Originally Posted 10/21/2016
Habitat III is the third United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development. The first Habitat conference was held in 1976 and the subsequent conferences have been held every 20 years (1996, 2016). In 1976, the concept of “rapid urbanization” was a new idea: mass migration into cities was beginning as a global phenomenon and the provision of shelter for the growing populations was an emerging issue. In 1996, the conference identified the increasing deterioration of shelter in urban centers and called for shelter for all. It also sought to ignite a global effort, based in local participation, to address the sustainability of cities in terms of consumption, production, population size and distribution, poverty, infrastructure, environment, etc.
This year, 2016, according to the Habitat III webpage, the objectives of the conference are “to secure renewed political commitment for sustainable urban development, assess accomplishments to date, address poverty and identify and address new and emerging challenges. The conference will result in a concise, focused, forward-looking and action-oriented outcome document.” This document is entitled the “New Urban Agenda” and is intended to be a document that will be officially adopted in Quito, Ecuador this week.
In addition to representatives from the 200 UN governments, other stakeholders, governments, researchers, members of the private sector, and non-governmental organizations will be in attendance. But other than the adoption of the New Urban Agenda, what are the intended outcomes of these conferences? The conference intends to act as a forum to get everyone “on the same page” in terms of sustainable development goals, to serve as a public opportunity for nation states to make commitments in their respective countries, and aims to steer funding agencies towards prioritizing and supporting the goals outlined within the New Urban Agenda. However, though the adoption is structured as a participatory conference, it will be interesting to see whether participants have influence or primarily act as observers of the process (see this article for an interesting perspective on the role of scientists in this process:http://www.nature.com/news/scientists-must-have-a-say-in-the-future-of-cities-1.20760).
The New Urban Agenda is highly relevant to the work of MEGADAPT both topically, in terms of water related issues, and in its statements relating to the role of research/researchers. The agenda calls for cities that “provide universal access to safe and affordable drinking water and sanitation” as well as for the conservation of water. It recognizes that urban centers are increasingly vulnerable to climate change, flooding, extreme weather events, water scarcity, water pollution, and drought — all issues that are encompassed within the scope of the MEGADAPT project.
The agenda commits to “long-term urban and territorial planning processes and spatial development practices that incorporate integrated water resources planning and management, considering the urban-rural continuum at the local and territorial scales, and including the participation of relevant stakeholders and communities.” MEGADAPT’s ambition to incorporate and visualize the different perspectives on the problems and solutions of water related risk in Mexico City will contribute directly to this goal. The New Urban Agenda also promotes sustainable water usage via revitalizing urban water resources, treating waste water, reducing water losses – all issues that are highlighted in MEGADAPT’s synthesis of stakeholder knowledge and experience, and in the scenarios of solutions that are planned in MEGADAPT for the coming year. Additionally, the Agenda proposes investment in all categories of water infrastructure in order to reduce water-related disasters and health risks and to eliminate inequalities related to water provision.
Thinking of infrastructure broadly is critical: cities need to rely on innovative strategies that incorporate green and grey infrastructure as well as “soft” infrastructural solutions that focus on governance and institutions. The Agenda calls upon research organizations to work with governments to improve the governance process and to promote effective participation in decision-making. It supports “science, research, and innovation, including a focus on social, technological, digital and nature-based innovation, robust science-policy interfaces in urban and territorial planning and policy formulation, as well as institutionalized mechanisms for sharing and exchanging information, knowledge and expertise, including the collection, analysis, standardization and dissemination of geographically-based, community-collected, high-quality, timely and reliable data…” We hope that MEGADAPT will play such a role in helping Mexico City meet its water and urbanization challenges.
Ultimately, the challenge at hand requires investment in transdisciplinary research, collaborative implementation, and, an approach to the science-policy interface that helps articulate the disparate meanings, values, and understandings on sustainability and development associated with the inhabitants of the world’s cities. Cities embody the complexity of values, politics and social relations that define society, and circumscribe the relationship of people to place and to the environment. Solutions to the challenges of cities this century must place the nexus of social equity, human rights and environmental integrity in the spotlight. Habitat III will articulate the challenge and outline possible solution pathways, but where do we begin? We hope that MEGADAPT will contribute to the debate, and build on the New Urban Agenda to help articulate some pathways for change. Are you on board to help?
