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New COP, New Targets, Newer opportunities for India to lower carbon emission

DaljeetKaur15 January 2016

The last quarter of 2015 marked the adoption of three big international agreements, The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs); Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) and the Paris Agreement. Thus, the New Year – 2016 begins with great fervour and hope. The resolutions for the international community this year are more or less custom made – how to plan effectively to meet global commitments and achieve local targets. The world together has taken a leap into a promising 2016 to accomplish the ambitious goals set out to make development more sustainable. We have one extra day this year, to take that extra mile, to fulfil our commitments in lowering down global temperatures.

The recently concluded agreement at the 21st Conference of Parties, or COP21, reinforced the need to collectively act towards meeting global emission targets. The global climate agreement signed in Paris, commits to hold the global average temperature to “well below 2°C” above pre-industrial levels and to “pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C”. According to climate change experts the world needs to move off fossil fuels by 2050 to achieve the 2 degrees celsius limit.

India, the third largest emitter of carbon dioxide after China and America, is an important player in meeting the target of zero net carbon emissions between 2030 and 2050. India’s stand on common but differential responsibility in the climate politics was also seen in the Paris Conference. Despite this, we acknowledge that it has become imperative for India to take corrective measures and respond to the global call for local action to prevent a climate crisis.

Figure 1: Citizens of Delhi pledging to make their city pollution Free with the sign – Volunteers for the government

Figure 1: Citizens of Delhi pledging to make their city pollution Free with the sign – Volunteers for the government

Odd and Even Scheme in Delhi

In addition to the Prime Minister’s announcement of cutting carbon emissions by 2030 overall, the Delhi Government’s drive to reduce pollution by introducing new measures in cutting down vehicular emissions comes at an opportune time. While several oppose to the proposed measure of allowing vehicles with odd and even number plates to ply only on alternate days, many intellectuals feel that introduction of such strict laws will help abate pollution which has increased beyond permissible limits in Delhi.

Figure 2: Winter Smog in Delhi. Less than 500 meter visibility even at 10:00 am in the morning

Figure 2: Winter Smog in Delhi. Less than 500 meter visibility even at 10:00 am in the morning

Delhi is the most polluted city in the world. Late last year the levels of Particulate Matter (PM) 2.5[1], the particle known to be most harmful to human health, were found to be 50 percent higher on Delhi roads at rush hour than during ambient air quality readings. Black carbon, a major pollutant, was found to be three times higher in Delhi. The experimental fifteen days of the odd/even formula, which started from 1st of Jan 2016, have shown obvious reduction in the vehicular traffic from many roads of Delhi. In addition, Delhi Government claims that levels of PM 2.5 have come down by 25-30% from the December 2015 monitored count. Despite these claims, there are many critiques of the scheme. The peak hour air quality readings presented, before and after the implementation of the scheme, are challenged on the basis of this year’s weather pattern, wind speed, temperatures, school holidays, etc.

[1] PM 2.5 refers to particulate matter less than 2.5 micrometers in diameter, which is believed to pose the greatest health risk because it penetrates deeply into lungs.

Figure 3: Peak hour traffic on Delhi Roads during usual days

Figure 3: Peak hour traffic on Delhi Roads during usual days

At such an early stage, it is hard to side with one opinion as there is merit in the argument presented by both sides, for and against. For such initiatives to be successful we not only need a comfortable and reliable public transportation systems but also stronger regulatory mechanisms. Government’s effort should be more on making an imperative shift from private to public transport rather than a forced transformation causing inconvenience to the public. The change needs to be brought over time, thus there is a need to focus on editing people’s choices toward a certain lifestyle. In other words, shifting consumer values from ownership to access.

Drivers of Change

At the same time, Government can adopt simpler drivers of change like introducing higher congestion taxes during peak hours, providing incentives to companies adopting flexible hours for their employees, encouraging car pooling by disallowing single passenger/driver car during office hours, well-connected & comfortable public transport system etc. In most European countries, this drive for choice editing has been termed as “pay-as-you-live” lifestyle, which adopts renting, sharing, gifting as a means to reduce per capita consumption.

