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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.