The official website: https://habitat3.org/
The New Urban Agenda:https://www2.habitat3.org/bitcache/97ced11dcecef85d41f74043195e5472836f6291?vid=588897&disposition=inline&op=view
A look at inclusion within the New Urban Agenda by our collaborators at the STEPS Centre:http://steps-centre.org/2016/blog/the-new-urban-agenda-and-its-47-inclusions/
A helpful overview of the history and current events of the UN’s Habitat Conferences:http://citiscope.org/habitatIII/explainer/what-habitat-iii
Originally Posted 10/17/2016
Originally posted 10/03/2016
Over the next few months, we’re going to use our blog to introduce our MEGADAPT team members from ASU and UNAM. We’ll highlight who our team is, why they’ve decided to be a part of MEGADAPT, and their hopes for the project. First, we’re introducing Hallie Eakin. Hallie Eakin is the Principle Investigator (PI) for the MEGADAPT Project and is an associate professor in the School of Sustainability at Arizona State University.
1) What motivated you to become a part of MEGADAPT?
The MEGADAPT project grew out of an effort to increase research collaborations between ASU and UNAM. Initially we, ASU and UNAM, had a small joint grant that allowed us to outline common area of interests, problem areas, areas in which we had complimentary strengths, and faculty in both institutions that would be available to address these common interests. We concluded that there was great interest in addressing urban sustainability.
The MEGADAPT project thus emerged out of a combination of my own interests/expertise in vulnerability and risk, others’ interest in focusing on Mexico’s emblematic history of water management , and the common area interest of urban sustainability.
For me, the project has been a new experience because in the past my work has been primarily focused on household level analysis in rural areas, not in an urban context. I’ve learned, however, that many of the same issues that create vulnerability in rural spaces are relevant in the heart of Mexico City.
2) What do you consider to be your specific contribution/role in the MEGADAPT project?
As the PI for the project, I have the designated role of overseeing the project. I make sure it stays on track with the timeline, meets our stated objectives, and produces materials/information/knowledge that addresses the interests and needs of communities with which we are working. The role of coordinator is challenging- I’ve previously only worked with smaller groups of scholars (the MEGADAPT project has had upwards of 20 participants at any given time!).
And because this project seeks to achieve transdisciplinarity, it has been a challenge to keep the project relevant to the actors we have engaged with over time. We are constantly trying to find ways in which to engage stakeholders and make the project salient to them.
3) What do you hope the outcomes from this project will be?
We want to be able to say that the MEGADAPT model is gaining recognition as a useful tool for decision-making in Mexico City (and, even more ambitiously, as a decision-making model for other cities around the world). And, that through using the tool, decision-makers can start to re-think the way that the city works and how vulnerability is produced within it. We hope it inspires innovative ideas to tackle the water issues in the city.
4) Why is Mexico City a special place to work?
One of the things that I love about Mexico City is the incredible diversity of culture and ways of life that are packed together in this massive megalopolis. There is a constant surreal juxtaposition between modern and traditional life. In a street full of traffic there are cars, but there are also street sellers on bikes loaded with balloons or toting giant piñatas. There is incredible beauty in the meticulously balanced carts of street vendors and in the services that the provide – many services that are completely unavailable in cities here in the US. I love this city.
Originally Posted 9/27/2016
This past Sunday was World Rivers Day- a day to celebrate natural waterways around the world and encourage stewardship of these valuable resources. Through the basin of Mexico, where the Mexico City Metropolitan Area is located, there once flowed many rivers. However, as the city grew, most of these rivers were enclosed in drains or transformed into sewers (Legorreta, J. 2009). However, there is one remaining free-flowing river and source of surface water within the city- the Magdalena River.
The Magdalena river is located in the Magdalena Contreras region, on the southwestern edge of the city. Like most rivers that run through urban areas, the Magdalena River was transformed as the city grew. Though the amount of water flowing through the river has not drastically changed, the quality of the water has. Clean water is taken out of the river and replaced with untreated wastewater (Mazari-Hiriart et al, 2014). As the river enters the urban area, the physicochemical and biological indicators such as electirical conductivity, nitrogen, phosphorous, fecal coliforms, and fecal enterococci increase dramatically (Mazari-Hiriart et al., 2014 & Jujnovsky, J., 2010). In many sampling sites within the urban area, researchers have found that the water quality does not meet the criteria required for human consumption (Mazari-Hiriart et al., 2014 & Jujnovsky, J., 2010). Additionally, the river contains concentrations of microbes that parasitize and cause disease in humans and animals (Mazari-Hiriart et al, 2014).
This information is not new to city residents and city officials and there have been conversations about the restoration of the river. A Master Plan was developed with significant public participation, and parts of it have been implemented. Transforming a river within an urban area, however, is challenging. What does restoration look like for an urban river? Knowing that it will never mimic its pre-urbanized state, to what state is it restored to? If you know of or are involved in any restoration projects in Mexico City, or in other urban environments, please comment below! We would love to hear from our readers.