Global civilisation has completed a full circle; with reduced resources, decision makers have to now reverse the growth curve. The continual demand for economic growth has always prompted countries to draft lenient environmental policies, much like how the critiques of Paris conference and the environmental activists’ world over, are describing the COP21 agreement. When our solutions to abate climate change or protect the Earth’s finite resources end with either development or growth, the failure is confirmed. We live on a finite planet with finite resources and one cannot envisage development without exploiting resources. Green Growth or Sustainable Development are incompatible as the world runs on a capitalist’s economy promoting higher consumption every year.

The problem we face today may not have a simple solution but a combination of many solutions. Decision makers as well as citizens, globally, have a vital role to play in reducing climate stress & environmental hazards simply by being informed and responsible. A way forward would be to adopt simple, innovative measures which necessarily only promotes lifestyle changes, especially from the rich in both the developing and the developed world.


Daljeet Kaur has a double Master’s degree in Environment and Sustainable Development from the DPU and Environmental Planning from School of Planning and Architecture, New Delhi. She has worked as a qualified planner and an architect for more than eight years at IPE Global Limited. Her interest lies in urban planning; urban reforms, environmental management; climate change and its mitigation & adaptation; knowledge management. Daljeet currently works as Associate Director, IPE Global an international development consulting group.

Mapping Everyday and Episodic Risks

RitaLambert1 December 2015

The cLIMA sin Riesgo research project in Lima, Peru, adopts participatory mapping as a means to gather quantitative and qualitative information to capture varying degrees of natural and man-made conditions of vulnerability that affect women and men living in the center and in the periphery of the city. The process is designed to open up dialogue between various stakeholders, with the aim of informing the design of interventions that prevent and reduce risks.

To better understand the everyday risks that inhabitants of the two case study sites are exposed to, we spatialise our inquiry capturing how these risks are distributed and where they accumulate in space (Figure 1). This is a necessary step in identifying how, and where, risk traps need to be disrupted. Preliminary findings suggest that actions taken in one place to mitigate risk may, in effect, externalise the risk to other locations. Hence mapping to make visible the interdependencies that constitute and shape a given territory becomes a vital step in our enquiry, particularly as we seek to devise solutions for an integrated, and co-produced planning.

Figure 1. Drone image of Barrios Altos used to identify residential plots, cultural heritage buildings and other uses such as storage, which is defacing the historic centre. Photo: Rita Lambert

Figure 1. Drone image of Barrios Altos used to identify residential plots, cultural heritage buildings and other uses such as storage, which is defacing the historic centre. Photo: Rita Lambert

This notion of interdependencies materialise at different scales in both Barrios Altos (BA) and José Carlos Mariátegui (JCM). Therefore the analysis is undertaken at various scales. In BA, some of the quintas (multi familiar residential plots) that have private ownership, also present a weakened social organisation.  The quinta, which used to function as an identifiable unit, with common areas and the shared goal amongst residents to improve these areas collectively, now works as a group of individual structures.  The impact of such changes is noted as some households undertake improvement works and in doing so, move away from the traditional one storey structure made of adobe, replacing it with multi-storey brick and concrete buildings. As the structural integrity of the buildings are weakened due to the disparate materials used, the residents are differentially exposed to risk. Besides the increased physical risks that such practices bring, the weakened collective action and organisation also increases the vulnerability of residents to land trafficking activities.

Figure 2. Surveying team in action in BA. Photo Rita Lambert

Figure 2. Surveying team in action in BA. Photo Rita Lambert

Moving out of the quinta and analysing the scale of the manzana (block), it is possible to capture the increasing threats which are claiming the Historic Centre. Land speculation is leading to the slow eviction of  many vulnerable tenants. Moreover, the cancerous growth of storage facilities, also increases the likelihood of fires with the storage of highly flammable materials. If a quinta is adjacent to any of these conditions, it is also more vulnerable, as different land use types interact to increase risk.

