In 2022, the Mittal Institute launched a new India Fellowship, based at our New Delhi Office, to provide exemplary scholars in the region with an opportunity to be mentored by a Harvard faculty and access the University’s vast resources while being based in India. Rinan Shah joins the Mittal Institute as the third class of India Fellows. We interviewed Rinan in the first week of her joining us.
Mittal Institute: Welcome to your fellowship at the Mittal Institute, Rinan. Could you elaborate on your research interests?
Rinan Shah: Thank you! Our reception has been quite grand! My research delves into environmental issues from an interdisciplinary perspective. My broad areas of interest are environment, development and sustainability studies spanning water, mountains, governance, policy, institutions, and urban issues.
Mittal Institute: Could you give us a brief overview of the research topic that you will be pursuing over the course of your fellowship at the Mittal Institute?
Rinan Shah: Water scarcity has been a persistent problem in the Himalayan mountains which are marginalized politically, environmentally, economically and geographically.
Urban mountain settlements need urgent attention due to the uniqueness of the water resources and the pattern of urbanization. There is a prediction that the majority of the population to be living in urban areas by 2050. This research will attempt to rethink the understanding of water scarcity vis-a-vis availability and accessibility to water.
Water scarcity has been a persistent problem in the Himalayan mountains which are marginalized politically, environmentally, economically and geographically … This research will attempt to rethink the understanding of water scarcity vis-a-vis availability and accessibility to water.
I seek to problematize urban water governance and institutions using a political geography framework. This will expand on my work on the informal nature of water access as an indicator of marginalization. With a focus on the mountain settlements, I also seek to bring spatial and socio-cultural factors into the understanding of water security.
Mittal Institute: Could you describe the work you were involved with prior to this fellowship?
Rinan Shah: I finished my P.hD on “Disentangling the Drivers of Domestic Water Scarcity in the Eastern Himalayan Region” from Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment (ATREE) in February 2023. I have also been a Teaching Assistant at ATREE for Economics for Environment and Development, Practising Interdisciplinary Research on the Environment, Introduction to Climate Change, and Fundamentals of Environmental Science. Most recently, I was a visiting faculty for Environment Awareness and Climate Change at RV University, Bangalore. I have also worked with domestic and international NGOs, governments and institutions on environment and sustainability.
Mittal Insitute: How will this fellowship with the Mittal Institute benefit your research?
Rinan Shah: The fellowship provides me the support to conceptualize my new work and achieve my writing goals with my faculty mentor, Diane E. Davis, Charles Dyer Norton Professor of Regional Planning and Urbanism, Department of Urban Planning and Design, Graduate School of Design. It will provide me with access to the resources which range from journal articles and other literature to technical resources such as analysis and visualization software. This opportunity culminates into a seminar enabling me to bring my work into discussion with scholars and researchers within and outside Harvard University. Being situated in the national capital means that I can engage in dialogue with fellow academics and intellectuals from this field to fine-tune my current and future work. It is a prestigious fellowship that could not have come at a better time as I transition to a post-Ph.D academic career.
Mittal Institute: What are you most excited about for your year at LMSAI?
Rinan Shah: I am most excited about developing my seminar with my faculty mentor which would hone my research, writing, an organizational skills by learning new methods and analyses, writing my seminar paper and a book proposal, and conducting my seminar. I am looking forward to exploring the resources that the University has to offer, being a part of the activities at the University, and picking up on suitable training. I am keen to explore the resources that New Delhi has to offer, not to forget the sights, scenes and culinary delights the city has to offer!