Developing co-created smart city solutions for managed adaptation and monitoring of hydro-meteorological climate change related risk in Mexico

Lead Research Organisation: University of Edinburgh
Department Name: Edinburgh College of Art


The sharp growth of Latin American cities in the last decades has led to an increase of vulnerable communities in informal settlements on land exposed to hazards. These are affected by climate change-related risks such as changes in surface, temperature, droughts, flooding, and more aggressive hurricanes, heightening the need to improve the resilience of such communities. Diseases associated with new atmospheric conditions are some of the consequences, further increasing the displacement of people towards cities. As urban areas expand, current levels of vulnerability, socio-spatial segregation and inequality are aggravated by an increasing demand of housing. In order to reduce disasters it is essential to develop innovative, co-created strategies for managing risk and increase resilience. 'Smart city' approaches offer an integrative perspective, establishing the potential for emerging collaboration between city governments and technology contractors. However, these technological solutions tend to be dependent with top-down ideas, which do not necessarily take into account the needs of, or benefit for people living in poor informal communities. Those challenges that 'smart cities approaches' are faced with reflect a need for context-specific strategies and solutions that respond to the needs of the most vulnerable. Therefore, the aim of this project is to enable city communities to monitor and mitigate climate change-related risks as well as enable communities to develop strategies to adapt to those risks through the co-creation of local, bottom-up initiatives using smart-city solutions.

The project will develop an interactive networking smart-technology, enabling city-communities to share best practice on monitoring climate change-related challenges, and to allow them to create solutions that enhance managed adaptation, in close collaboration with local and national institutions, and other relevant stakeholders. The research is structured around three work packages aimed to address the following questions: (i) how do local communities and local institutions perceive and adapt to climate change-related risks and what are the roles of private and public sector organisations in taking adaptive action? (ii) how could a co-created smart-technology help communities to monitor and adapt to these climate change risks? (iii) how can this technology, using community knowledge and experience, help create and influence climate change-related local and national policies?

The research will focus on a pilot case study in México City (Penón neighbourhood), where a traditional community is confronting flooding risk challenges. Using focus groups and semi-structured interviews, the research will implement an interactive dialogue between community members, government institutions, as well as NGOs and other stakeholders, including support agencies, and private businesses. This dialogue will result in the development of risk-mitigating strategies and actions, including smart technologies, which will be tested over the project, in order to evaluate pilot experiences and upscale these into a larger city area. Lessons learnt about risk management in Mexico City have the potential to be easily disseminated across the developing world.

Communities will be empowered through engaging in identifying, developing and testing strategies for risk-monitoring, mitigation and adaptation. The social, economic and political aspects of impacted communities, as well as an understanding the the physical origins of climate change risks, will contribute to developing resilience and prevent the consequences of exposure to hazards. Finally, considering both the macro-scale and the local scale, understanding that change can emerge in collaboration with local communities and policy makers, the project will provide, along with best community practices, opportunities for interaction and negotiation between actors for increasing resilience and reducing vulnerability.

Planned Impact

The proposed project builds on ongoing collaboration between academics in the UK & Mexico, and existing collaboration between Mexican partners and local institutions involved in climate change-related policy development. Initially, specific case study communities involved in the project in Mexico City will benefit from training and in-situ piloting of community-managed risk monitoring, mitigation and adaptation measures as well as on the developed and testing smart technologies. The evaluation of this experience will provide an initial core of 'trainers of trainers' to help spreading such measures across the city. Pilot demonstration projects will also foster informal copying, which has been successful in the researchers' experience in other developing countries. At the local level, the research workshops and findings will contribute to implementing cross-sectoral risk management.