In JCM, the interdependencies materialise on the slope. Risk is unevenly distributed with those higher up the slope having to pay more to mitigate risk and make the area habitable. However the occupation in the higher parts, as well as the opening up of roads by large scale land traffickers to capitalise in this area, also increases risk for the lower parts e.g rock falls etc. The latter also have to invest to cope with this risk. Hence mapping at the scale of settlements can make visible where risk mitigation strategies are taken and where risk is externalised to.

Figure 3. Undercutting of slope to create a habitable plot led, in this case, to the partial collapse of the foundation of an existing structure. Photo: Rita Lambert

Figure 3. Undercutting of slope to create a habitable plot led, in this case, to the partial collapse of the foundation of an existing structure. Photo: Rita Lambert

Having analysed how risk is mapped by various institutions in Lima, the project acknowledges the need to work at a finer scale. Many of the official maps homogenise risk painting large areas in red, whilst a more grainier and differentiated understanding of everyday risk is sought in this project. For this purpose, the base maps used also need to be at a level which show subdivisions in built structures. As the Cadastral Institute of Lima only provides the information at manzana or plot level, the SEDAPAL maps are hereby used as a base because  they show water connection in every household and thus capture subdivisions. Furthermore, in the process of data collection, high resolution drone images for each area are used in a process of manual mapping (Figure 1) undertaken in parallel to digital mapping using EpiCollect+, a free application on smartphones which enables the digitalisation of surveys as these are collected.

Figure 4. Inhabitants of JCM indentifying their plots and the limits of their settlements. Photo: Rita Lambert

Figure 4. Inhabitants of JCM indentifying their plots and the limits of their settlements. Photo: Rita Lambert

Departing from the need to map everyday risks at various scales, the project will undertake geo-referenced surveys in both areas at: 1) the household level, to assess the individual investments made to mitigate risk; and 2) at the quinta level in BA and the settlement level in JCM, to assess the collective investments.  The data collection takes a significant representative number: in BA, 30% of quintas in a manzana (40 manzanas in total are chosen, representing half of BA area) and in JCM, 30% of occupied plots for each of the 11 settlements under study. The participatory nature of the process involves capacity building in mapping, the integration of residents in data collection, and the co-design of the survey to include information that inhabitants deem important to them. This means that the method is also used to strengthen existing processes of change, particularly supporting social mobilisation and integrated planning. In BA, community leaders, accompany the fieldwork, sharing information and communicating with others in their neighborhood. This is a necessary step to promote collective action and resist unwanted changes. In JCM, on the other hand, identifying the various investments made over time in each settlement, and making visible the increased investments that need to be made to continue this form of urbanisation raises consciousness of the ripple effect created by atomised actions upon the territory.  This paves the way for an integrated planning between settlements but also more coordinated actions between inhabitants and state agencies.

For more information of the research project cLIMA sin Riesgo please visit the site: http://www.climasinriesgo.net/

You can also access some of the outputs released so far in the following links:

Newsletter No 1, June 2015 “Reframing Urban Risks”

Policy Brief: No 1, June 2015 “Urban Risk: In search of new perspectives”

Video Interview with Principal Investigator of cLima sin Riesgo, Adriana Allen, about the importance of amplifying knowledge of everyday and episodic risks and the objectives of the project

 


Rita Lambert is a teaching fellow at the Development Planning Unit, UCL, where she is primarily engaged in the planning and delivery of the practice module of the MSc in Environment and Sustainable Development.

Originally from Ethiopia, she undertook her university studies in Edinburgh and London. She graduated from the Architectural Association in London, where she later taught for 4 years in the final years of the Diploma in Architecture.  In 2009, she studied in the MSc in Environment and Sustainable Development, at the Development Planning Unit , UCL.

Her particular interest lies in mapping, as a tool which can be adopted by ordinary citizens to navigate institutional barriers and expand the room for manoeuvre towards environmentally just urbanisation.

