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Predictors of household exposure to monsoon rain hazards in informal settlements

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Abstract

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.

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Notes

  1. In India, for instance, the proportion of slum households in metropolitan areas with one million or more population ranges from 15 % in Delhi to 44 % in Visakhapatnam (Chandramouli 2011).

  2. In this paper, we use the terms “slum” and “informal settlement” interchangeably, avoiding the word slum with all its “inglorious associations” wherever possible (Gilbert 2007, 697). In fact, neither term perfectly describes the types of communities where the poor live in Kolkata and other Indian cities. Many “slums” are not informal; legally built housing can become dilapidated, overcrowded, or lack basic infrastructure. Likewise, not all informal settlements are slums; many residential towers, malls, and other globalized urban developments are built in violation of land use laws and master plans, elite informalities that are “rarely criminalized or targeted by the state” (Roy 2003, xxi; 2005). Here we use the terms informal settlement and slum to refer the communities where an overwhelming share of low-income workers in our survey live; communities which tend to have low quality of housing, overcrowding, inadequate infrastructure, poor basic service delivery, and insecure or ambiguous land tenure (UN-Habitat 2003).

  3. The Census of India estimated the nationwide slum population at 65.4 million in 2011. The actual slum population is likely much higher, as the methodology used by the Census of India significantly undercounts certain types of informal settlements. See Bhan and Jana (2013).

  4. At the time of our survey (2010), approximately 45 Rupees = $1, or $1.09 in 2016 dollars. Using the purchasing power parity (PPP) conversion factor for India, 45 Rupees in 2010 in India has the same purchasing power as $3.63 in the USA in 2016. See The World Bank (2016).

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Acknowledgments

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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Rumbach, A., Shirgaokar, M. Predictors of household exposure to monsoon rain hazards in informal settlements. Nat Hazards 85, 709–728 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11069-016-2599-z

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