The built environment and gender dynamics for asset-based adaptation in urban poor households in Dhaka, Bangladesh.

  • Huraera Jabeen

Student thesis: Phd


Climate change is posing significant risks to urban poor groups in cities as the impacts exacerbate existing physical, financial and social vulnerabilities. Despite similar exposure to climate variables within a city or a household, the adaptive capacity of poor households and individuals within them may vary, with access to the built environment and with differences in livelihood opportunities, healthcare and social support facilities. The differences may be pronounced especially from the impacts of repeating, incrementally developing natural changes in climate that increase frequency and intensity of extremes. This research explores opportunities and constraints of both adaptation and the adaptive capacity of urban poor households to respond successfully to the impacts of climate extremes.The research focuses more specifically on adaptation in the built environment considering a number of variables, namely urban poverty, climate extremes, adaptive capacity, gender dynamics and asset-ownership. The research is designed around the hypothesis that gender dynamics influence adaptive capacity for asset-based adaptation in the built environment by the urban poor at household and community levels. The exploration of the research focused on one informal settlement in Dhaka, Bangladesh, examining the vulnerabilities of the urban poor to climate extremes and the impact of extreme conditions and events on assets; the processes, strategies and actions taken to reduce asset-vulnerability in housing, infrastructure design and development; and the gender dynamics within households and communities that mediate processes of decision-making, access to, and management of resources and their impact in the built environment.The research reveals that physical capital assets - not only their ownership but also the process of gaining access to them - emerge as essential resources in effective adaptation. Assets generate economic, psychological, social and political benefits that foster resilience and social mobility to respond to many stresses of climate extremes. With access to a resilient built environment the scale of taking action is transformed from simply coping to adapting. Individually, the examination of processes of developing the built environment signifies key considerations for adaptation planning; the exploration of strategies indicates the opportunities for innovative alternatives; while examination of actions illustrates the possible development options. The exclusion of informal settlements from formal planning interventions by the State, development agencies and formal market forces the household to be the most active institution influencing decision making and actions to develop housing and infrastructure. The analysis of the causality of internal and external drivers of the processes, strategies and actions at the household level reveal strong connections between decision-making ability based on gender dynamics and asset-ownership patterns. Among the factors influencing gender inequalities, gender roles and cultural patterns, gender division of labour, gender differences in income and assets, and gender bias in power and decision making are most relevant in determining both an individual's and the household's potential to respond successfully and adapt with climate extreme impacts in their built environment.
Date of Award31 Dec 2013
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorSimon Guy (Supervisor) & Caroline Moser (Supervisor)

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