At national and local levels, the findings from the research will inform decision-making and actions implemented by stakeholders involved in climate change-related risk monitoring and mitigation in Mexico City including: at the national government level: Comisión Nacional del Agua (CONAGUA) aimed to "prevent the risks derived from meteorological and hydro-meteorological phenomena and attend to their effects", through the relocation of human settlements in high-risk areas and monitoring and provision of timely and reliable information of the occurrence of severe hydro-meteorological events. The Centro Nacional de Prevención de Desastres (CENAPRED) researches natural phenomena, e.g. hurricanes and heavy rains, and delivers educational training on civil protection culture. The Sistema Nacional de Protección Civil (SINAPROC) aimed to integrate actions for risk mitigation and response to disasters. The Secretaria de Desarrollo Agrario Territorial y Urbano (SEDATU), responsible for territorial planning and for the promotion of risks prevention in human settlements, including the Risk Atlas, mitigation works, and feasibility and cost-benefit studies for the relocation of the population in areas at risk. At the regional level: the Gobierno de la Ciudad de Mexico (CDMX), through the Secretaria de Protección Civil, which promotes identification of risk areas, such as the Public Atlas of Hazards and Risks of Mexico City. Also, the Sistema de Aguas de la Ciudad de México (SACMEX), in charge of management and distribution of water in Mexico City. At the local level: 'Delegacion Venustiano Carranza', directly involved in the prevention and attention to the disasters. The project will also engage with innovative bottom-up experimental activities: e.g. Laboratorio para la Ciudad

International projection will be ensured through establishing a dialogue with relevant international actors in the field including the Environment and Human Settlements Division of the Economic Commission for Latin America (CEPAL), EM-DAT, and USAID. The investigation will be of great interest to policy makers and practitioners across the Global South affected by climate change-related risks.

The close involvement of the project partners in local and regional government will ensure that the project has an impact on the development of policy and practice moving forward. The regional and national levels of landslide risk management will be involved through targeted invitation to a National Forum in Mexico City An understanding of different stakeholders' perceptions, the findings from the in-situ pilots and co-design methods emerging from them, and the experience of multi-stakeholder workshops for strategic decision-making will provide a basis for changing attitudes and actions across the international and multi-disciplinary partners involved in the project and beyond. The collaborative nature of this research will contribute to challenge existing ways of understanding and managing risks and allow for learning through interaction across disciplines and contexts.


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Description The project is gathering data to identify co-created solutions for hydro-meteorological risks in Mexico City, that have increased with climate change. These solutions are being developed in collaboration between communities, government and academic institutions. To this aim, the initial stages of this research focused on working with two vulnerable neighbourhoods, El Penon and La Colmena, located in one of the most deprived sectors of the city, Iztapalapa. The process enabled the academic team to engage with the communities living in La Colmena and El Panon to gain an understanding of the specific impacts and risks associated with the increase of rainfall and to co-produce solutions that are suitable in scale to be implemented by the community, with academic and technical aid, and with the potential to reduce risks within the neighbourhoods. At the same time, interviews and focus groups have taken place since the early stages of this research, with key government institutions developing policy and action to tackle these risks, in order to ensure that as strategies are tested at the neighbourhood level, results can contribute to the development of wider city-scale strategies. It is essential to point out that, risk management and resilience as well as smart solutions are all current government priorities, which is a huge advantage for this project in achieving impact.

Overall the project is leading to the following findings:
-Increased knowledge of community perceptions of hydro-meteorological risks at the local, neighbourhood level
-Increased knowledge of government institutions perceptions of risk and risk management strategies to be implemented during this presidential term, which are relevant to the aims of the project and can lead to tangible impact, as the findings can inform policy development.
-Interactions across the research team have led to a rich academic exchange among academic groups with diverse disciplinary backgrounds, engineering, sociology, architecture, data science, etc. and knowledges of approaches to research development and methods. Therefore, a rewarding component of this project has been on sharing methodological approaches from different fields and interlocking these during fieldwork. Guidance has been created that helps understanding rationale and purpose for the methods used through the research. In addition, knowledge sharing sessions have been organised by the research team on a range of methodological approaches (i.e. participatory planning appraisal methodologies).
Exploitation Route It is early stages to know exact impact. However, the research is laying the platform for future impact with clear action taken by the researchers in identifying priorities among a range of public sector and community organisations within Mexico City. It is clear that as the strategic approach continue to develop for the pilot studies proposed, this experience will be the basis for implementation of similar strategies elsewhere in the city and internationally, with significant impact at the local neighbourhood level, through increasing resilience of those directly exposed to hydro-meteorological risks. The project team has worked in the past three years, with an extensive network in Medellin, Sao Paulo and Puebla and the findings from this research will be shared across these academic, and non-academic communities. In Mexico City, careful targeting of key organisations and understanding of their priorities as well as opportunities for collaboration has led the process throughout.