Academic debate on urban challenges and development – collaborative consumption

DaljeetKaur16 October 2015

Recently I presented a paper on degrowth as a solution towards sustainability by stressing the need to shift from being owners to just consumers at the Regional International Geographic Union (IGU) event in Moscow last August’15[1]. IGU is one of the world’s oldest international researchers’ associations which organised its first International Geographical Congress in 1871 and in 1922 established the union. Today its members hail from over 90 countries, united in support of geographical research and education. The programme is rooted in principles of diversity and interdisciplinary exchange. At this year’s event, around 1700 participants from around the world gathered in the Soviet capital for lectures, discussions, workshops and excursions. This year, IGU Moscow 2015, focused mainly on the following five main themes: urban environment, polar studies, climate change, global conflicts, and regional sustainability.

Moscow State University, 17th August 2015 – First day of the conference at Moscow

Moscow State University, 17th August 2015 – First day of the conference at Moscow

The five day conference hosted many parallel sessions which were interesting to me mainly because I myself come from an emerging but developing economy, which is India. Such discourses on urban challenges provides you with an opportunity to see different perspective in addressing common problems and helps you to assimilate learnings and apply them in your own context. I was selected for a poster presented under the theme – creating sustainability and I impressed on the need to change our consumption patterns in light of the stress the current growth has put on Earth and its finite resources. It is estimated that we are using up to 50% more natural resources that the earth can provide for, inferring that – at our current population, we need 1.5 Earths to meet our current demand.

I drew the above painting titled - Romanticising Urbanism to question the idea of Growth itself which is primarily determined by the rate at which we consume.

I drew the above painting titled – Romanticising Urbanism to question the idea of Growth itself which is primarily determined by the rate at which we consume.

Degrowth as a Solution?

During the club of Rome[2] meeting in 1970’s, many visionaries, environmentalists and governments across the world acknowledged that the business as usual approach has failed and we need a course correction. The idea of degrowth which came about the same time, is the intentional redirection of economies away from the perpetual pursuit of growth. To me it sounds, a little far fetched, is it even possible to ask the developed world to forcibly reduce its growth? Even though the critics of degrowth argue that slowing of economic growth would result in increased unemployment and increase poverty especially in the Global South, degrowth proponents advocate for a complete abandonment of the current (growth) economic system, suggesting that delocalising and abandoning the global economy in the developing countries would allow people of the South to become more self-sufficient and would end the over consumption and exploitation of Southern resources by the North.

Whichever way the argument goes, if we look at some of the solutions it promoted, degrowth should not be confused with economic decline, rather the concept can be compared to a healthy diet. Irrespective of the income of a person the person’s diet should be such that it does not adversely harm him/her, I can only eat as much as I can digest and stay fit. But with respect to consumption of materialistic things in the world, we all are using more than we require to lead a happy satisfied life.

The problem we face today may not have a simple solution but a combination of many solutions, which can help the world to move towards a sustainable being. Thus, today, the decisions makers and communities themselves have a vital role to play when adopting a particular approach to tackle developmental issues. One such approach is collaborative consumption, which works on an economic model of swapping and sharing. Collaborative consumption can also be defined as using the same resource repeatedly and collectively by closing the loop of the liner material economy.

The illustration which I drew for the conference intends to promote collaborative consumption - a way of life based on sharing and renting.

The illustration which I drew for the conference intends to promote collaborative consumption – a way of life based on sharing and renting.

I briefly pondered the idea of Choice Editing which could be another means to achieve degrowth — editing peoples’ choices toward a certain lifestyle. One way to ascertain choice editing is through policies like taxes and provision of subsidies, the other could be led by the community, where a group of people form a nexus to not only consume together but restore resources together through water harvesting, through sharing (both knowledge and material), etc. The illustration below shows that all basic needs of each incomes groups are the same, the more we earn the more we add to our consumption of the lesser needed materials. If we club the common components of different income groups and follow the principle of equity where the higher earner pays more we could help ensure better security for the poorer section of the society.

diagram

*The above diagram illustrates a situation where different service charges are taken from different income groups (mainly determined by their individual buying capacities) to bridge disparity and to meet basic needs. Promoting social inclusion by being co-consumers in using services like transportation, education, housing.

