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DFG-funded project: Economic and social drivers of land use change in coastal Bangladesh -- within the BanD-AID research program “Bangladesh Delta: Assessment of the causes of sea level rise hazards and integrated development of predictive modeling towards mitigation and adaptation” (2013-2016)

Bangladesh, a low-lying and densely populated country, faces recurrent flooding, potentially aggravated by sea level rise and more frequent and intensified cyclones resulting from climate change. Growing demographic pressure and a one-sided focus on economic development has led to a rapid degradation of the natural ecological system and an increase in the vulnerability of the coastal zones. However, the social and economic processes leading to land use change, deforestation, land degradation and salinization are still not fully understood. The rapid transformation from natural forests and rice paddies to shrimp ponds, for instance, is not only triggered by domestic decision-making, but also by integration in global supply chains and the logics of external markets. Other problematic land use changes in coastal Bangladesh are due to increasing food demand. Cropping is changing from single to double and from double to triple crops in a year, resulting in an overexploitation of surface and ground water. New economic activities such as shrimp farms are continuously expanding and engulfing traditional crop lands, displacing traditional land users and small farmers. Resilience in the past has been based on family and village networks, which are being eroded by these changes. New settlements emerge in highly exposed locations (e.g. “chars”). In the long term, these processes undermine indigenous coping and mitigation strategies as well as social bonding which, in the past, have been important mechanisms for coping with floods, cyclones, and storm surges.

Geographers and sociologists at the University of Cologne and at Ohio State University seek to unravel the complex economic and social reasons behind these developments. Overall, the BanD-AID program is run by an international, cross-disciplinary team consisting of natural and social scientists. Partner universities are located in Cologne, Bonn, Toulouse, Columbus, Perth, Dhaka, and Rajshahi. A full overview is presented on the LOICZ website.

Contact: Boris Braun, Amelie Bernzen


DFG-funded project: GreenRegio:Green building in regional strategies for sustainability: multi-actor governance and innovative building technologies in Europe, Australia, and Canada (2013-2016)

Cities have increasingly been identified as the optimal scale to mitigate action on climate change. While urban areas produce a large share of greenhouse gas emissions with the building sector being the single largest contributor, the sector is also seen to hold greatest potential to lower emissions based on the low cost of retrofitting existing or constructing new buildings, the availability of technologies, and transition to green energy supply and demand ( Additionally, local actors such as municipal governments have considerable influence over local land use, carbon control policies and transitions towards a green economy. One significant opportunity for cities to become climate change leaders lies in green building (e.g., energy efficient buildings) and the way the build environment interfaces with urban structures and services (e.g., “smart growth”).

The project aims at analyzing the role of city regions as potential strategic managers of sustainability transitions focusing on innovations in green building. It seeks to trace how green innovations and technological change in green building emerge and develop over time in selected cities including Vancouver (CAN), Brisbane (AUS), Freiburg (GER) and Luxembourg (LUX). In particular, it focuses on the role internal and external actors and events play in promoting innovations and their adoption. The focus goes beyond purely technical innovations and tries to integrate procedural, organizational, funding and other innovations, routines and regulations and their contribution to regional carbon control policies.

Contact: Sebastian Fastenrath

DFG-funded project: “Airports as foci of real estate development and employment: small scale analyses in Australian metropolitan areas” (Short title: “Airports as new urban centres”) (funding period: 2012-2015)

In recent years, airports and adjacent areas have often been focal points of new multifunctional urban nodes. These centres have obtained significant regional importance for property development, as locations for major companies, and for employment. Models of airport-led urban development, such as the “Airport City”, “Aerotropolis”, “Airport Corridor” and “Airea”, can be useful to describe and analyse the characteristics and implications of the resulting shifts in the urban economic system. However, there is scope for further sophistication of these models, especially with regard to environmental issues, local specifics and quantification of crucial processes. Airports not only induce economic growth in adjacent areas, but often also promote uncoordinated development. This frequently leads to unsatisfactory outcomes for the city as a whole and spurs local conflicts. Moreover, airport-induced development can be inconsistent with the goals of sustainable urban development set by planning authorities.

