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Modeling interdependencies between the Food-Water-Energy-Nexus and urban spatial development – The case of Pune, India

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Raphael Karutz1, Annegret Kindler1, Christian J. A. Klassert2 and Sigrun Kabisch1

(1)Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research UFZ Leipzig, Leipzig, Germany, (2)Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research UFZ Leipzig, Department of Economics, Leipzig, Germany

December 2019 American Geophysical Union meeting, San Francisco, California 

Abstract: Urbanization is considered one of the megatrends of the 21st century. In India, the urban population is expected to triple from <300 million in 2000 to >880 million in 2050. This often entails a densification of urban cores, including vertical growth and slum development, and a major increase in the built-up area of cities, often on formerly natural or agricultural land. The food-water-energy (FWE) nexus has strong linkages with urbanization processes. Each of the three dimensions influences the demographic and spatial development of cities and is in turn affected by the same. This however, is not yet reflected in the academic discourse: A literature review yielded that only one in fifteen FWE nexus articles focuses explicitly on urban systems.

Here, we present an extension of the SLEUTH urban growth model in order to address this gap. We investigate the two phenomena of urban sprawl and densification for the city of Pune, India and analyze to what extent they can be explained by FWE nexus parameters. Between 1985 and 2005, Pune’s built-up area tripled, and more than half of the expansion took place on former farmland. This implies a strong competition between urbanization and local food supply. According to our model, this pattern continues in future, which may have further implications under increasing agricultural vulnerability due to climate change. We further show that within the city, waterways, pipelines, sewerage and other FWE infrastructure act as key parameters for the spatial allocation of new building activities. This is especially the case for the city’s informal settlements (30-40% of the Pune’s residents live in slums), which face lower regulatory pressure than formal housing. Their development can be shown to be associated with the availability of water and, to a lesser extent, energy infrastructure.

Our results highlight the need to consider nexus factors when projecting the spatial development of emerging megacities in the Global South – especially when they are located in agricultural regions and have high shares of informal housing.