In addition, and as explained in the next section (Narrative Impact) the project team (Mexico_UK) have had meetings, interviews and workshops with key government institutions driving policy aimed at increasing resilience and adaptation capacity in the city and have established avenues for collaboration in which the findings of the project can inform direction in policy development and decision-making, e.g. Urban Development Plan which is due in 2021, and Neighbouhood-level Risk management programme, which is aimed at identifying community groups able to develop plans for risk mitigation and action in case of an unexpected event, i.e. earthquake, rainfall, etc.

Beyond community organisations, government institutions that have participated in focus groups and interviews are: CONAGUA, Planning Department, Secretariat of Integral Risk Management and Civil Protection (SGIRPC)
Sectors Agriculture, Food and Drink,Communities and Social Services/Policy,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Environment,Government, Democracy and Justice

Description The project's activities have progressed successfully, since the start date in February 2019, despite inevitable delays due to slow processing of funding in Conacyt, Mexico. Our colleagues in IPN, our partner academic institution in Mexico, have only received legal confirmation of funding from Conacyt in July 2019 and have received the first payment for the research in January 2020. Therefore specific appointments in relation to time commitment from staff and associated researchers, has taken longer than expected. This has caused some initial delays, in particular with relation to confirming and starting implementation of the pilot case study proposed for this project. However, a UK-based researcher has been in place, team meetings have taken place to clarify methodologies and approaches of the project and programme activities, an extensive literature review around climate change, resilience and adaptation has been completed, and an initial fieldtrip took place in June 2019. Literature review A thorough review of existing research around climate change-related hazards, vulnerability and risk, climate change policy from global and national perspectives, as well as existing practices around co-production of adaptation strategies, has been completed. In addition, extensive documentation has been collected in relation to smart-city solutions, with particular relevance to Mexico City. Initial contextualisation of the proposed areas for study is under development and led by our partners in Mexico City. As we now have full engagement from the Mexico team, this review has been expanded to other areas of relevance for the project. An extensive review of the evolution of policies in at the national, regional and local level has been completed, identifying the key components of these that relate to addressing and tackling climate-change. Fieldwork and Project meetings The UK-Mexico project teams had 16 online/ Skype meetings since the beginning of the project and four full team meetings in person in Mexico during fieldwork (May 2019, September 2019, December 2019 and February 2020). Two of these visits (May and September 2019) were attached to another ongoing project in Puebla that part of the research team is involved with, allowing for further interaction and impact across a wider range of academic and non-academic institutions. Fieldwork in December 2019 included meetings with the project team, presentation of findings from literature reviews, visits to the pilot study neighbourhood, interviews with officials and project leaders of other initiatives in the city aimed at increasing resilience and adaptation such as Park Cuitlahuac. During this trip the team agreed the project full programme, considering initial delays, and jointly developed interview and a focus group guides. In February 2020, the team organised two focus group meetings in La Colmena, which is the first pilot study area for the research. These have led to identifying the specific impact of hydro-meteorological risk in this area and potential smart solutions to be implemented, e.g. monitoring rainfall system and water capture and reuse mechanisms at the household level, as well as online communication plans before, during and after events take place. These focus groups also identified the need to undertake participatory appraisal to identify in detail the conditions of the neighbourhood and the areas at higher risk. Project activity has been published in the UoE Centre for Contemporary Latin American Studies website. Pathways to impact To discuss the objectives of the project and its relevance to policy development, the UK-Mexico project team met with the following institutions during fieldwork: Norlang Marcel García Arróliga, Director General de Resiliencia en la Secretaría de Gestión Integral de Riesgos y Protección Civil del Gobierno de la Ciudad de México (CDMX). Myriam Urzúa Venegas. Secretaria de Gestión Integral de Riesgos y Protección Civil del Gobierno de la Ciudad de México These meetings have been instrumental to ensure that the project aligns with recently developed city-strategic approaches, under the newly elected administration, as well as to identify relevant areas within the city to upscale the implementation of the pilot study, over the second stage of the project. Further project activity will focus on informing specific policy, such as the current Urban Development Plan for Mexico City, which is due to be completed by 2021.
First Year Of Impact 2020
Sector Communities and Social Services/Policy,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Education,Environment
Impact Types Societal