Atul Pokharel

Assistant Professor of Urban Planning and Public Service

Atul Pokharel

Atul Pokharel is an Assistant Professor at the Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service.

Atul studies the comparative political economy of infrastructure governance, and the community maintenance of shared resources, both physical and digital. His areas of expertise include Urban Governance, International Development Planning, and Political Economy.  His first book examines the role of fairness in the community maintenance of shared physical infrastructure commons. His research interests also include free and open source software, improving crowdsourced data collection for use by municipal agencies, and the “greening” of transportation systems in global cities.  Most recently, he was a postdoctoral fellow at the Thomas J. Watson Institute of International and Public Affairs at Brown University. 

Atul holds a Ph.D. in Urban Studies and Planning from MIT and a Bachelor’s degree in Mathematics from Princeton University with a minor in Applied and Computational Mathematics.

What are the possibilities and limits that communities, broadly conceived, encounter for achieving environmental justice at the intersection of race, class, gender and caste? This course develops a framework for understanding key issues in Environmental Planning and Activism from the perspective of communities, collective action and fairness. Students will also be encouraged to begin developing their own philosophical orientation and toolkit for practice. In the first part, Justice, we will examine four key debates in the field: fairness of process, outcome and practice; scarcity, renewability and growth; utilitarian ethics and the alternatives; scientific expertise and indigenous knowledge. In the second part, Institutions, we will examine the institutions of state, market, community and their combinations for addressing environmental problems. In the third and final part, Tools, we will critically assess common techniques and strategies to approach environmental problems with reference to the ideas developed in the class. Comparative cases will be drawn from domestic and international settings to introduce emerging issues. In addition, we will use simulated, role playing exercises to reflect on implementation. The class will touch topics such as sustainability, resilience, the local and global commons, environmental impact assessments, urban air quality, climate change adaptation, deep ecology, social ecology, feminist environmental ethics, and digital activism.

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This course examines key ideas in the history and theory of planning. We start with some challenges of 21st-century urbanism to activate our conversations about the history and theory of planning. Does the historical and theoretical apparatus of planning equip us to deal with 21st-century urban formations and problems? Are the forms of contemporary urbanism categorically different from those of the past? Are the techniques and methods of planning bound to the American context, or are they also suitable for other social and political contexts?

The syllabus is organized in part as a great books course. We will read a series of classic books in the history and theory of planning by major thinkers whose ideas have had a significant impact on urban form, theory, and planning. They include: Daniel Burnham on the metropolitan idea; Le Corbusier on the modernist city; Jane Jacobs on pedestrian-centered urbanism; and Ian McHarg on environmental planning, among others.

Another set of readings and class sessions will focus on the techniques of planning on which planners have grounded their claims of professional expertise. Our goal is to understand the history, use and abuse of the planner’s toolkit. Our topics include: data surveys and the framing of planning as a social science; advocacy planning; building codes; and zoning.

Download Syllabus

This course examines key ideas in the history and theory of planning. We start with some challenges of 21st-century urbanism to activate our conversations about the history and theory of planning. Does the historical and theoretical apparatus of planning equip us to deal with 21st-century urban formations and problems? Are the forms of contemporary urbanism categorically different from those of the past? Are the techniques and methods of planning bound to the American context, or are they also suitable for other social and political contexts?

The syllabus is organized in part as a great books course. We will read a series of classic books in the history and theory of planning by major thinkers whose ideas have had a significant impact on urban form, theory, and planning. They include: Daniel Burnham on the metropolitan idea; Le Corbusier on the modernist city; Jane Jacobs on pedestrian-centered urbanism; and Ian McHarg on environmental planning, among others.

Another set of readings and class sessions will focus on the techniques of planning on which planners have grounded their claims of professional expertise. Our goal is to understand the history, use and abuse of the planner’s toolkit. Our topics include: data surveys and the framing of planning as a social science; advocacy planning; building codes; and zoning.

Download Syllabus

Atul Pokharel. Doing right the wrong way? Lessons from the conversion of Delhi’s Autorickshaws to CNG.
Under Review