New Book: ‘The Economic Impacts of Natural Disasters’

Guha-Sapir, D. & Santos, I. (2013). The Economic Impacts of Natural Disasters. Oxford University Press

Book Description: Since the turn of the millennium, more than one million people have been killed and 2.3 billion others have been directly affected by natural disasters around the world. In cases like the 2010 Haiti earthquake or the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, these disasters have time and time again wrecked large populations and national infrastructures. While recognizing that improved rescue, evacuation, and disease control are crucial to reducing the effects of natural disasters, in the final analysis, poverty remains the main risk factor determining the long-term impact of natural hazards. Furthermore, natural disasters have themselves a tremendous impact on the poorest of the poor, who are often ill-prepared to deal with natural hazards and for whom a hurricane, an earthquake, or a drought can mean a permanent submersion in poverty.

The Economic Impacts of Natural Disasters focuses on these concerns for poverty and vulnerability. Written by a collection of esteemed scholars in disaster management and sustainable development, the report provides an overview of the general trends in natural disasters and their effects by focusing on a critical analysis of different methodologies used to assess the economic impact of natural disasters. Economic Impacts presents six national case studies (Bangladesh, Vietnam, India, Nicaragua, Japan and the Netherlands) and shows how household surveys and country-level macroeconomic data can analyze and quantify the economic impact of disasters. The researchers within Economic Impacts have created path-breaking work and have opened new avenues for thinking and debate to push forward the frontiers of knowledge on economics of natural disasters.

For more information click here.

New Article: ‘Women and Climate Change: Strategies for Adaptive Capacity in Mwanga District, Tanzania’

Muthoni, J.W. and Wangui, E.E. (2013). Women and Climate Change: Strategies for Adaptive Capacity in Mwanga District, Tanzania. African Geographical Review. DOI:10.1080/19376812.2012.756766

Abstract:  This paper highlights the role that women in Mangio Village, Mwanga District, Tanzania play in rural livelihoods in the context of a changing climate. Data were collected in 2011 at community, household and individual levels. Methods of data collection included focus group discussions, and in-depth interviews with household members, individuals and key informants. Qualitative data analyses were done using NVIVO software. Results indicate that despite having limited access to livelihood assets compared to men, women play an important role in enhancing the adaptive capacity that Mangio Village has to climate change. Their roles extend from family units to the community level where they contribute in all the major spontaneous and planned strategies that the village has taken up in response to a changing climate among other drivers. Key to women’s contribution is their social networks and the labor required in new activities that enhance adaptation.

Available for download with subscription here.

Table of Contents Alert: Environment & Urbanization 24 (1)

See below for some of the articles that was published in the latest special issue: Mapping, enumerating and surveying informal settlements and cities in Environment & Urbanization 24 (1).

Knowledge is power – informal communities assert their right to the city through SDI and community-led enumerations
Sheela Patel, Carrie Baptist, Celine D’Cruz
Abstract: This paper provides an introduction to the practice of community-led enumerations as conducted by Shack/Slum Dwellers International (SDI). It sets out the historical context for enumerations, which came out of a need in India in 1975 to find a more long-term solution to evictions, and charts its subsequent evolution and spread throughout other countries. Enumerations can help to build a community, define a collective identity, facilitate development priority setting and provide a basis for engagement between communities and government on planning and development. This process allows communities of the urban poor to assert their rights to the city, to secure tenure, livelihoods and adequate infrastructure. The paper discusses some of the specific methodological issues, including the challenges of legitimizing community data, and the use of technology by slum(1) or shack dweller federations when appropriate.

How community-based enumerations started and developed in India
Jockin Arputham
Abstract: This paper explains how community-driven enumerations were first undertaken in Janata Colony in Mumbai, India in the early 1970s as a way of fighting the threat of eviction. Jockin Arputham was a resident of Janata and was drawn into community organizing to fight this eviction. The enumerations provided evidence of the importance of Janata’s economy and of the many legal facilities there, including electricity and telephone poles and licensed shops. This supported the residents’ case in court that Janata was a legal settlement. Undertaking the enumerations helped mobilize the population and provided them with information about their settlement that helped them consider their priorities. The paper also describes how enumerations of pavement dwellers helped them get a legal address, and through this ration cards, and a dialogue with municipal authorities. The author suggests that surveys of informal settlements are needed before any physical development is planned; also that they should be undertaken by the residents and their community organizations, to learn, to mobilize and to plan their own development so that they are not dependent on outsiders doing so.

