The Webs of Conspecific & Heterospecific networks in tropical cities is complicated, due to contested urban space over access to resources: Human areas of multiple stakeholders, Waste areas, and spatio-temporal responses of opportunistic animals

The rapid urbanization of tropical megacities and massively increasing compostable waste (acting as a food-subsidy for animals) create huge potential for new interactions between the free-ranging and domestic animals, and humans. This raises two critical questions:

1. How specifically do urban animals thrive on anthropogenic-resources in tropical megacities?

2. Under what conditions are these human-waste-animal interactions a cause of concern?

These questions address several SDGs concerning urban growth. Urban South Asia has the highest burden of diseases that spill across the human-animal barrier (zoonoses), complemented by poor solid waste management, livestock rearing alongside commensals in damp, cramped environments, replete with garbage and animal waste. However, the absence of a platform for cross-disciplinary dialogues between various stakeholders to develop a historical and current understanding of urban space and waste precludes the improvement of solid-waste-management and the mitigation of human-animal conflicts.

"We envision the integration of academics, practitioners, policymakers, administrators and citizens for actionable research towards combating conflicts and zoonotic diseases of urban animal origin, with implications for solid waste management."
Dr Nishant KumaR; Prof Greger Larson; Prof Ben Sheldon; Dr Radhika Khosla
Principal Investigators, University of Oxford (United Kingdom)

Our core Objectives

#1 Bridging The Gap

To reduce the gaps between academic prerogatives and on-the-ground challenges that concern urban space for solid waste, informal human settlements, and urban animals.

#2 Knowledge Integration

To integrate knowledge that is currently distributed among multiple-stakeholders concerning spatial relations in South-Asian-megacities that promote the convergence of solid waste, urban poverty, and opportunistic animal populations.

#3 Platform Building

To build a platform for inter-disciplinary basic and applied research to address objective #1 and #2, while incorporating cutting-edge scientific-methodology and tools.

#4 Examine Underexplored Domains

To examine critically the rapidly evolving trade-offs, pertinent to the religiously grounded human patronage of animals and the practice of harnessing informal garbage-disposal by companion animals that also cause conflict and diseases.

Focus area #1

Human interpretation(s) and governance of urban space contextualising (i) waste areas and (ii) animal areas

Focus area #2

Behavioural co-option by urban animal populations whose successful coexistence with humans features in folk biology of South Asia

Focus area #3

Contextualising human mediation (waste and ritual-food-subsidies) that promotes proximity to animals: it begets conflicts and supplicates zoonosis, adding to the urban precarity of poor people

Focus area #4

Blueprint for actionable research to combat urban conflicts over space and waste, and zoonoses

Estimated Impact

The inevitable urbanised future for tropical-landscapes encompasses complex issues that are captured in SDGs. As India prepares to urbanise a further 400-million of its rural citizens over the next 30 years, the country’s development agenda will largely revolve around optimising urban space for humans, the disposal of enormous solid-waste, and for the co-existence of humans with diverse opportunistic-animal-populations, responding to anthropogenic-resources and religious patronage. Although Delhi’s civic bodies undertake measures like neutering, translocation and occasional culling, their understanding of urban animal ecology, and urban changes that rapidly alter the dispersion of food-subsidies (e.g. slum-rehabilitation, and the decommissioning of landfills and abattoirs) is incomplete and inadequate to the task of urban development. This workshop would address major impediments to SDGs by identifying multiple conflicts amongst human-groups involving animal-cohabitation, and human-animal conflicts within heterogeneous megacities. The project aims to integrate scientific approaches that individually lack scope with respect to the scale of evidence for instinctive animal responses, and diverse, inductive folk-biology and practices of native stakeholders.