What good are Global Debates?

During the five day conference I kept asking myself, but why discuss these issues in a larger forum? What possible gain could it bring us? Can India, which has a situation unlike others with an entirely different cultural setting, adopt or mirror what the developed world is doing to address its urban challenges. One of the lecturers at IGU, Professor Benno Werlen (Germany), spoke about knowledge sharing to find feasible local solutions through global discourses. I liked the idea which he introduced by saying that global thinking and global action demand global understanding. Not 100% positive but I did leave with the impression that initiatives like International Geographical Union (IGU) aim to bridge the gap in awareness between local acts and global effects through research, education, and information.

[1] http://www.igu2015.ru/

[2] http://www.clubofrome.org/

 


Daljeet Kaur has a double Master’s degree in Environment and Sustainable Development from the DPU and Environmental Planning from School of Planning and Architecture, New Delhi. She has worked as a qualified planner and an architect for more than eight years at IPE Global Limited. Her interest lies in urban planning; urban reforms, environmental management; climate change and its mitigation & adaptation; knowledge management.

 

Water justice in cities: from distributional struggles to co-produced transformation

PascaleHofmann10 June 2015

Rapid urban expansion and the emergence of new urban centres in the Global South is frequently accompanied by a lack of adequate infrastructure and services. This is resulting in declining levels of access to water supply and sanitation for a large number of urban dwellers, with the State increasingly unable to fulfill its role as a provider of basic services.

I will elaborate on this using the example of Dar es Salaam, a city that has been the focus of my research for a while.

IMG_3997

Private vendors take on the responsibility for water delivery where formal infrastructure is absent. This usually means that those living in poorer areas end up paying more than those connected to the piped network.

In Tanzania’s largest city we see that formal service provision is limited to central and more affluent areas. The gap in service provision is particularly high in rapidly growing peri-urban areas such as Tungi and Kigamboni, whose inhabitants are among the worst served.

Both wards are areas that tend to absorb large proportions of the growing urban population, but with disproportionately high percentages of poor households. This is going to accelerate further once the construction of a new bridge that connects these two wards to the city’s main business district is complete.

Peri-urban areas may be incorporated into the city, but still lack services

At the same time, many informal areas previously labelled as ‘peri-urban’, like the Kombo and Karakata subwards close to the airport in the South, have become more consolidated and incorporated into the urban core. Yet they continue to suffer from non-existent or inadequate formal infrastructure and services.

As with the Kigamboni peninsula, the majority of those affected are lower-income people that experience varying degrees of water poverty, often with severe implications on their livelihoods; both in terms of the additional time spent to meet their needs and their income, if their economic activities rely on water.

Map of Dar es Salaam, with the area of Kigamboni highlighted in red. From Google Maps

Map of Dar es Salaam, with the area of Kigamboni highlighted in red. From Google Maps

Global efforts to meet water and sanitation needs

To address injustices in the current provision of infrastructure and services, there has been a renewed commitment globally towards universal access through the Sustainable Development Goals in order to activate people’s right to water supply and sanitation. Tanzania is one of the countries that have endorsed the right to water and sanitation.

In practice, however, efforts to tackle the shortfall have largely been seen as a problem of maldistribution. In other words, proposed solutions currently include expanding the water source, reforming the utility and improving the network – these plans assign major roles to utilities, the state and external support agencies.

Poverty, which is first and foremost conceived as people’s financial inability to pay, is regularly presented as the main reason for people lacking access to water supply and sanitation. This is in spite of evidence that Dar es Salaam’s lower-income households frequently pay more in relative and actual terms for a service that in reality is of a lower quality and lower frequency.

