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Title:A socio-ecological systems perspective on planning for informality
Author(s):Syal, Shruti
Director of Research:Schneider, Daniel
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Schneider, Daniel
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Chakraborty, Arnab; Miraftab, Faranak; Birkenholtz, Trevor
Department / Program:Urban & Regional Planning
Discipline:Regional Planning
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):environmental planning, urban informality, social-ecological systems, infrastructure, waste management, institutions
Abstract:Planning for the informal seems paradoxical. But planning without considering the informal a part of the urban fabric is too precarious. In Delhi, the river Yamuna is polluted by thousands of kilometers of open-access nullahs (stormwater drains) being used to dispose waste. This includes waste from ~250 jhuggi jhopdi clusters or JJCs (slums) along these nullahs, and JJC evictions have occurred on grounds of “nuisance”–defined by aesthetic cues like open defecation and improper waste disposal, but intended to convey environmental impact. Taking nullah-adjacent JJCs as a social-ecological system (SES), I conduct a mixed methods study, demonstrating that environmental planning for the river is interwoven with lack of sanitation and waste disposal infrastructure in drain-adjacent JJCs, that necessitates planning for informality, and that decentralized community-managed infrastructure provision may be a socio-ecologically sustainable alternative to current strategies of service provision. In Chapter 1, a city and basin-scale spatial analysis of Delhi's plans for river remediation and sewerage and drainage infrastructure exposes the exclusion of nullah-adjacent JJCs in the most recent infrastructure and city plans. This can impact the city’s pipelines and treatment plants, unequipped to deal with sewage and fecal matter from ~1.54 million people in nullah-adjacent JJCs. In Chapter 2, nullah water quality and land cover analyses upstream and downstream of 10 JJCs reveals that nuisance actually occurs upstream of JJCs and can be correlated with the type of upstream land use (dairy, transit, industry, malls, residential). But the pervasiveness of an aesthetic governmentality in “world cities” like Delhi urges an ethnographic exploration of why waste becomes so visible in these spaces even though it is produced upstream, and so aversive that it compels middle-class Delhi to demand– and Delhi High Court to grant– evictions. In Chapter 3 then, I analyze interviews with 56 JJC residents, 14 municipal agency officials, and 9 NGOs. Aesthetic nuisance results from inadequacy, inaccessibility, infrequency and incompleteness of infrastructure, which in turn stems from regulatory overlap, wherein multiple regulatory agencies operate without clarity or coordination, causing waste to accumulate in slums and cycle from toilet to drain to public space. In Chapter 4, an institutional analysis using these interviews and 9 State and Central legislations and policies reveals how rules of service provision produce incentives that dictate the behavior of JJC residents, regulatory agencies, and NGOs, altogether producing the outcome of waste disposal in drains. Any institutional change then– and several are identified– will have to include changing problematic rules and norms. In the final chapter, this biophysical, spatial, and qualitative data is brought into the SES Framework to understand the social and ecological outcomes for a nullah-JJC SES, whose sustainability is crucial to sustain the higher order SESs. An SES with community-managed decentralized waste management has a higher density of information sharing and deliberation activity, higher investment (activities removing waste), and lower harvesting (waste disposal activity) than SESs without interventions. This multi-scalar, integrated analysis of social and ecological dynamics is crucial not only to understand the data deficient informal built environment better, but also to firmly establish the informal as indistinct from the formal city.
Issue Date:2019-04-18
Rights Information:Copyright, 2019, Shruti Syal
Date Available in IDEALS:2019-08-23
Date Deposited:2019-05

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