This proposal responds to section 2 (Land-Use Transitions in Asia). We propose to investigate the growth of cities and the dryland system land use transitions in Central Asia as a result of China’s Belt and Road initiative, a large planned series of Chinese investments in the region. The New Silk road, an enhanced transportation corridor, will traverse the most populous and most fertile agricultural regions of Central Asia. Competition between urban growth and croplands, and their induced interaction, often enhances the risk of disease epidemics. This is an acute concern for Central Asia where
existing health and sanitary conditions compound risks of emerging infectious diseases. Our research area will cover and specifically focus on the Central Asian regions subject to China’s Belt and Road Initiative, also called the China – Central Asia – West Asia Economic Corridor. This region ranges from Almaty in southeast Kazakhstan, to Tashkent and Samarkand in southeast Uzbekistan, Bishkek in north central Kyrgyzstan, and Dushanbe in western Tajikistan.
Our research questions are as follows:
1. How have past investment and infrastructure developments (1995-2014) led to varying patterns of urbanization, resource, and population flows, and changing land use across Central Asian cities? How will the ongoing development of the BRI, and/or proximity to BRI connected cities impact the emerging urban ecosystems, microbial and human ecologies in these areas going forward (2014-2020)?
2. What are the economic and social effects of BRI investments on urban and peri-urban areas in Central Asia? How far improved is connectivity between cities, and what impact is this likely to have on patterns of land use, zoonotic disease risks, agriculture, and economic development?
3. What new infectious disease risks exist and how will they impact economic growth? To what extent is BRI-connectivity creating uneven patterns of rural-urban development and how might this impact urbanization, growth, and population health in the future?
This research is based on a reliable set of remote sensing methods focused on several parts of the electromagnetic spectrum at different spatial and temporal resolutions which can be used to understand urban growth and its interaction with the immediate agricultural environment. We will investigate land surface temperature (LST) measurements from Landsat, time series of nighttime data from VIIRS and urban morphology based on RADAR data and Very High Resolution (VHR) stereo images to better understand urban fringes. In addition, to address the lack of historical transportation network information, we will fuse Volunteered Geographic Information (e.g., OpenStreetMap data) with time series of medium resolution Landsat, ALOS PALSAR and Sentinel 1a/1b data.
We focus on the effect of large, sustained, foreign economic investments spanning four different Central Asian countries. We will link urban development with changing demographic conditions, regional economic integration, and population health risks of zoonotic and vector borne diseases. Key variables will include (1) population density, socioeconomic conditions, and public health resources; (2) the extent of interaction between urban/peri-urban populations and animals (both wild and domestic); (3) the degree of increased susceptibility to mosquito borne diseases (due to the proximity of irrigated regions to a larger portion of the population combined with inadequate vector control); and (4) estimates of risk for imported zoonotic or vector borne diseases that are well adapted to spread in these interconnected and evolving urban environments. We will also investigate the effect of indirect health risks, e.g. changes in the urban heat island effect. Higher land and air temperatures increase the biting rates and northward migration
of A. aegypti, a domestic mosquito implicated in the transmission of a number of infectious diseases that spread rapidly in urban areas.