Natural Hazards

, Volume 85, Issue 2, pp 709–728 | Cite as

Predictors of household exposure to monsoon rain hazards in informal settlements

  • Andrew Rumbach
  • Manish Shirgaokar
Original Paper


Informal settlements are an important source of affordable housing and economic activity in developing cities. Research shows that informal settlements are at high risk from natural hazards and the effects of global climate change. Conditions within such settlements are diverse, however, and it is important that we understand the variation in risk across households. In this paper, we study the uneven terrain of risk to localized hazards in informal settlements in Kolkata, India. Our research question is, which factors predict household exposure to monsoon rain hazards? We surveyed 414 households living in low-lying informal settlements on the city’s periphery. Using a variety of predictors, we estimate binary logistic models for two outcome variables tied to monsoon rain: home flooding and home leaking. We find that household exposure varies significantly across our study population and follows predictable patterns based on socio-economic and infrastructure variables. The home flooding model results show that households with higher incomes are less likely to flood, but in situ births increase exposure. Households living in structures made of more permanent materials are less likely to flood, as are households living near infrastructure. The home leaking model shows that households with relative financial stability are less likely to leak, as are those that have been living in the settlement for longer periods of time and whose houses are made of better quality materials. These findings indicate that extensive risk in informal settlements is unevenly experienced and that policies intended to reduce disaster and climate risk should focus on the lowest-income households, the provision of infrastructure, and security of tenure.


India Kolkata Informal settlement Slum Extensive risk Adaptation 



The research for this paper was financially supported by the U.S. Fulbright program, the Natural Hazards Center, the Clarence S. Stein Institute for Urban and Landscape Studies, and the University of Alberta. The authors gratefully acknowledge the research assistance of Prantik Jana Vikash Samity, and in particular Dr. Satyajit Das Gupta, and the statistical review by Malhar Kale. We would also like to thank James H. Spencer and the journal's anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments on an earlier draft of the manscript.


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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Urban and Regional PlanningUniversity of Colorado DenverDenverUSA
  2. 2.Urban and Regional Planning Program, Department of Earth and Atmospheric SciencesUniversity of AlbertaEdmontonCanada

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