Urbanization and Environment

By Prof. Jenia Mukherjee   |   IIT Kharagpur
Learners enrolled: 303
With more than 50% of the world population now residing in cities since 2008 (World Urbanization Prospects, 2007), we have reached ‘the urban moment’ with huge implications of planetary urbanization on the environment. Urbanization is not a new phenomenon; the ancient cities of the Indus Valley Civilization, Ancient Greece, Rome and Mesopotamia are strong evidences. However, with our entry to the era of the ‘Anthropocene’, rapid urbanization with its rate, scale and shifting geographies (with intense urbanization in the ‘global south’: Asia, Africa and Latin America) is upsetting the ecological balance complemented with rising inequity, displacement and loss of livelihoods affecting the urban poor.

 What is the solution? Should urbanization be perceived as the key challenge and strategies must be devised to halt it, if not reverse it (as it is irreversible)? Can there be other innovative alternatives that do not perceive cities as consumptive spaces swallowing ecological resources and generating highest ecological footprints, but also as contributors to ecological sustainability?

 While policy prescriptions laid out in the UN ‘Sustainable Urbanization’ framework or ‘Sustainable Development Goals’ (SDGs) offer technocratic directions and guidelines, it is extremely important to empirically investigate the relationship cities and their wider environments to not only identify challenges but also map potentials and learn lessons towards the development of a robust resilient urban environmental matrix that will not only be technically sound and feasible but also informed by socio-economic and political realities and determinants. With lessons from emerging urban social sciences frameworks such as urban environmental history and urban political ecology and with the empirical focus on South Asia, the course will shed light on cities as complex socio-natural-technical assemblages, encompassing elaborate technical apparatus and intricate social arrangements evolved along shifting temporal scales and development imperatives. Finally, by capturing “storylines” in the making of urban nature involving multiple stakeholders (government, foreign agencies, civil society and communities), the larger agenda of this course is to transcend theoretical research on the relationship between urbanization and environment into practical actions towards a just, inclusive and resilient (urban) world order.

 INTENDED AUDIENCE: Natural sciences and engineering disciplines with a focus on built environment and urban (ecological) infrastructures like architecture, civil engineering, environmental engineering, etc. Humanities and Social Sciences (including but not restricted to) sociology, geography, history, anthropology, etc. The course will be beneficial for urban planners and practitioners along bureaucratic and technocratic circles. Apart from policy circles, for NGOs and grassroots organizations catering to urban (ecological) goals like slum development, WATSAN services in non-networked urban (peri-urban) patches, and urban research labs, the course will be meaningful.
Course Status : Upcoming
Course Type : Elective
Duration : 8 weeks
Start Date : 23 Aug 2021
End Date : 15 Oct 2021
Exam Date : 24 Oct 2021
Enrollment Ends : 23 Aug 2021
Category :
  • Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit Points : 2
Level : Postgraduate

Course layout

Module 01: The Urban and the Environment during the Era of the “Overlapping Cenes”

