India

Bhagwati Joshi, Government Post Graduation College, Rudrapur, India

Presentation Title: Urban growth and assessment of its natural and socio-economic risks in high mountain ecosystems: A geospatial framework for institutionalizing urban risk management in Himalaya




Urbanization has emerged as one of the major drivers of environmental changes in the Himalaya. These changes are making urban ecosystems highly vulnerable to a variety of natural and socioeconomic risks, particularly: slope failures, flash floods, urban fires and food, livelihood and health insecurity, all of which affect mainly poor and marginalized communities. Moreover, climate change has stressed urban ecosystems through increased frequency, severity, and intensity of natural and socioeconomic risks. This study developed an urban risk-reduction framework using geo-spatial technology with application through multi-stakeholder governance in Kumaon, Himalaya, India.

Key Lessons Learned

  • Poverty and socio-economic marginalization are responsible for creating urban environmental inequalities in the mountain regions of the developing world under conditions of global environmental change.
  • There is a great need for the following:  (i) comprehensive urban land-use policy; (ii) evolving framework for sustainable livelihood for vulnerable sections of the urban population, particularly poor and women; (iii) effective implementation of urban land-use plans; and, (iv) development of remote sensing and GIS support systems with near real-time urban disaster risk assessment and reduction. 
  • In addition to these, gender mainstreaming, particularly through social and economic empowerment of women, and integrating sustainable urban development into an urban climate change adaptation framework are inevitable.

Policy/Practice Implications of Research

  • The remote sensing and GIS-based geospatial disaster risk reduction framework evolved through the study will help policy planning organizations and local government agencies in making geospatial decisions as one of the integral components of urban disaster risk reduction strategies in Himalaya.
  • The policy recommendations of the research could be extended to different parts of Himalaya and other high mountain regions of the world in low- and middle-income countries.
  • This study provides a conceptual basis for urban livelihood improvement and integration with urban risk reduction and climate change adaptation. However, the effective implementation of these outcomes and recommendations would depend on the institutional framework which is currently weak and inefficient in responding to natural risk and making use of emerging knowledge and technologies.

Knowledge Gaps and Needs

  • The potential of wider application of geo-spatial technology in urban risk governance in high mountains needs to be explored. This includes:
    • The interpretation of inter-linkages between socio-economic and environmental exclusion and urban sustainability in high mountains;
    • The assessment of impacts of growing urban inequalities on vulnerability of high mountain urban ecosystems to global environmental change; 
    • The appraisal of the effectiveness and practical applicability of existing policy frameworks for attaining socio-economic equity and environmental justice in rapidly growing mountain urban areas of developing countries; and,
    • Exploring prospects and perspectives of improved, equitable urban and climate smart urban governance in mountain regions.


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