Brown Bag Series

Covid-19 recovery in urban informal settlements: Evidence from Karachi and Mumbai

Covid-19 recovery in urban informal settlements: Evidence from Karachi and Mumbai

Presenter: Saba Aslam, Visiting Faculty at SESS, IBA

This evidence review highlights local responses, grassroots efforts, and challenges around COVID-19 recovery within urban informal settlements in South Asia. It focuses on specific examples from Karachi, Pakistan, and Mumbai, India to inform policy responses for COVID-19 recovery and future epidemic preparedness and response. We show how local-level responses are shaped in these cities where national and international responses have not reached communities at municipal and sub-municipal levels.

The global pandemic brought renewed attention to the everyday challenges in informal settlements. COVID-19 reminded us of that southern urban life is rooted in 'collective' experiences where toilets and kitchens are shared by multiple families; where the categories of work and home, private and public space overlap; and where the majority live in vulnerable conditions (Bhan et al. 2020). Despite these challenges, we find that some of the most innovative and collective responses to COVID-19 have emerged from these areas. While informal settlements did face a host of risks and vulnerabilities during the pandemic, local responses have highlighted the resilience of informal settlement communities (Wilkinson 2020). However, few informal settlements are actually 'resilient' and any local responses must be robustly supported by system-wide change including support from local and national governments, improvements to build infrastructure, and improved access to health care services, among other priorities.

The article can be found on the website below:

Thermal Practices, Heat, and Informality in Urban Pakistan

Presenters: Dr. Nausheen Anwar, Professor at SESS IBA, and Adam Abdullah from Karachi Urban Lab

Karachi is a highly unequal city in terms of land tenure, the durability of housing, and access to critical urban infrastructures, as well as variegated microclimates across its urban morphology. Akin to many cities across the global south (and north) Karachi’s planning legacy feeds into a current moment of ‘thermal inequality’ and ‘thermal violence’ that manifest through poor, and marginalized people’s experiences of extreme heat in a globally warming planet. Laboring metabolic bodies, heat, materials, and social reproduction, coalesce in complex ways to underwrite thermal practices and experiences of heat within homes and outside, in thermally exposed working environments. Thinking along these conceptual lines, we present tentative findings from ongoing fieldwork across 57 informal settlements and 46 outdoor occupation types. The surveys elicited data on thermal experiences and practices, as well as people’s access to critical urban infrastructures that buttress heat risk mitigation. We focus on spatially disaggregated data and discuss the significance of several key indicators in terms of their prevalence across the sites, e.g. basic socio-demographics, densities, and morphological indicators; specific indicators on thermal perceptions, such as the reliance on electricity vs. water as a primary source for heat mitigation; the inclusion of thermally appropriate cuisines and hydration practices; the compounded vulnerabilities brought about when access to infrastructures is undermined; access to green spaces for each community, and their usage. This is the first of its kind field exercise across Karachi, in terms of scale and the kinds of data being collected, and we look forward to a stimulating discussion. The data and inferences are tentative at this stage, and we intend to engage more deeply as fresh data continues to come in.

Teacher’s Instruction Leads to Improved Learner’s Understanding: An Action Research Study on Refining Verbal Instructions for Large Classroom teaching in a Business School of Pakistan

Presenter: Shumaila Omar Zubair, Lecturer at SESS IBA

This study focuses on refining the verbal instructions of a practitioner and a researcher in Pakistani Business University's undergraduate program. In the given context, the students seldom have the opportunity of exploring their own teacher being video clipped for bringing about improvement in her teaching methodology. Since more importance is given to test, analyze, and evaluate students through finding their weaknesses, the teachers' own change in the classroom is mostly overlooked, resulting in a monotonous continuous cycle of teaching at a Higher Education. The study further highlights the self-developed strategies of the researchers in improving her current teaching practices through a systematic approach of action research using peer observation, critical friend, video-clips, pictures, and reflections. Findings of pre- and post-intervention phases of four cycles revealed that diagnosing self- problematic areas of one-self can help teachers recognizing their own loopholes in teaching practices, whereas, providing a platform for a well-managed and disciplined large class. This study further shows new ways for novice and experienced practitioners and researchers to reflect upon their verbal instructions in their context. It also sheds light on the implications for teachers and students at a university level.

Nature Capital/ Economic Valuations of Priority Ecosystem Services in the Indus Delta Ecoregion Landscape - A Benefit Transfer Study

Presenter: Dr. Junaid Alam Memon

Indus Delta Ecoregion Landscape (IDEL) is the part of a larger global pilot, the Dutch Fund for Climate and Development (DFCD), that realizes the gap in SDGs financing and aims to bridge it through private sector engagement in the bankable natural solutions. The idea is to support initiatives that can simultaneously generate returns on investments and environmental benefits. This valuation was conducted understanding that its results will serve as the basis to generate bankable ideas that may attract private sector investment in environmentally important interventions.

Is Instrumentalism a plausible philosophy of science for Muslims?

