Our Work

Mahatma Education Society is jointly developing an Urban Expansion Observatory in conjunction with New York University Urbanization Project. The work aims to measure the quality of expansion in urban areas from 1990 – 2010 as part of their work on Monitoring Global Expansion. The Observatory is being established to undertake the digitization of high resolution satellite imagery, in order to measure the quality of urban expansion in the fringe areas of 200 global cities (see figure below). The analysis relies on a new and sophisticated sampling methodology developed by New York University Urbanization Project. Using the high-resolution satellite imagery of Bing and Google Earth, a random set of 10-hectare locales in the expansion areas of cities is generated (areas developed between 1990 and 2013). In each city, average measures for five metrics are obtained. They are

  1. the share of land in arterial roads and access to arterial roads
  2.  the share of land in streets and the distribution of street widths;
  3. the share of land in residential areas in different stages of housing sector evolution (atomistic housing, informal land subdivisions, formal land subdivisions, and housing projects);
  4. average block size and the density of street intersections; and
  5. plot dimensions in land subdivisions.

Monitoring Global Urban Expansion Infographic

These metrics can then be used to understand the “Quality” of urban growth around the world. Thus we hope to obtain solid empirical data on actual urban expansion and its key attributes in cities around the world over long periods of time. Such data, we believe, can demonstrate the extent, the form, and the context of global urban expansion in the distant and recent pasts, and suggest how and by how much they are likely to grow further in the future. Coupled with theories that could explain the underlying forces that propel and shape urban expansion, these data could also provide the evidence needed to demonstrate various concerns about urban expansion.


Figure: Map of the world showing the division into the eight world regions and the global sample of 200 cities.

In addition to the data analysis the UXO also conducts numerous development and training activities in Urban Planning and Development, software that are available for analyzing satellite map data such as QGIS, ArcGIS, Java Open Street Map and special seminars conducted by invited speakers. Many of these sessions will be free and open to the public. More details can be found here.