News Archive

posted 05/27/03

Earth Institute Launches Project With Indian State of Gujarat
Physical sciences to support economics in novel approach to development planning

Nirupam Bajpai and Jeffrey Sachs

Nirupam Bajpai, Senior Development Advisor at CGSD (above, right), and Earth Institute Director Jeffrey Sachs (above, left) have worked together on many economic development projects, but their newly signed project for the government of the Indian state of Gujarat is the first that combines physical sciences—climate, hydrology, and seismology—with growth strategies in support of state-wide economic development.

MAY 27, 2003 - Over the next three years, the Earth Institute at Columbia University will use a novel combination of science and economics to try and set the Indian state of Gujarat on a new path of growth. On May 9, 2003, the Institute’s Center on Globalization and Sustainable Development (CGSD) signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the government of Gujarat to launch a multidisciplinary research project aimed at advancing the Gujarat economy.

The project is the first in which CGSD weaves together scientists from the Earth Institute—working on climate prediction, hydrology, and seismology —with development strategies to attain and sustain high rates of economic growth, attract higher levels of foreign direct investment, and promote labor intensive manufacturing exports.

Seismologists from the Earth Institute will also help design a new seismic research center in Gujarat and also work on developing suitable disaster management strategies; and climatologists will be studying climate prediction and its likely impact on agriculture.

“I would imagine that this is the type of project the Earth Institute will try to do more of in other countries,” said Nirupam Bajpai, Senior Development Advisor at the CGSD. Bajpai, who has been advising the Prime Minister of India since 1999 on India’s economic reforms, and who also advises several Cabinet Ministers for the Indian government, including the Ministers of Finance, Commerce and Industry, and Information Technology. Bajpai led a team of economists to conduct research and advise the state government of Tamil Nadu from 1998 to 2002, and he currently advises the government of India on export competitiveness. But none of those other projects integrated natural sciences.

“It makes sense,” Bajpai explains, “that if you can forecast the likely rainfall over the next 6-12 months, you will have some idea about the impact on agricultural output, on hydroelectric power generation, and on the necessary disaster management strategies for dealing with floods, droughts or landslides,” all of which are intimately connected to the economics of the region.

The local partner of CGSD for the economic portion of the project is the Indian Institute of Management in Ahmedabad. The physical science part of the project involves three sets of scientists from the Earth Institute: the Center for Hazards and Risk Research, the International Research Institute for Climate Prediction, and hydrology experts from Columbia’s School of Engineering.

The product of this unusual collaboration among physical scientists, economists, and experts in other fields (such as primary education and health) will be choices for the government of Gujarat. “We will have to translate the research into policy options for the policy makers,” notes Bajpai.

The Earth Institute at Columbia University is among the world’s leading academic centers for the integrated study of Earth, its environment, and society. The Earth Institute builds upon excellence in the core disciplines—earth sciences, biological sciences, engineering sciences, social sciences and health sciences—and stresses cross-disciplinary approaches to complex problems. Through its research, training and global partnerships, it mobilizes science and technology to advance sustainable development, while placing special emphasis on the needs of the world’s poor.