This presentation explores the environmental politics of the Delhi Ridge, a hilly area that cuts through the National Capital Territory. The Ridge is often described as the green lung of Delhi, a crucial ecological resource in a rapidly-expanding megacity. At present, roughly eighty square kilometres along the Ridge have been notified as Reserved Forests, the highest level of protection the government can give. The earliest notification dates back to 1913, but the vast majority of the area was notified in 1994 and 1996. The current politics of the Ridge largely revolve around its status as a Reserved Forest: whether the notification process has been followed properly; whether the notified areas are being afforested in a timely and ecologically-sensitive manner; whether boundary lines are being drawn properly, if they are being drawn at all; how to handle so-called 'encroachments' in the Ridge; and so on. All these issues are important for understanding ecological and political contestations in present-day Delhi.
However, exclusively focusing on the Ridge as a forest obscures a much larger social and environmental shift, which took place over several centuries: the evolution of the Ridge from commonly-owned land used for grazing and firewood collection to a state-owned forest area. But this state-owned zone is surrounded by privately-owned plots used for quarrying, real estate speculation and more, and the boundaries between the two are often quite blurry. Using the theoretical frameworks of political ecology and historical geography, the presentation will analyse these shifts in land use over the longue durée, and explore their implications for ecological and social justice in Delhi today.
Thomas Crowley is the author of the report Fractured Forest: the Political Ecology of the Delhi Ridge, which he wrote while working for the Delhi-based NGO Intercultural Resources. Beginning in October, he will be a Fellow in the Art, Science and Business Program at the Akademie Schloss Solitude in Stuttgart, Germany.
This is the eightieth in a series of Urban Workshops planned by the Centre de Sciences Humaines (CSH), New Delhi and Centre for Policy Research (CPR). These workshops seek to provoke public discussion on issues relating to the development of the city and try to address all its facets including its administration, culture, economy, society and politics. For further information, please contact: Christine Ithurbide firstname.lastname@example.org, Partha Mukhopadhyay at email@example.com Marie-Hélène Zerah at firstname.lastname@example.org