Jujnovsky, J., Almeida-Lenero, L., Bojorge-Garcia, M., Monges, Y.L., Cantoral-Uriza, E., Mazari-Hiriart, J. 2010. Hydrologic ecosystem services: water quality and quantity in the Magdalena River, Mexico City. Hidrobiológica 20(2): 113-126
Legorreta J (2009) Ríos, lagos y manantiales del Valle de México. Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana-Gobierno del Distrito Federal. Artes Impresas Eón, S.A. de C.V. México, D.F. 365 p.
Mazari-Hiriart M, Pe´rez-Ortiz G, Orta-Ledesma MT, Armas-Vargas F, Tapia MA, et al. (2014) Final Opportunity to Rehabilitate an Urban River as a Water Source for Mexico City. PLoS ONE 9(7): e102081. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0102081
Originally posted 09/23/2016
This past week, the team met for an update on the progress of the MEGADAPT model prototype. Because it is a double-coupled model, the model building process has been (and still is) complicated; not only do agents, or people, act on the landscape/infrastructure, but the changes in the landscape/infrastructure affect the decisions that the agents make within the model environment.
After many months, members of the team have created a one-directional theoretical agent model that demonstrates a theoretical relationship between populations’ experience of water stress, water managers’ decisions, and the resulting quality of, or investment in, water infrastructure. We are excited that this initial prototype appears to capture effectively how different investment priorities of water managers can result in very distinct patterns of investment in the landscape, and thus affect the distribution of vulnerability of urban residents to water stress.
Patterns of urbanization will also affect the distribution of water related risk in the city. Nevertheless, there are challenges in creating reliable scenarios of the spatial pattern of urbanization into the future. The MEGADAPT team has explored the utility of two different models. These two models create similar patterns of urbanization, although one model appears to better represent the “worst case” of urbanization: what might be expected if the Valle de Mexico urbanized to its greatest extent.
The MEGADAPT model aims to provide coarse-resolution outputs for consideration in decision making. For example, we aim to help decision-makers focus on broader level questions such as: “What might be the implications for hydrological risks if existing areas of green space (i.e., Xochimilco, Texcoco lake) are largely urbanized?” or “What differences might emerge in the distribution of vulnerability if agricultural land is aggressively conserved?”
These scenarios would potentially provide useful information on the social, ecological and infrastructural benefits and risks associated with very distinct solution pathways. Should these pathways seem attractive to decision makers in the city, the next step would be the more detailed evaluation of their suitability and mode of implementation in particular places given local conditions and aspirations.
The meeting concluded in review of the goal of the double-coupled model: through the biophysical models there will be changes in the state of the system (i.e. where flood risk occurs), and that will affect how the actor responds in time through their decision-making criteria. When some thresh-hold(s) of change occurs in the landscape, the priorities of the agents may be changed. In summary, the state of the environment changes the prioritization of the actors; simple to say, but not easy to model.
Originally posted 09/07/2016
As the new school year in Arizona Begins (project year 3), we are beginning to complete the inputs of the integrated model. To date, These inputs Have Been developed as stand alone products. Last week, Dr. Enrique Vivoni (ASU) and his student Kristen Whitney (ASU) presented Their work on the hydrological input piece of the model. Over the summer, hydrological dataset They Examined Which would best serve the MEGADAPT project in terms of resolution and for Developing climate scenarios for the model. Because climate models are based on scenario historical data, we must think critically About the rationale used for Selecting the input data so we can justify the That reliability of / Appropriately interpret the model outputs. As the end product for esta piece of the integrated model, we plan to have two hydrological climate scenarios. As We think about combining These biophysical / ecological datasets With our sociological data We Have to Think About the time step for the model as a whole. Hydrological data can be modeled on a daily time step, but sociological data, decision-making: such as policy and Changes, Takes place over many Typically different kinds of time steps- monthly, yearly, or even decadally. We will continue to mull over These questions (and we welcome reader comments!) … .but Check in with us again soon for an update from the team working on the land change modeling piece of the project!
This was originally posted 05/31/2016
We have been busy over the last five months, analyzing the mental models, data sets, and developing the quantitative models that are the foundation of MEGADAPT. Now the next step is the integration: representing mental models in a GIS platform, and creating a simple agent-based model that will integrate the essential inputs and outputs of the biophysical and social system drivers. After our annual meeting in May 5-7 2016, we began to compile all the inputs that play critical roles in driving vulnerability in the city, including mental model for select agents, data sets for Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF model), and the underground and surface water models.