The five-city enumeration: the role of participatory enumerations in developing community capacity and partnerships with government in Uganda
Jack Makau, Skye Dobson, Edit Samia
Abstract: This paper describes the enumerations of informal settlements undertaken in 2010 by the National Slum Dwellers Federation of Uganda in the cities of Arua, Jinja, Kabale, Mbale and Mbarara, covering about 200,000 people. It describes how this federation was founded and subsequently developed through an earlier enumeration and initial work in informal settlements in Kampala. It also discusses the relationship between the federation and other actors, including the national government and Cities Alliance, and their role in supporting the formation of the federation. It explains how federation members developed the capacity to undertake the enumerations and later improved upon those skills, for example developing a GIS, to support the planning and implementation of upgrading by federation, local and national government agencies. The paper ends with a discussion of the way enumerations can encourage the rapid maturation of urban poor groups and their relationship with their cities and other development actors and the larger political context.

Participatory enumerations, in situ upgrading and mega events: the 2009 survey in Joe Slovo, Cape Town
Carrie Baptist and Joel Bolnick
Abstract: This paper describes the survey and enumeration held in Joe Slovo, an informal settlement of about 8,000 inhabitants located along one of the major highways in Cape Town. The residents of Joe Slovo had faced years of uncertainty as the national government was planning to redevelop their settlement as part of its preparations for the 2010 FIFA World Cup. They had also suffered a series of devastating fires and floods. The inhabitants were suspicious of any survey, fearing that this was part of the plan to evict them. This paper describes how these fears were overcome and how an enumeration was planned and implemented – using enumeration teams that included residents and that were tasked with talking to a member of each household in the settlement as well as numbering each shack. The enumeration served to highlight the likely negative impacts of the proposed resettlement, as many residents faced difficulties affording transportation and relied on being able to work nearby. The enumeration also opened up the possibility of in situ redevelopment as the population of Joe Slovo was found to be much smaller than expected. The enumeration process and data were then used to facilitate cluster upgrading and improved sanitation within the settlement.

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‘Slumdog vs Millionaires: Balancing urban informality and global modernity in Mumbai, India”

Abstract: Mumbai and other Indian cities are rapidly transforming to address the needs of global commerce and the expanding middle class. Mumbai’s vernacular environments, home to most working-class residents, are consequently being redeveloped using supermodern global aesthetics. The urbanism emerging from the current wave of modernism is an unprecedented radical departure from existing patterns of place. Proponents claim the new developments serve low-income residents’ interests, when actually they ignore fundamental socio-cultural and economic realities. This paper considers two case studies, Dharavi and Girangaon, highlighting a subset of Mumbai’s vernacular environments to argue for their significance and to explore alternative redevelopment approaches

Full Citation: Chalana, M. (2010). Slum Dog vs Millionaire: Balancing urban informality and global modernity in Mumbaim India, Journal of Architectural Education, Vol. 63 (2): 25-37 (Available with subscription at:

‘Road to recovery: mapping a sustainable economy’

New paper on green economy helps to guide Commonwealth Heads of Government. An IIED advocacy paper, commissioned by the Commonwealth Foundation, helped to focus the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Trinidad on the imperatives of climate change in the short term, and of economic resilience in the longer term.

Discussing the paper in his speech, Commonwealth Secretary General Kamalesh Sharma described it as:

‘Engaging, because it offers both different perspectives, and the same perspectives differently put.’

‘Challenging, particularly in the way it makes us think about the value, rather than the indeterminate status of the informal economy.’

‘Enlightening, in pointing out that so many of our solutions (especially in areas like climate change) lie not with governmental or intergovernmental bodies, but with long-standing local communities, and local civil society organizations.’

‘And it is clever, in that it thinks out of the box on climate change, and asks us to look beyond low-carbon solutions to those which nurture environmental assets such as soils, water and biodiversity.’

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Urban Informality and the formally educated

The informal economy is often associated with low-skilled residents, often isolated from job opportunities by their limited skills set(s). However, the current economic and climate conditions are pushing more and more people with formal education and varied skills sets into the informal economy. The article explores this phenomena in Zimbabwe where women are increasingly working in the informal sector thus challenging the idea that the ‘black economy’ – as it has often been referred to – is home to the uneducated.

Will this increase of educated people in the informal sector help us to look at this sector of the economy with less skepticism and be more realistic and embracing about its contribution to the ‘formal’ economy?
My view is that governments and the broader community alike need to be more aware and sensitive to the accessibility of service that we are/can be afforded through the informal business sector.

Online in Brazil’s shanty towns

The internet has created many new opportunities for people to get richer around the world.  But are the benefits of access to the net filtering down to the very poorest in society? A shanty town in Brazil is a good place to find out.

Babilonia is a favela, a slum district, of about 80,000 inhabitants, most of them very poor.  It’s located in Brazil’s second city Rio de Janeiro, close to the world famous Copacabana beach. Continue reading


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