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Conflict between green space preservation and housing needs: The case of the Sanjay Gandhi National Park in Mumbai

by Marie Hélène Zérah
Cities ()
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Rapid changes in land use and occupational patterns of urban spaces in developing cities bring upfront the conflict between housing requirements and the preservation of green spaces. This paper examines this conflict in the case of Mumbai, where 50% of the population lives on 8% of the land while the city has very limited green spaces except for a large urban forest. In the 1990s, settlements grew within the forest and led one environmental association to file a public interest litigation in order to protect this natural habitat. The Court decided to relocate a number of inhabitants outside the main city while others had to be evicted. The analysis is carried out along two main lines. First, it focuses on the impact of urban governance disfunctioning on the peripheries of Indian cities. It demonstrates that peri-urban areas are used as a land reserve fund for relocation programs in order to relegate the poor outside the city central areas. Second, it explores the manner in which the relationships between the poor and the environment are framed on the conservative premises that poor encroachers were mostly responsible for the degradation of the park. Overall, the conflict underscores the constant vulnerability of the urban poor as well as their ability to challenge collectively unfavourable urban policies. New and apparently legitimate forms of urban governance, in our case the judiciary, maintain social prejudices and contribute to displace the poor to the periphery. © 2006 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

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