We had a successful annual meeting, where all of the teams presented advances and progress. The health team has begun to estimate the probability of diseases (gastrointestinal) using a model that integrates biophysical infrastructure, climate and hydrological dynamics, and socio-economic determinants of gastrointestinal diseases in Mexico City. Their efforts will result in a quantitative measure of risk using health data sets from the Public Health secretary (Secretaría de Salud). This effort includes a spatial analysis and a first draft of a scientific paper. The LULC team (Land cover change) started to identify political and institutional agents that affect the expansion of urbanization in Mexico City. They identified three agents: residents who expand housing in the watershed and urban core, Delegations, who facilitate or constrain urban expansion, and city-level urban authorities. Using this information the team will explore the relationship between population density and hydrological risk in Mexico City. In terms of water infrastructure, key agents are represented by SACMEX (water management authority in Mexico City), OCVAM (Organismo de Cuenca Aguas del Valle de México) and residents who autonomously manage flooding and water scarcity challenges. Our challenge now is to accurately represent the essence of how these diverse actors perceive the water problems and how those perceptions affect their actions in the city via representing mental models in a geospatial context. We are basing our analysis on 75 interviews, 12 focus groups and 11 participatory workshops, and feel very fortunate that so many actors in the city have shared their perspectives with us.
At the same time, we have been exploring approaches to sustainability science and transdisciplinary in others institutions and projects. The MEGADAPT project is now part of an international network of organizations fostering innovative approaches to sustainable transformation, funded by the ISSC and coordinated by the STEPS Centre (www.steps-centre.org) as part of the North American Hub (http://steps-centre.org/about/global/; http://steps-centre.org/2016/blog/seeking-sustainable-transformations-around-the-world/?referralDomain=) This relationship provided the opportunity for some members of the team to participate in the STEPS summer school at the University of Sussex in the UK, where they learned new methods for analyzing sustainability challenges. Furthermore, this experience permitted the creation of a new network for sharing experience, challenges and knowledge with colleagues from Asia, Africa, Latin America and Europe. We will be exploring some of these new methods to our ongoing interactions with diverse stakeholders in Mexico City with the aim of creating opportunities for socio-ecological transformations.
This was originally posted 04/12/2015
The MEGADAPT team has been busy this fall, integrating the diversity of data sets, visions and ideas that were shared with us this past year. We’ve begun to develop the architecture of what will evolve to be the “MEGADAPT” model of Mexico City as a dynamic social-ecological system, in which hydrological risk is created and mitigated through the interactions of diverse actors in the city with each other, with the built environment and watershed. Our modeling effort incorporates surface and groundwater dynamics, land use change and climatic responses, the evolution of the built environment in terms of policy initiatives and population density, infrastructure, and the actions of key actors in response to risk. We have been very fortunate to have had the support and collaboration of diverse actors in the city: experts in Sistemas de Agua de la Ciudad de México (SACMEX), Secretaría de Medio Ambiente del Distrito Federal (SEDEMA), Procuradoría Ambiental y del Ordenamiento Territorial (PAOT), and Centro Nacional de Prevención de Desastres (CENAPRED); academics from Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana (UAM), Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM) and the Instituto Mora, as well as the generous contributions from chinamperos, pesqueros, communities involved in ecotourism activities, community development activists and civil society groups focused on urban development and water in the city as a whole and in our case study areas (Magdalena Contreras, Xochimilco, and Iztapalapa).
We are now in the process of analyzing the different visions offered to us by our collaborators about how the city works and the complex causes and consequences of vulnerability to water-related risks – in other words, the diversity of mental models held by the city’s stakeholders. It is clear that depending on where you are in the city and on what has been your experience and depending on your formal responsibilities, you will prioritize and act on different aspects of risk. For some, water quality is the critical concern, affecting their daily lives in transformative ways. Poor water quality affects household expenditures, health, and overall quality of life. For others, the burden of seasonal flooding is a primary concern, particularly since the water that enters their homes and stagnates in their neighborhoods is a noxious mix of sewage and rainwater. Many areas in the city still struggle with water access, and must organize their domestic activities around the timing of water availability. These circumstances have created distrust and frustration in many neighborhoods, as residents have felt obligated to manage their risk on their own, rather than rely on public sector initiatives to resolve the circumstances they face. Thus in all cases, households demonstrate significant resilience – although this resilience comes at the cost of anxiety, time, property and expenditure in auxiliary water resources. In the public sector we see similar frustrations, as officials work with limitations in budgets, chronic problems with infrastructure and the difficulties of coordinating planning across sector agencies.
The challenge of capturing the experiences and reality of socio-hydrological risk in the megacity is daunting. We hope that we will soon have a decision-platform – the MEGADAPT model — that will allow us to share the knowledge we have collected with the city’s residents. It is through this decision-platform that we hope we will be able to contribute to enhancing the sustainability of the city’s water resources.
A collaborative project seeking to improve capacities for risk management in Mexico City and to serve as a model for climate-change adaptation in developing countries.