RGS-IBG Annual International Conference 2017


156 Understanding urban everyday risks through methodological innovations
Convenor(s) Hayley Leck (King's College London, UK)
Maria Rusca (King’s College London, UK)
Chair(s) Hayley Leck (King's College London, UK)
Timetable Thursday 31 August 2017, Session 1 (09:00 - 10:40)
Session abstract This interactive session explores different forms of research methodologies and knowledge generation that can capture the underlying drivers of risk accumulation and disaster production in urban centres and how these are spatially and socially distributed. It brings together analysis of urban governance and vulnerability from various urban centres across sub-Saharan Africa. This allows comparison of the range of methods deployed to draw out their appropriateness, complementarities and synergies.

African cities and small towns are highly vulnerable both to large disasters and to everyday risks. This provides opportunities and challenges for disaster risk reduction, adaptation to climate change, and transformative urban development. Large disasters including floods, storms, and earthquakes are increasingly affecting urban areas, at the same time as everyday risks associated with inadequate access to basic services, such as water, sanitation and health care grow in significance. At the same time, well-planned urbanisation offers scope for new infrastructure and land-use planning to build risk reduction and adaptation into urban design. Innovative actions and interventions by urban residents have considerable potential for effective and transformative risk management, yet are often constrained from influencing development pathways and risk accumulation and reduction patterns by inequality and uneven power relations.

Major constraints to resilience building for urban sub-Saharan Africa and beyond include limited understanding of urbanisation and risk relationships, constrained capacities of local authorities, and the difficulties in transforming the unequal power relations that underpin risk accumulation. Understanding risk production in urban centres is complex and requires an analysis of the complex interrelationships of socio-political, biophysical and spatial processes. Papers draw from a three year study Urban Africa: Risk Knowledge (Urban ARK) funded by DFID-ESRC.
Contact the conference organisers to request a change to session or paper details: AC2017@rgs.org
Urban Africa Risk Knowledge - Setting the Agenda
Mark Pelling (King's College London, UK)
David Dodman (International Institute for Environment and Development, UK)
Hayley Leck (King's College London, UK)
Maria Rusca (King’s College London, UK)
Sub-Saharan Africa’s rapid urbanisation presents a significant opportunity to plan and manage more resilient and sustainable towns and cities. Decision makers and risk managers at all levels are increasingly rising to the challenge. Some of the structural constraints that hold back resilience building for urban sub-Saharan Africa are limited data and, thus, limited understanding of urbanisation and risk relationships. This paper sets out the broad research agenda for the Urban Africa: Risk Knowledge Programme (Urban ARK) which focuses on these challenges and opportunities for building risk knowledge and reduction to tackle a broad spectrum of risks. The programme draws from a variety of disciplines including physical geography, climate science, disaster risk management and public health and employs multiple vulnerability and disaster loss assessment methods.

Reducing risk requires understanding the nature, scale and distribution of urban risk, the multiple ways in which hazards are created and the multiple ways in which vulnerability is shaped. Urban dwellers in low- and middle-income countries are exposed to a multitude of hazards, including everyday risks related to infrastructure deficits, unsafe and insufficient water, inadequate provision for sanitation and smoke-filled homes from the use of dirty fuels. This requires reconceptualising across a spectrum, encompassing everyday, small, and large events. Urban ARK places emphasis on the impacts of large events but importantly also everyday hazards and small disasters which are widely under-estimated in low- and middle-income countries mainly because they fail to meet the criteria to qualify as disasters in international databases.