IMG_4041

More than just a distributional struggle

But water injustices in cities are much more than just a distributional struggle. They are created by socially fabricated political-economic structures, which have led to clear power imbalances that misrecognise those without access. Power relations play a significant role in Dar es Salaam where water has become a commodified good. Even though water supply is in public hands the utility is heavily pushed to be financially autonomous and commercially viable.

In Dar es Salaam and many other cities in the Global South the lack of entitlement and recognition is associated with the informal status of the urban water poor and their disempowerment. While the utility acknowledges their responsibility to provide Dar es Salaam’s residents with water regardless of their tenure status the proportion of their action contributing towards improving supply in informal settlements has been negligible so far.

Co-produced water practices

The deficiency of utility networks and supply in poor urban settlements has given rise to the emergence of a range of alternative practices. Many of them emerge out of poor people’s needs and can range from individual coping mechanisms to collectively organised and negotiated initiatives. Some of these communal efforts represent different forms of co-produced service provision whereby organised groups of poor communities are collaborating with the state directly.

IMG_4062

Goals of current DPU research

Earlier this year, I was part of a group of colleagues from DPU, in collaboration with a number of partner organisations, that embarked on the Wat Just research project – Translocal learning for water justice: Peri-urban pathways in India, Tanzania and Bolivia to explore alternative practices to access services with a particular focus on co-produced water management in three cities; Cochabamba, Dar es Salaam and Kolkata.

In each city we found a variety of service co-production arrangements that range from latent state support to fully institutionalised co-production platforms. However, very little is known to date about their actual performance and their potential to operate at scale.

The aim of our future research is to examine their transformative potential to address not only the current service gap – i.e. meet the urban poor’s practical needs – but also to investigate how far they can tackle more strategic needs such as challenging and transforming existing power relations that threaten to keep the needs of the urban poor hidden.


Pascale Hofmann is a lecturer at the DPU and is currently studying for an EngD at the DPU and UCL’s department of Civil, Environmental and Geomatic Engineering (CEGE). She has been working with Professor Adriana Allen on a research project with seed-funding from the ISSC (International Social Science Council) Transformations to Sustainability Programme.

The project, on Translocal learning for water justice: Peri-urban pathways in India, Tanzania and Bolivia, has brought together academics and NGOs from Bolivia, India and Tanzania to discuss and share the challenges and opportunities of co-produced water and sanitation services in their cities. How can these platforms contribute towards water justice at the city scale? A series of Water Justice City Profiles have been produced, elaborating on the challenges in each urban region, as well as a series of videos that explain the concepts and contexts in which the research operates – several of which will be released in the coming weeks.

Mexico: Where does hope reside? (Part III)

Étiennevon Bertrab18 February 2015

La tierra no se vende, se ama y se defiende. La Parota, Guerrero. Image: Javier Verdin (Agua, Ríos y Pueblos)

La tierra no se vende, se ama y se defiende. La Parota, Guerrero. Image: Javier Verdin (Agua, Ríos y Pueblos)

This post focuses upon the disconnection between the urban population in Mexico (a large majority) and what happens in the non-urban territory, and reflects on the crucial role and state of journalism. However, events that have come to light in the last 7 days demand a short digression:

Just Another Week On

An on going investigation has revealed that the ‘disappearance rate’ in Mexico is currently a shocking 13 people per day. That is one every 2 hours. These people are usually considered as ‘disappeared by force,’ as reinforced last week by the UN Committee of Forced Disappearances. They are mostly marginalised women and men who predominantly belong to poor rural and indigenous communities.

To add to the tragedy 40% are aged 15 to 29, simply too young to go through such experience without life-long consequences – if they survive. The injustice doesn’t end here: confronting a reign of impunity their own relatives face high risks when choosing to do something about it.

This was the case of Norma Angélica Bruno, aged 26, who had recently joined a group of determined to find ‘the other disappeared’ in Guerrero. So far the group has discovered 48 bodies in clandestine graves across the state. In a sickly ironic turn of fate, Norma was assassinated before the eyes of her three children while walking to the funeral of a murdered colleague.