Lecture 01: Setting the Context
Lecture 02: The Anthropocene
Lecture 03: The Nine Planetary Boundaries Framework
Lecture 04: The Capitalocene
Lecture 05: The Urbanocene
Lecture 06: COVID 19, Urban Informality and Environment: Context Global South
Week 2:
Module 02: The Search for “Sanitary” and “Sustainable Cities”
Lecture 07: “Sanitary Cities”: Urban, Environment and Modernity in the West
Lecture 08: Networked Cities: “Path-dependent” Consequences
Lecture 09: From “Sanitary” to “Sustainable” Cities
Lecture 10: How “sustainable”? Critical analysis of contemporary urban models
Week 3:
Module 03: Urban (environmental) Trajectories in India: Plans, Policies, Visions and Missions
Lecture 11: Historical Pasts
Lecture 12: “Colonial Urbanization”
Lecture 13: Limits and Legacies of “Colonial Urbanization”
Lecture 14: The Post-independence Scenario: “Planned Cities” and Renewal Missions
Lecture 15: “Smart Cities” Lecture 16: “Smart Cities”: Critique and Contestations
Week 4:
Lecture 17: “Fantasy Cities”? Understanding Limits of “Smart”, “Eco” and “Green” Doctrines Case Study 1: Dholera
Lecture 18: “Fantasy Cities”? Understanding Limits of “Smart”, “Eco” and “Green” Doctrines: Case Study 2: New Town Rajarhat
Lecture 19: “Fantasy Cities”? Understanding Limits of “Smart”, “Eco” and “Green” Doctrines: Case Study 3: Lavasa
Week 5:
Module 04: Urban Environmental Social Sciences Frameworks
Lecture 20: Urban Environmental History: The US Part I: Context and Themes
Lecture 21: Urban Environmental History: The US Part II: More Thematic Variations and Global Influences
Lecture 22: Urban Environmental History: Europe Part I: Context and Themes
Lecture 23: Urban Environmental History: The US Part II: Recent Advances
Week 6:
Lecture 24: Urban Environmental History: South Asia [SAUEH] Part I.A: The Prelude: Inception and the Initial Wave [SAEH]
Lecture 25: Urban Environmental History: South Asia [SAUEH] Part I.B: (More) Nuanced Narratives [SAEH]
Lecture 26: Urban Environmental History: South Asia [SAUEH] Part II: Trends and Trajectories
Lecture 27: Urban Environmental History: South Asia [SAUEH] Part II: Trends and Trajectories (Contd.)
Lecture 28: Urban Political Ecology Part I: Emergence and Development
Lecture 29: Urban Political Ecology Part II: (More) Recent Advances
Lecture 30: Urban Political Ecology Part III: Internal Debates and New Political Possibilities
Week 7:
Lecture 31: Urban Political Ecology: The Indian Context Part I: Themes and Concepts
Lecture 32: Urban Political Ecology: The Indian Context Part II: (More) Recent Advances
Lecture 33: Historical Urban Political Ecology (HUPE): Blue Infrastructures of Kolkata
Lecture 34: Urban Environmentalisms
Lecture 35: Urban Environmentalisms: Case Study 1: The Adi Ganga Bachao Andolan
Lecture 36: Urban Environmentalisms: Case Study 2: Protests to Protect the EKW
Week 8: 
Module 05: First Hand Narratives: Learnings from Research Projects
Lecture 37: Translocal Learning for Water Justice: Peri-urban Pathways in India, Tanzania and Bolivia
Lecture 38: Informing Urban Disaster Studies using Comparative Urban Environmentalism
Lecture 39: Urban Environmental Heritage: Insights from Bengal’s Mini-Europe
Lecture 40: The Way Forward