Understanding urban transformations: a coevolutionary framework underpinned by reflexivity and discourse contestation
Alejandro Barcena (King's College London, UK)
Climate adaptation research continues to privilege resistance and incremental change over transformative processes. Development pathways distribute risk unevenly as a result of a struggle among members of society with different influencing power over decisions and social processes. Furthering this discipline requires more attention to transformations, moving the locus of decision making through changes of inner worlds and social structures. This paper presents an innovative analytical and methodological framework underpinned by three coevolving spheres. A structure sphere combines reproductive and transformative networks interwoven in each other. The former is composed by a set of institutions belonging to a risk regime, and the latter by niches of experimentation which are projected into the regime. An agent sphere captures discourses, identities, and agents’ capacity to contest meaning. A material sphere represents the techno-tope, milieu and outcome of structures’ and agents’ actions. The framework investigates transformations at the intersection of each pair of elements through conceptual objects borrowed from social psychology, social movements, policy process and social learning theories. Social movements and policy process literatures offer a useful lens to investigate the political and discursive opportunity context where struggle among coalitions of social actors may lead to regime transformations. Social psychology and social learning literatures are useful to understand how discourses are interpreted and transform agents’ behaviour. This framework of analysis is applied to Niamey (Niger) and its preliminary findings are presented.
Understanding risk to the urban built environment in data-poor regions
Faith Taylor (King's College London, UK)
James Millington (King's College London, UK)
Bruce Malamud (King's College London, UK)
Natural hazards can impact the built environment in many ways, often depending on the state of physical infrastructure. However, in developing world settings, accessing spatial data on the distribution and characteristics of physical infrastructures can be a challenge due to issues of informality and rapid change. This work presents a method to coarsely zone urban areas into different physical infrastructure typologies, from which physical vulnerability to a range of natural hazards can be estimated. We build on previous work (Stewart and Oke, 2011; Betchel et al., 2015) in urban micrometeorology for classifying areas into 16 urban typologies using remote sensing imagery. Based on >1200 georeferenced field photographs and ~35 expert interviews for Karonga (Malawi) and Nairobi (Kenya), we develop general rules about the presence, type and level of service of 10 broad categories of both formal and informal physical infrastructure (including buildings, roads, electricity and water) for each of these 16 urban typologies, which we call ‘urban textures’. We have developed and applied this technique to five urban areas varying in size and character across Africa. We review several scenarios of different urban textures being physically impacted by specific natural hazards and natural interactions. This analysis aims to aid local stakeholders to systematically identify how the formal and informal physical infrastructure in different parts of an urban area could be affected differently during a natural disaster event.
A contribution to city-wide risk knowledge in a data sparse environment-Ibadan city study
Ibidun Adelekan (University of Ibadan, Nigeria)
Ezebunwa Nwokocha (University of Ibadan, Nigeria)
Femi Olaniyan (University of Ibadan, Nigeria)
Contemporary urban dynamics and processes in sub-Saharan Africa result in changing patterns of everyday risks and generation of new risks. There is, nonetheless, a dearth of relevant and detailed data on both intensive and extensive risks at the ward or district level for urban areas in Africa to inform development and disaster risk reduction. The paper shows the benefits of triangulation of methods in providing first assessment of city-wide risk information from readily accessible data sources in data sparse environments exemplified by the work undertaken in the Ibadan city study of the ESRC-DFID funded Urban Africa: Risk Knowledge research programme. Risk information across the spectrum of risks resulting in premature deaths, injury and losses for the city for the period 2000 to 2015 was collected from daily reports of a local newspaper (Nigerian Tribune). This was complemented by hospital records of the most common causes of premature deaths in the city as well as reports of events resulting in intensive and extensive risks held in dispersed government publications, and knowledge bases of communities and civil society organisations. Data collected from these sources provided the city data base imported into the UNISDR Desinventar, a software tool which aided the analysis of the trends of the different risks and their impacts. The spatial distribution for each risk type was also generated which provided an assessment of vulnerability of different wards of the city. The methodology described contributes to providing risk knowledge for disaster risk reduction where city-wide information systems are lacking or inadequate
Citizen science water quality and WASH related risk monitoring for building resilience in Karonga Town, Malawi
Elijah Wanda (Mzuzu University, Malawi)
Mtafu Manda (Mzuzu University, Malawi)
Orton Msiska (Mzuzu University, Malawi)
James Kushe (Mzuzu University, Malawi)
Chris Mphande (Mzuzu Univeristy, Malawi)
Dominic Kamlomo (Mzuzu University, Malawi)
Jean Kaunda (Mzuzu University, Malawi)
This paper presents key methodological and empirical reflections from a recent study that employed a citizen science approach to integrate local communities into scientific research on water quality and water and sanitation (WASH) related risk monitoring in order to build resilience in disaster prone Karonga Town, Malawi. Data was collected with the assistance of trained citizen science research counterparts from Karonga Town. Standard sampling procedures were used to collect water samples from a total of 27 unsafe water sources in Karonga Town. The water samples were analysed for biological, physical and chemical parameters using standard methods. Personal observations were made to determine major sanitary risks impacting on a water sources in the town. It was observed that water from the majority of shallow wells, rivers/streams, boreholes and Lake Malawi were highly contaminated with E-coli, which were considerably higher than the Malawi Bureau of Standards (MBS) water quality specifications for drinking water. In general, the water is of low mineralization with rock–water interactions and surface pollution from anthropogenic activities such as agricultural activities and municipal wastes being responsible for input biological, chemical and physical pollutants which present a big everyday risk for residents in the town. The results of the WQI and WQ ratings indicated that water collected from the sampled sites is not suitable for direct human consumption without prior to treatment. The citizen approach was effective in uncovering core water quality issues and led to recommendations that onsite treatment and point of use water treatment interventions should be instituted and advocated to improve human health, livelihoods and build resilience to WASH related risks and hazards in Karonga Town.