The main objective of this project is to describe and explain the physical and functional structures in the vicinity of major airports. In order to analyse the complex relationships between airports and cities, small-scale quantitative analyses of building activity, employment and commuter-patterns will be conducted. Moreover, we are planning to interview key actors from urban planning authorities, state governments, real estate developers, airport operators and airport-related companies, taking into account the complex nature of explanatory factors. Our empirical findings will help to improve the existing models of airport-led urban development. Five Australian metropolitan areas have been chosen as study areas for the quantitative analysis, namely Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth and Canberra. Australian cities offer excellent research conditions regarding the specific characteristics of urban form, functional configurations, institutional settings and data availability. The qualitative survey will focus on Sydney and Brisbane, utilising their different urban characteristics and airport layouts.

Megacities as hot spots of demographic and socio-economic dynamics have an insufficient supply both in terms of quality and quantity of technical and social infrastructure for large numbers of their populations. This project was planned and carried out to gain a new perspective on vulnerability in megacities focussing primarily on access to water and waste water disposal infrastructure aided with an integrated approach of using high resolution satellite data as well as quantitative and qualitative social data. The entire project objective was divided among the three PhD candidates and their thesis findings and linkages among them contributed towards the final project results.

Methodologically, the project was split into two parts: a) remote sensing approach aiming to improve the digital coverage and identification of urban structures and processes in high-resolution satellite images and b) the social research approach focused on the discussion of access to resources, risk-exposure and coping strategies and capacities in order to identify the degree of the vulnerability of the surveyed population. The results of the two different approaches shall be put together and modelled in a final step. The entire analysis lays the foundation for the development of more complex, stable indicators which will help to identify and understand the different forms, actors and processes of vulnerability in megacities in general. Moreover, such an interdisciplinary approach facilitates a deeper understanding of the multi-level processes within the megaurban systems

During the first phase of research, new, object-oriented methods to analyse high-resolution satellite image data was developed. By means of the acquired data “living spaces” of vulnerable population groups were detected. The results were evaluated on the basis of quantitative and qualitative information regarding deficits and potentials of water supply and sewerage disposal as well and the related health implications. Finally, indicators - derived from both approaches - were established in order to detect vulnerable people/spaces in megacities and help to understand the evolution of vulnerability in specific surroundings. It is a new approach to investigate how far visible structures in an image can picture social differences and if so whether they can build strong indicators together with the socio-economic data to identify specific types of vulnerability in an urban context in detail.

In order to integrate the results derived from social analysis with that of image processing all the surveyed households were geo-referenced on the image, and the qualitative information and other household level details as extracted from the processing of questionnaire and field experiences were further linked to them for its analysis and better understanding of the ground situation, thereby supplementing the visual details as perceived and interpreted from the remote sensing data. The quantitative calculations from the processed questionnaire results provided important inputs to supplement derivations from image processing and countercheck them (e.g. for population density, water demand etc). It is foreseen that this integrated modelling of remote sensing and social science research approaches would be able to provide quick insight into the dynamics of fast changing megacities and transferability of the developed methodology to areas of similar setting would help in understand situations of larger area  with greater precision in shorter time.

A substantial workshop was held on the 31.10.09 at the conference hall of Delhi University International Guest House for concluding the project. The main objective of this workshop was to present the methodologies approach and major findings of the research project and to discuss the final results with experts and receive their feedbacks.The workshop was organised by University of Cologne and University of Delhi under the guidance of Prof. S. K. Aggarwal and Prof. F. Kraas. The one day workshop had good participation of a variety of experts from different institutes including Delhi University, Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), Tata Energy Research Institute (TERI), Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), Centre de Sciences Humaines (CSH) and Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB). In total 25 participants were present including experts and students from Delhi and Cologne University.

The workshop commenced with a warm welcome and a short introduction by Prof. Dr. S.K. Aggarwal of Delhi University followed by the introduction of the seminar and overview on possibilities of scholarships and future research/ project opportunities in Cologne/Germany by Prof. Dr. Frauke Kraas. Later, three PhD theses presentations were done followed by a in-depth discussions on individual paper. First presentation was on ‘Water Supply and Vulnerability in Megacity Delhi/India’. Second presentation was on ‘Wastewater problems and social vulnerability in megacity Delhi’ and the final one was entitled ‘Object based land use and land cover classification of urban areas using very high-resolution remote sensing images - A case study of Delhi’. The workshop ended with a complete summing up of the days session by the chairpersons. Valuable feedback was received on each of the presentations which would be helpful in strengthening the final project report.