Participating Faculty: Alark Saxena, Visiting Faculty from Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies
Project Duration: Wednesday, 26 September to Saturday, 6 October
Photo Credit: The Satsang Foundation
For the first time in modern history, more than half of the world’s population (55%) is living in urban areas. Close to 75% of global urban population and most of its largest cities are in low and middle income countries. India with a population of 1.2 billion and a GDP growth averaging 7.3% per year has 34% of its population in urban areas. Unofficially close to 55% of population now lives in urban like features. For next 40 years, India along with China, Indonesia and Nigeria will be leading the surge in urban population growth. Majority of the urban growth in India will occur in tier 2 and 3 cities within the country. Urbanization provides an opportunity to transform the economy of the country and at the same time creates challenges in terms of resource demand, overburdened infrastructure, environmental pollution and inequality. To understand sustainability and environmental challenges of the future, it is important to understand and engage with cities.
The city of Bhopal (a tier two city) is a unique social-ecological system. Nestled between one of the oldest cave paintings by humans in the world, the largest Shivalinga in the world and the world famous Sanchi Stupa with Budha relics, Bhopal is rich in environment, history and heritage but marred by the toxic industrial disaster. The city of Bhopal is one of the fastest growing and greenest cities in India. The city for most part has been an example of the “ganga-jamuni tehzeeb” a culture where Hindu’s and Muslims have peacefully coexisted for more than 300 years. The city of Bhopal provides a juxtaposition of the old and the new where natural, social and cultural components are remarkably intertwined. Hosting India’s largest man-made lake and the smallest national park (protected area for wildlife), this city provides an opportunity to learn about a diversity of interlinked social and environmental challenges. Rural to urban migration, urban sprawl, loss of forest cover and greening of urban areas, toxic legacies and current environmental pollution, urban transportation, water scarcity, climate change etc. all can be studied within this city landscape. Taking a sustainability perspective and using systems thinking, this field course will provide opportunities to understand Bhopal as an urban social-ecological system, and identify the various components and their associated dynamics.