Weekly outline

  • Vulnerability Studies in Informal Settlements

    Instructor(s) Ayon K Tarafdar, Dr., Associate Professor

    As Taught in Spring 2019 (Between Jan 15 and March 31, 2019). Course completed with assessment on March 31, 2019.

    Level Master of Planning (with specialisation in Environmental Planning), 2 Year, component of "Theory of Environmental Planning & Design"

    Type Theory Subject

  • Sub-Module 1: Characterisation Module


    This module allowed the students to develop an understanding of a slum which is solely based on their own perceptions of the slum but guided by an intention to assess vulnerability. This module sets the baseline of information that would be relevant to assess a slum and identifies the indicators which are local and need based.

    There were two lectures in this sub-module. First one introduces the concept of Brown Agenda environmental problems as often seen in developing countries, in particular context of slums of India. The nature of these problems, the symptoms associated, the established ways to measure, the benchmarks and associated research were introduced. The second lecture introduced the concept of entitlements and vulnerability. Awareness of the fact that vulnerability is a multi dimensional aspect with social economic and physical dimensions was raised. The lecture also introduced ways to interview and discuss with slums dwellers.

    Students were formed into 3 groups of 5-6 members each and they visited 3 slums of their choice in Vijayawada. Based on their reconnaisance and discussions, students developed a set of indicators and paramaters (under each indicator), which needs to be analysed to have an understanding of the character of the slum. 

    This is an essential module as it teaches the students abilities to do site visits and evolve measurable analytical parameters out the visits. In essence, the characterisation of the informal settlement is done in a manner that is grassroots based, bottom up, contextual and yet quantifiable.


    This sub-module was carried out over 2 weeks. 


    a) Students developed a detailed list of parameters under the heads of social, economic and physical aspects of vulnerability.

    b) They developed an understanding of how to normalise, measure and quantify each parameter.

    Suggested Readings for the Sub Module 1:

    a) Baken R. (2008): ‘The political and administrative context of slum improvement: two contrasting Indian cases’. Published in Proceedings of: IRC Symposium: Sanitation for the urban poor - Partnerships and Governance. Held in Delft, The Netherlands, 19-21 November 2008.

    b) Cities Alliance Project (2012): A Brief Report on Security of Tenure for Slums. Community-Led Sangli Toilet Construction Activity. Output Report. CAP Publications. New York.

    c) Agarwal, S & Taneja, S (2005): ‘All slums are not equal: child health conditions among the urban poor’. In: Indian Pediatrics. Vol 42, Issue 3, pp. 233-244

  • Sub-Module 2: Prioritisation Module


    In this sub-module, it is important to understand that determinants of vulnerability may be of different dimensions, but may not be of same significance. Different parameters of vulnerability are of different levels of significance in the minds of the slum dwellers. Hence, it is important to inculcate an element of objectivity in students when we deal with multiple dimensions of data with varying significance and units. For this, students went back to the slum dwellers and developed a relative ranking and grading of each objective depending on the relative weightage and significance of each parameter as thought of by the slum dwellers.

    Deriving weightages of the indicators and parameters are critical in terms of quantitative methods. Hence, this module had two lectures on methods of contingent valuation, assigning of weightages and methods to develop indexes.


    This sub-module was carried out over one week.


    Students developed detailed weightages of each indicator and parameters which they identified in sub-module 1 and justified the same based on literature review.

    Suggested Readings for the Sub Module 2:

    a) Myllyla S. & Kuvaja K. (2006): ‘Societal premises for sustainable development in large southern cities’. In Global Environmental Change 15. Elsevier.

    b) McGrahanan, G & Satterthwaite D. (2010): ‘Reconciling the brown and green agendas’, in Cedric Pugh (ed) Sustainable Cities in Developing Countries, Earthscan.


  • Sub-Module 3: Assimilation Module


    This sub-module is the core computational module, where students are sensitised and made aware of how to map the information collected from the field using a GIS platform and then how to feed the raw data into spreadsheet packages. Thereafter, they learnt methods to codify the data and normalise the same. Weighted scores and indexes of social, economic and physical vulnerability were computed for each of the three slums over a period of two week to arrive at understanding of which aspects or dimensions of vulnerability in the slums were most challenged and needs intervention.

    There were two tutorials in this sub-module aimed at mapping techniques and use of spreadsheet statistical packages.


    This module was carried out over 2 weeks.


    Students came up with statistical and spatial analysis of the key aspects/parameters which are leading to vulnerability in each of the slums thereby enabling them to compare the different parameters and arrive at directions for intervention / development.

    Suggested Readings for Sub-Module 3:

    a) Hardin G. (1968), ‘The Tragedy of the Commons’. in Science. Vol 162. 

    b) Gadgil, M. & Guha, R. (2004): ‘Ecological Conflicts and the Environmental Movement in India’. Development & Change. Blackwell Publishers.

    c) Cannon, Terry, (2008): Reducing people's vulnerability to natural hazards communities and resilience. Research Paper No. 2008/34. UNU Wider. New York.

    • Sub-Module 4: Synthesis Module


      This final sub-module is aimed at drawing inferences and judgement from the first three sub-modules so that it can be relevant for the purpose of slum development strategies. The students were sensitised and enabled to critically think, compare and correlate the results of the different dimensions of vulnerability within the slums and amongst the three slums. This lead to identification of different levels of performance of the different indicators that were identified in sub-module one and ranked in sub-module two. The low performing parameters were re-oberved on ground to understand the spatial or engineering or social challenges behind the underperformance. This led to formation of guidelines of roadmap of development which can be applied in the three slums.


      This was done over one week.


      The students developed three sets of posters that summarised their method, findings and inferences in assessing slum conditions using vulnerability assessment as the predominant tool. The student presented the summary using printed posters and projected their analysis on screen for detailed discussions.

    • 7. Unit