As if living in a parallel world, the Interior Minister Osorio Chong declared that Mexico has the highest levels of security in ten years and that “very important steps have been taken to give back peace and security to all Mexicans”.

National Autonomous University (UNAM), Mexico City. Image: Étienne von Bertrab

National Autonomous University (UNAM), Mexico City. Image: Étienne von Bertrab

The missing link between society and nature

Despite growing awareness of the crises in Mexico, politicians, analysts, mainstream media and even organised citizens who try to reform or rebuild the State, tend to ignore an underlying issue. The country is highly urbanised and most citizens are, willingly or not, alienated from nature, or more concretely, completely dislocated from what happens ‘elsewhere’.

It turns out, however, that Mexico’s land, water and natural resources are being degraded and extracted at an alarming pace. Mexican institutional framework, created in order to join the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in the early 1990s, has been largely irrelevant in the rhetorical pursuit of sustainable development.

Take water resources, for instance: after conducting hearings between 2006 and 2012, the Latin American Water Tribunal warned of “possible hydric collapse” and condemned the Mexican State for violation of international treaties and its own legal framework to guarantee the right to water as a fundamental human right.

Indigenous Resistance

Indigenous communities have resisted for centuries. However, as a result of a combination of constitutional reforms and trade deals, resource grabbing has increased significantly over the last two decades; and it often unfolds violently.

For instance, in the mountains of Guerrero communities have been resisting the imposition of the La Parota Dam, which would displace 25,000 and severely affect livelihoods of another 75,000. Their decade-long resistance has been relatively effective, yet at a tragic cost: repression, illegal incarceration and assassination of communal leaders.

But this region is by no means an exception. Another ethical tribunal, the Tribunal Permanente de los Pueblos (TPP), documented over the last few years 220 active socio-environmental conflicts across the country, and observed the normalisation of institutional violence towards those who resist.

TPP’s condemnation of the Mexican State, entitled “The dispossession and degradation of Mexico: Free trade and deviation of power as causes of structural violence, impunity and dirty war against Mexico’s peoples”, can be downloaded here.

For years, active community members have regular meetings where they discuss structural problems and actions. With huge efforts they form regional assemblies and have an annual national assembly. This is the case of the Asamblea Nacional de Afectados Ambientales (ANAA).

In my view, these forms of organisation are poorly supported and understood, and are essential not only in slowing down environmental degradation, but also in addressing a key factor in Mexico’s humanitarian crisis.

Mazahua people confront the dispossession of their water - pumped to Mexico City. Image: Agua, Ríos y Pueblos

Mazahua people confront the dispossession of their water – pumped to Mexico City. Image: Agua, Ríos y Pueblos

The brave world of journalism

Mexico has become one of the most dangerous countries to practice journalism, particularly critical, independent journalism. According to the map Periodistas en Riesgo, a recent initiative by Freedom House and International Center for Journalists (ICFJ), 13 journalists have been killed over the last two years (the most deadly period has been May-October 2014) and four journalists are currently thought abducted.

Without brave journalists we would be incapable of understanding what happens in a country whose State machinery has dominated the art of manipulating our mainstream media. On a positive note, as noted by several political analysts, those in power have been completely unable to understand the world of the Internet – despite attempts to monitor and control. Civil society is way ahead in understanding the power and potential of social media, a space where anyone can join in solidarity.

To explore the role of street art in social movements in Mexico DPU and UCL Americas are hosting a unique conversation with artist-activists part of Oaxaca’s Colectivo Lapiztola, on Monday 23 February. Read more and register to attend.