Books and references

1. Allen, A., Swilling, M. and Lampis, A. (2015). Untamed urbanisms. London: Routledge 
2. Allen, A., Hofmann, P., Mukherjee, J. and Walnycki, A. (2016). Water trajectories through non-networked infrastructure: Insights from peri-urban Dar es Salaam, Cochabamba and Kolkata. Urban Research and Practice, 10(1), 22–42. 
3. Bakker, K. (2003). Archipelagos and networks: Urbanization and water privatization in the South. The Geographical Journal, 169(4), 328–341. 
4. Baviskar, A. (2011). What the eye does not see: The Yamuna in the imagination of Delhi. Economic and Political Weekly, 46(50), 45–53. 
5. Bose, P. (2013). Bourgeois environmentalism, leftist development and neoliberal urbanism in the city of Joy. In T. S. Samara, H. Shenjing, & C. Guo (Eds.), Locating right to the city in the Global South. Abingdon and New York: Routledge. 
6. Bose, P. (2015). Urban development in India: Global Indians in the remaking of Kolkata. London and New York: Routledge. 
7. Coelho, K. and Raman, N. (2013). From the frying-pan to the floodplain: Negotiating land, water and fire in Chennai's development. In A. Rademacher and K. Sivaramakrishnan (Eds.), Ecologies of urbanism in India: Metropolitan civility and sustainability. Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 145–68. 
8. Döring, N. and Jochum, G. (2017). Revitalization of a tamed river: The Isar in Munich. In M. Knoll, U. Lübken and D. Schott (Eds.), Rivers lost, rivers gained: Rethinking city-river relations. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press. 
9. Elmqvist, T., Redman, C. L., Barthel, S. and Costanza, R. 2013. History of urbanization and the missing ecology. In T. Elmqvist et al. (eds), Urbanization, biodiversity and ecosystem services: Challenges and opportunities. Dordrecht, Netherlands, Heidelberg, Germany, New York and London: Springer. 
10. Gandy, M. (2005). Cyborg Urbanization: Complexity and monstrosity in the contemporary city. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 29(2): 26-49. 
11. Hassan, A.M. and Lee, H. (2014). The paradox of the sustainable city: definitions and examples. Environment, Development and Sustainability. DOI 10.1007/s10668-014-9604-z 
12. Hughes, J.D. (2014). Environmental problems of the Greeks and Romans. Ecology in the Ancient Mediterranean. USA: John Hopkins University Press. 
13. Kaika, M. and Swyngedouw, E. (2000). Fetishizing the modern city: The phantasmagoria of urban technological networks. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 24(1), 120–138. 
14. Karpouzoglou, T. and Zimmer, A. (2016). Ways of knowing the wastewaterscape: Urban political ecology and the politics of wastewater in Delhi, India. Habitat International, 54(2), 150–160. 
15. Karpouzoglo, T. and Vij, S. (2017). Waterscape: A perspective for understanding the contested geography of water. WIREs Water, 4, 1–5. 
16. Keil, R. (2003). Urban political ecology. Urban Geography, 24(8), 723–738. 
17. Kolkata Environment Improvement Project. (2012). Kolkata Environment Improvement Project (2002-2013), Final Report. Kolkata: Kolkata Environment Improvement Project. 
18. Kombe, W., Ndezi, T., and Hofmann, P. (2015). Translocal learning for water justice: Peri-urban pathways in India, Tanzania and Bolivia. Water justice city profile: Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Retrieved April 4 from the Bartlett Development and Planning Unit Website: http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/1476054/1/Hofmann_Dar_es_Salaam_report.pdf 
19. Kundu, N., Pal, M. and Saha, S. (2008). East Kolkata Wetlands: A resource recovery system through productive activities. Proceedings of Taal 2007: The 12th World Lake Conference: 868–81. Retrieved March 29, 2019 from the MoEF Website: http://www.moef.nic.in/sites/default/files/nlcp/WLC-Report.pdf 
20. Mahadevia, D. (2001). Sustainable urban development in India: An inclusive perspective. Development in Practice, 11(2&3), 242–259. 
21. Mann, M. (2007). Delhi's Belly: On the Management of Water, Sewage and Excreta in a Changing Urban Environment during the Nineteenth Century. Studies in History, 23(1), 1–31. 
22. Marshall, F., Waldman, L., MacGregor, H., Mehta, L. and Randhawa, P. (2009). On the edge of sustainability: Perspectives on peri-urban dynamics. STEPS Working Paper, 35. Brighton: STEPS Centre. 
23. McFarlane, C. (2008). Sanitation in Mumbai’s informal settlements: State, ‘slum’, and infrastructure. Environment and Planning A, 40(1), 88–107. 
24. Mendieta, E. (2019). Edge city: Reflections on the urbanocene and the plantatiocene. Critical Philosophy of Race, 7(1): 81-106. 
25. Moore, S.A. (2007), Alternative routes to sustainable city: Austin, Curitiba, and Frankfurt. USA: Lexington Books. 
26. Mukherjee, J. & Ghosh, A. (2015). Translocal learning for water justice: Peri-urban pathways in India, Tanzania and Bolivia. Water justice city profile: Kolkata, India. Retrieved April 4 from the Bartlett Development and Planning Unit Website: https://www. bartlett.ucl.ac.uk/dpu/water-justice/outputs/Kolkata_report.pdf. 
27. Mukherjee, J. (2015). Sustainable fows between Kolkata and its peri-urban interface. In A. Allen, M. Swilling, & A. Lampis (Eds.), Untamed urbanisms. London: Routledge. 
28. Rademacher, A.M. (2011). Reigning the river. USA: Duke University Press. 
29. Rockström, J. et al. (2009). Planetary boundaries: exploring the safe operating space for humanity. Ecology and Society 14(2). 
30. Schott, D. (2004). Urban environmental history: Water lessons are there to be learnt? Boreal Environment Research, 9, 519–528. 
31. Sharma, S. and Parthasarathy, D. (2018). Urban ecologies in transition: Contestations around waste in Mumbai. In J. Mukherjee (Ed.), Sustainable urbanization in India: Challenges and opportunities. Singapore: Springer. 
32. Zegada, A., Heredia, G., Bustamante, R, and Walnycki, A. (2015). Translocal learning for water justice: Peri-urban pathways in India, Tanzania and Bolivia. Water justice city profile: Cochabamba. Retrieved April 4 from the Bartlett Development and Planning Unit Website: https://www.ucl.ac.uk/bartlett/development/sites/bartlett/files/cochabamba_report.pdf 
33. Zimmer, A. (2015). Urban political ecology ‘beyond the west’: Engaging with South Asian urban studies. In R. L. Bryant (Ed.), International Handbook of Political Ecology. Cheltenham, U.K. and Northampton, USA: Edward Elgar. 
34. Zimmer, A. and Cornea, N. (2016). Introduction. Environmental politics in urban India. South Asia Multidisciplinary Academic Journal, 14. Retrieved on May 23, 2019 from: https://journals.openedition.org/samaj/4163