Presenter: Dr. Amana Raquib

The contemporary philosophy of (natural) science does not warrant strong realism with regards to the scientific theories, models, and unobservable theoretical entities characterizing those theories (such as atoms, electrons, DNAs). The history of modern science has shown that in the past, many scientific theories and models were pragmatically efficient and led to explanations and true predictions for long periods but were abandoned later on and replaced by other theories. Even at the same time, there can and does exist more than one theory or model to explain a given set of observations/data, labeled as underdetermination. The fallibilism, underdetermination, and inequivalence of scientific theories strengthen the instrumentalist position that these are not representations of an underlying reality, but rather convenient, practical models or instruments for the explanation and prediction of natural phenomena. This position is called instrumentalism and takes various forms in the contemporary debate within the philosophy of science. In the Islamic tradition, seeking knowledge is an act of worship and enjoys very high status. Muslim theologians (usulis) and kalam practitioners have always sought to categorize various knowledge disciplines (sciences) according to whether they can reach al-Haqq/ Reality or Truth or they serve as beneficial arts and crafts (funun) that allow human beings to develop various practical methods. The challenge that Muslims face today is how to categorize and place the knowledge/s coming from modern scientific disciplines and the various theoretical models in their hierarchy of knowledge. Whether those are considered in realist or instrumentalist terms, means having entirely different statuses within the Islamic epistemology. Either position would have implications for the status of science within the Muslim culture, science teaching and the use of those scientific theories, concepts, entities, and insights for juristic (fiqhi) opinions.

The Mantegna tarocchi twin E and S series and the god of twinship, Hermes

Fall 2022 - Presentation 1

Hermes/Mercury, the god of twins (as attested to by the constellation Gemini which is ruled by him) is also the presiding deity of the quattrocento (fifteenth century) Mantegna and Sola Busca tarocchi. These tarocchi are images on copperplate engravings, which when taken in conjunction form a caduceus (the symbol of Hermes) in the case of the Mantegna set and a sundial in the case of the Sola Busca set. The caduceus, that depicts twin snakes winding harmoniously around Hermes's staff is a symbol of peace. It displays a hierarchical masculine Italian brotherhood that can be perceived by examining the mutus liber (silent book) figured forth by the Mantegna tarocchi. The Sola Busca sundial was most likely affiliated with Pomponio Leto's Roman Academy, a very early version of Western Illuminati. It is also a mutual liber which connotes the blueprint of the initiation ritual of this erudite and influential secret society.

Presented by Dr. Nadya Qamar Chishty-Mujahid

Self-perceived life satisfaction: Evidence from a longitudinal study

Presentation 1

Abstract: The perceptions of citizens about society and their own lives in self-reported life satisfaction are vital for a democratic society. There is an increasing debate in economics about self-perceived happiness, quality, and satisfaction in life; this literature is limited in developing countries, especially in context of Pakistan. This paper is a longitudinal study of the relationship between self-perceived life satisfaction and self-perceived income, health, and governance. The study also aims to attempt to include twitter analytics and few variables from secondary data sources.

JEL Code: I310, I380, Y80

Key words: Well-being, Inequality, Quality of life, Social indicators

Presented by: Dr. Asma Hyder

Impact of development schemes on the lives of people of district Ghanche, Gilgit-Baltistan

Presentation 2

Summary: Ghanche is one of the least developed districts of Gilgit-Baltistan having extreme poverty. The primary reason of poverty and lack of availability of basic social services such as health, sanitation and education is the absence of state. Since past few years, many NGOs and donor organisations have focused the remote areas of Ghanche district and initiated several projects and schemes to provide or improve livelihoods and social services to the local people. The aim of this project is to assess the impact of those initiatives on the lives and livelihoods of the local people of district Ghanche. 

Presented by: Sajjad Ahmad and Irene Martinez

On Analyzing Unstructured Text - Using Twitter as a Case Study

Presentation 3

The session would introduce the audience to software tools and mathematical foundations to analyze free text available in the form of newspaper articles, tweets on Twitter, comments on Facebook and on other social media platforms. After a general discussion on handling raw text data, a case study from Twitter would be presented to better understand the potential of Text Analytics.

Presented by. Dr Sajjad Haider

Country level Assessment of Food Loss and Waste in Pakistan

Presentation 4

Amid looming water stress and rapid population growth, food loss and waste (FLW) are emerging concerns for Pakistan but without macrolevel understanding of the issue. Through Mass Flow Approach, we delved deeper into FLW issue and produced the first ever country level estimates of FLW based on best available secondary statistics and literature reviews. Results suggest that some 18 megatons (Mt.) or nearly 15% of all food produced in Pakistan is lost and wasted along the Food Supply Chain (FSC). Of this, the 'losses' accounted for 13.6 Mt or 11.3%, and the 'wastes' accounted for 4.32 Mt or 4.7% of the food produced in the country. Three-fourth of the food that leaks out of the FSC is loss - 14% occurring during harvest, 21% in post-harvest and handling, 18% during processing and 23% in the wholesale market. The remaining one-fourth is food waste - 18% occurring at retail market and 7% in household. The economic cost of FLW amounts to PKR 2.17 trillion or USD 20.72 billion or 7 % of the country's Gross Domestic Product in 2017. The loss estimates are equal to 35 trillion calories or 13.8 % of the total calories produced in Pakistan, besides having huge land and water footprints. Based on the review of global best practices of managing FLW to curb this hidden driver of hunger and alleviate unnecessary pressure from our food production systems, we recommend policies promoting circular economic model of food production and consumption.

Presented by Junaid Alam Memon

Keyword: Food Loss, Food Waste, Food Value Chain, Responsible Production and Consumption