Étienne von Bertrab is a Teaching Fellow at the DPU and a guest lecturer in universities in Mexico. He also works as a consultant in the UK and in Mexico, where he has been a social activist for ten years. Twitter: @etiennista

Conducting Research in the Context of Evictions in Lima, Peru

LoanDiep27 January 2015

Children in Cantagallo. Image: Loan Diep

The MSc Environment and Sustainable Development at the DPU is currently involved in a multi-year project of overseas field research in Lima, Peru. I was part of this project last year and worked in Cantagallo, a small area close to the centre of the city. My team’s initial plan was to explore the way the construction of a transport megaproject was affecting people working and living in Cantagallo. However, unexpected events occurred during our presence there, and they profoundly changed the situation. The megaproject was evolving more rapidly than expected and a relocation process of the population started in fundamentally different ways than officially announced.

While several families had accepted this and begun to clear their plots in exchange for a controversially low amount of compensation, others were trying to resist and negotiate the terms of their relocation with the authorities. Many families were evicted without an acceptable agreement made, if any at all. However, as the video below attempts to illustrate, the situation differs from one case to another because Cantagallo has been inhabited by families with different histories, and thus, different rights according to the law. This diversity has added to the complexity of the situation: in some cases it has created conflicts within the communities and also hampered possibilities for negotiation with the authorities.

On our first visit to Cantagallo, teenagers were playing football in a large circular area at the entrance to the neighbourhood. On our third visit, the landscape had literally changed within a few days: all trees were being uprooted and little temporary houses had started to mushroom in this same football pitch. We were witnessing the eviction of some and relocation of others. We knew we held no power to make a significant change. I remember the sense of panic that invaded our research group when we realised there was little chance we could realistically and positively contribute to the situation. But there was work to do and opportunities to explore.

We decided to capture the complexities of Cantagallo, understand its intricacies and explore the injustices that have been produced and reproduced over time. Some people had already been evicted in the past and were about to experience the same again. We interviewed them to hear their stories. Despite the events, many people came to the workshop we organised there. More significantly, many people from different parts of Cantagallo came to our final presentation to hear what we had to say. It was really unexpected but they all came to listen, to comment and to discuss.

Most importantly, they did it together. This big communication gap that we had observed and thought was hampering progress in negotiations was being bridged in front of us. This gave me hope that they could jointly engage with the authorities over the following weeks. Today (eight months later), I know the people of Cantagallo have not been able to resist the megaproject despite their collaborative efforts. However, I deeply hope that our work has provided them with some grounds to break the continuing cycle of eviction in Lima.

 

Loan Diep is graduate from the MSc Environment and Sustainable Development at the DPU in 2014. Her academic background is in both natural and political sciences; she has degrees in Health, Safety and Environment (University of Caen, France) and a BSc in Environment Geography (UCL). Loan is currently working as a consultant for IIED (International Institute for Environment and Development) and as a research intern at WSUP (Water and Sanitation for the Urban Poor). She is also a Bartlett Ambassador for the period 2014-2017. Her interests lie in environmental politics, climate change, water & sanitation in the Global South.

Read more about the MSc Environment and Sustainable Development overseas fieldtrips.

Reclaiming the Commons

AlexandreApsan Frediani25 January 2012

Environmental Justice in Urban Open Spaces

This action learning platform of the DPU MSc programme on Environment and Sustainable Development is composed by lectures, discussions, workshops, field research and dissemination activities that aim to facilitate learning through direct engagement with real-scenario situations.

Through the entry point of open spaces, this platform aims to explore critically how urban transformations are impacting on environmental sustainability, equity and social justice. Furthermore, it hopes to assess the role of social mobilisation and planning in appropriating open spaces and contesting the causes of environmental injustice in the city.

During the first term of this academic year, the students focused on four ‘hot-spot’ locations in London that are going through rapid processes of transformation: Hackney Wick, Kings Cross, the city of London and Elephant & Castle. Each group produced an audio-visual report that illustrates the findings of their research. Apart from producing the videos shown below, the students have also worked with residents, activists and civil society organisations operating in those areas.Once again, the platform is now shifting its focus to the urban global south. In the next few months ESD students and staff will work with IWMI and People’s Dialogue, assessing how and why reclaimed commons through urban agriculture might contribute towards environmentally just urbanisation.

Check out the videos and join the debates!