Instructor bio

Prof. Jenia Mukherjee

IIT Kharagpur
Dr Jenia Mukherjee is Assistant Professor at the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, Indian Institute of Technology Kharagpur. Her research interest spans across environmental humanities, transdisciplinary water research and urban studies. In 2013, she was awarded the World Social Science Fellowship by the International Social Science Council. In 2010 and 2015 she received the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), Government of Australia sponsored Australian Leadership Awards Fellowship (ALAF) for her research on riverine island communities. She had conducted and organized several workshops, conferences and seminars. She had recently organized an AICTE course on ‘Combining Hydrology and Hydrosocial: Towards Comprehensive Understanding of River Systems at IIT Kharagpur (October 2017). She had published three books, several articles and book chapters in peer-reviewed journals and edited volumes. Presently, she is leading three international projects funded by AHRC-ICHR, EU-ICSSR and SSHRC (Canada) at IIT Kharagpur apart from and along with co-investigation of multiple projects funded by national agencies like DST. She received the prestigious Carson Writing Fellowship in 2019 from the Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Development, Munich (Germany) for completing her book: Blue Infrastructures of Kolkata: Natural History, Political Ecology and Urban Development in Kolkata (Springer Nature: Singapore, 2020). She is member at the international advisory committee for the TU-Delft conference on Sociohydrology to be held in September 2021. She is the lead (guest) editor for the (forthcoming: 2022) Special Issue on ‘Sociohydrology: Solutions Related to Actual Interventions’, Frontiers in Water.

Course certificate

The course is free to enroll and learn from. But if you want a certificate, you have to register and write the proctored exam conducted by us in person at any of the designated exam centres.
The exam is optional for a fee of Rs 1000/- (Rupees one thousand only).
Date and Time of Exams: 24 October 2021 Morning session 9am to 12 noon; Afternoon Session 2pm to 5pm.
Registration url: Announcements will be made when the registration form is open for registrations.
The online registration form has to be filled and the certification exam fee needs to be paid. More details will be made available when the exam registration form is published. If there are any changes, it will be mentioned then.
Please check the form for more details on the cities where the exams will be held, the conditions you agree to when you fill the form etc.


Average assignment score = 25% of average of best 6 assignments out of the total 8 assignments given in the course.
Exam score = 75% of the proctored certification exam score out of 100

Final score = Average assignment score + Exam score

YOU WILL BE ELIGIBLE FOR A CERTIFICATE ONLY IF AVERAGE ASSIGNMENT SCORE >=10/25 AND EXAM SCORE >= 30/75. If one of the 2 criteria is not met, you will not get the certificate even if the Final score >= 40/100.

Certificate will have your name, photograph and the score in the final exam with the breakup.It will have the logos of NPTEL and IIT Kharagpur .It will be e-verifiable at nptel.ac.in/noc.

Only the e-certificate will be made available. Hard copies will not be dispatched.

Once again, thanks for your interest in our online courses and certification. Happy learning.

- NPTEL team

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