Testing innovative methodologies for urban health research in data poor environments: Insights from Karonga Town, Malawi
Donald Brown (University College London, UK)
Tamara Phiri (Mzuzu University, Malawi)
Wisdom Bwanali (Urban Resource Centre)
Mtafu Manda (Mzuzu University, Malawi)
Risks of different types and scales (everyday, small and large) are urbanising in many sub-Saharan African countries where the capacity to plan and manage rapid urban growth, provide basic infrastructure and services, and adapt to emerging hazards (including climate change) remains lacking. But little is known about the nature and scale of urban risk due to a lack of detailed local data. This paper presents a set of innovative methodologies that were developed as part of an international research project called Urban Africa Risk Knowledge (Urban ARK) to better understand risks to health in data poor environments. These methodologies were deployed in Karonga Town, a smaller urban centre in Malawi. Detailed demographic and health data is especially lacking in smaller urban centres, even though they contain a large share of the urban population and are expected to accommodate a large share of future urban growth with urbanisation. Smaller urban centres thus present significant informational challenges for researchers interested in better understanding the health risks their populations face, and the possibilities for targeted health interventions at the local scale. The methodologies presented provide initial insight into how these challenges can be overcome through the use of different data sets (qualitative and quantitative) and new approaches, with an emphasis on those that involve communities in the data collection process.
Heterogeneity in flood and linked risks across neighbourhoods in Kibera, Nairobi
Joe Mulligan (Kounkuey Design Initiative, USA/Kenya; KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Sweden)
Jamilla Harper (Kounkuey Design Initiative, USA/Kenya)
Vera Bukachi (Kounkey Design Initiative, USA/Kenya)
Kibera, Nairobi’s largest informal settlement, is subject to significant flood risk due to poor drainage and its location adjacent to the Ngong River. While flooding is one specific climate risk in Kibera, it also ties to a much broader set of vulnerability issues including public health, security, livelihoods and urban fragility. Many other informal settlements of Nairobi are located on the city’s major watercourses and are similarly vulnerable.
In 2015 and 2016 the Nairobi based non-profit design and community planning organisation Kounkuey Design Initiative, along with partners BuroHappold Engineering and Stockholm University, delivered an in-depth research program on “Building Urban Flood Resilience in Kibera: Integrating Community Perspectives”. The research included quantitative data collection from 963 household surveys across Kibera pre and post the 2015 long rainy season, with qualitative information from 26 community workshops on flooding and related risks. The data was overlain with 1D hydraulic modelling of flood extents for various rainfall events (including climate change scenarios) as well as community mapping of historical flood events.
This presentation introduces results from analysis of these novel data sets and demonstrates the heterogeneity of demographics, vulnerability to flooding and other interlinked risks across five low and high exposure neighbourhoods in Kibera. The presentation also includes policy prescriptions and discussion for addressing the spatial and political challenges of riparian zone management in low-income areas of Nairobi and other rapidly urbanising cities.